At the highest level, employee experience, or EX, illustrates everything that people encounter, observe, or feel over the course of their time with a company. EX is defined by the sum of its parts–from the daily vibe in the workplace to the employee’s purpose and place on their team and how they deliver value for their organization.
Company leaders are stewards of culture and the environment the team works in. We create opportunities, position individuals and teams to thrive, and tend culture. None of this happens without dedication and attention. That is to say, EX–how our employees feel about the culture in which they work–is a true test of leadership. With that in mind, here are seven ways to foster and build a great employee experience:
1. Intentionally construct meaning
Shaping EX starts with thinking strategically about what individual employees need, what the team needs, and how those collective experiences define the culture. When it comes to leadership’s role in culture building, employees are the customers; they are the recipients of our efforts. With the high costs of turnover, the stakes for getting things right for internal customers are just as high as our aim for external customers.
So it is necessary to approach EX work with the same attention and dedication that we do with our customer experience (CX) work. Our efforts can’t be token gestures; internal customers need more than birthday cake, inspirational quotes, and foosball tables.
Creating an excellent employee experience starts at the top–with leadership providing employees a sense of purpose around the company’s mission, vision, and values. What are we striving for, what motivates us to get up every morning, and how does our broader strategy connect to everyday work?
To improve EX, you need the commitment of every leader across your organization, along with a shared vision around the key areas you want to make progress on, how you will measure it, and how you will make it meaningful for employees.
2. Evolve and foster employee experience
Consistent engagement is vital to EX. Engagement by leaders across the company helps foster individual and team growth by creating new opportunities for collaboration that shape the broader experience.
While the social aspects of any workplace are important, employees are looking for meaningful engagement around their work that helps motivate, inspire, and inform their day-to-day contributions and connection to the organization’s bigger mission and goals.
Employees appreciate meaningful work and want to contribute impactful ideas. When someone is intellectually engaged, their personality is activated, not only as an employee, but as a human being using their skills and creativity to solve problems and stretch further.
To define what works for your team, focus on each layer of employee engagement–from your organization’s structure, workflow, and processes to best practices for leaders in how they engage with their team.
Processes and programs to improve employee engagement should be flexible and constantly evolving to adapt to the changing needs. Another key element to engagement is leveraging technology and collaboration tools to keep employees connected and doing their best work.
3. Create a culture of belonging
Leaders champion meaningful work by creating a culture of belonging that yields a positive employee experience. In addition to engagement, this includes designing your office space in a way that invites and encourages creativity, flexibility, and collaboration.
Think through how you want employees to use meeting spaces to work and collaborate. Employees matter. Certainly, the company would not succeed without them.
Double down on this message by providing for employees’ wellness. Allow them flexibility and balance in their physical space and their routines. Cultivate diversity on every level. Show your team how much they matter, individually and as a team, every chance you get. Without doubt, these aspects of EX make employees comfortable in their jobs, helping them to do their best work and encouraging them to stay.
4. Build trust and authenticity
Trust and authenticity are fundamental to this work. Be genuine. Make room for your leadership role. It’s a full-time responsibility, not an add-on. Build trust purposefully, mindfully, and daily.
Another key is transparency–being open, available, and honest. Consistently prioritize an employee-centric and one-team culture. Model humility and respect. This is more than just treating people fairly, it’s about giving clear goals, trust, and being accountable for results.
5. Seek out feedback to measure EX
What do we think, team? How are we doing? How are we feeling? First and foremost, it is important to create a culture of honest dialogue. Create an environment where employees know their feedback is not only valued, but also where they feel heard and respected.
Metrics matter, but fundamental to that is creating a culture of listening. Invite input. Create check-in questions for leadership to pose. Recognize great work and build on its success. This should be an ongoing leadership initiative.
Listen to information and insights about the culture you’re building. Make yours a culture of listening, learning, building. Ensure effective channels of communication for employees to provide feedback. Listen, encourage ideas and suggestions, and follow up.
6. Champion co-creators
Culture building can be a reassuring and mindful collaboration. The smart, innovative people we hire can help us shape our culture. They don’t have to stand by and watch us build. This helps develop future managers and earn their buy-in. Give employees the opportunity to do what they do best everyday. Focus on a continuous learning culture to drive and reinforce the connection and commitment to work. They sense co-workers’ commitment to quality and have a direct connection between their work and the company’s mission.
7. Streamline culture
Provide a culture where employees shape processes. Don’t depend on bureaucracies, obscure tribal knowledge, or one-off solutions. Look for streamlined solutions that your team identifies.
For instance, if an employee has the insight to suggest a revision to current practices, it’s important to hear that suggestion with an open mind. While it can be tempting to “table” a new idea in favor of “how we’ve always done it,” that approach runs contrary to evolutionary thinking.
Listen to the ambassadors of your brand who work in the trenches of your processes; they are well-positioned to refine these systems. Let them. Doing so benefits processes, culture, morale, and retention.
Your role as culture creator is essential to your success as a leader. While these efforts are encompassing and ongoing, so are the rewards. When you do this right, it brings out the best in you and in your team.