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Over the past few years as HR embarks on the next H(R)evolution, HR has continued to look for ways to expand employee engagement to include the overall employee experience. While like engagement, the definition of employee experience varies based on who you ask and where you work, the overall intent is the same: all of the ways in which your employees interact with Human Resources, leading to one consistent pre-defined experience. In other words, how HR creates mini-moments and impressions along your employees’ life cycle, to reinforce your company’s culture, brand, mission and core values.

It’s a huge bucket – one that looked at, at a macro-level, is overwhelming. Why is the overall experience something that HR should own? Is it something that HR even can own? And… where do we start?

Here’s the thing about “employee experience” – it’s not another new thing that you as an HR professional or your HR department needs to take on, it’s being intentional with how HR delivers continuous value and an ROI for the company. It’s how you, reinforce your HR brand at every touchpoint.

The exciting thing about looking at employee engagement through the lens of employee experience is that it provides you with even more opportunities to influence true employee engagement and loyalty, while also capturing a lot of those “miscellaneous” HR activities you are already doing. It becomes the thread that pulls everything together. And a huge differentiator, when trying to retain and attract talent.

#EmployeeExperience is being intentional with how HR delivers continuous value and an ROI for the company. It’s how you, reinforce your HR brand at every touchpoint. #HR Click To Tweet


5 Questions to Start Building Your Employee Experience

1. What is your HR brand?

Creating your HR brand is a long-term project for your team (you can also create your individual HR brand), but to fully execute a comprehensive employee experience, you need to know what your HR team wants to be known for. If that’s too big of a question, start with what your CEO expects HR to deliver for the company.

Are you the people police? Are you the culture ambassadors? Are you the heartbeat of the company? What does HR bring to the table and how does the rest of the organization view you?

If you want to create your true HR brand, you want to start with the above item and then you’ll need to expand on not only what HR brings to the table, but more importantly, who your employees are, what they want and need from HR, where the gaps are, how HR can fill them effectively, and how everything ties together to the company’s overall internal and external brand. You can do this by partnering with someone who’s done this before, coordinate with your internal marketing team, talk to your employees through focus groups or a survey, and so on.

It takes some work and time to get your HR brand established, and from there you will continue to refine it, but if you are currently delivering HR solutions – then you already have the start of your brand.  

2. What does your annual HR calendar look like?

One of the great things about HR, is our annual calendar of events. While sometimes it can feel stifling to do a “rinse-and-repeat” for our deliverables, it also helps us deliver necessary HR programs and updates in an ongoing basis.

When you think about your employee experience, your annual HR calendar is your ready-made list of deliverables and activities to start examining how cohesive and effective things are for your employees. Especially as your calendar includes some of your biggest touchpoints that greatly influence your employees’ overall impression about you and the company.

For example, let’s look at Open Enrollment (OE). This is a huge undertaking for every HR team member and department – regardless if you reside within the Benefits group or not. It’s also the biggest opportunity you have to shape your employee experience.

OE is such an important task because your employees care deeply about their benefits – and it’s a critical differentiation point in the war for talent. But most of us think that the benefits that are offered, is the only perk keeping employees engaged and happy (or unhappy). That’s not the case – the actual benefits are the starting point for your employee experience.

To get more granular, you have the opportunity to influence your employee’s minds during OE through the benefit offerings, your communications, your OE period, where and how they receive information about benefits, how you are teaching your employees to be better healthcare consumers, decision matrices, the enrollment process itself, the online/phone experience, confirmation details, and more. Not to mention each time your employee has to use one of their benefits.

The employee experience encompasses all of these actions, touchpoints, and deliverables. It’s the ongoing conversation around what HR is offering – in this example, benefits on an annual basis; and how HR is delivering on your employee’s expectations.

When you think about #EmployeeExperience, your annual HR calendar is your ready-made list to start examining how cohesive and effective things are for your employees. #HR Click To Tweet


3. How do you communicate with your employees?

Being able to create a consistent and ongoing communication with your employee population is critical to effectively shaping your employee’s experience. Each communication, regardless of the channel – print, email, web, intranet, text message, and so on – adds another touchpoint for your employees to learn more about HR and how they should be thinking and feeling about your company as a whole.

It’s not to say that you need to agonize over each and every word that you communicate, although your PR/Corporate Communications department may disagree, but it does mean that you have to create an overall communications strategy to ensure a consistent message across each and every message.

At a high-level, to start thinking about your communications strategy, you should think of communications in a few different buckets. First, you have campaign-driven communications – these are typically tied to your HR annual calendar of events and deliverables such as Open Enrollment, employee engagement surveys, merit increases, performance reviews, and so on. These types of communications have a specific project tie and goal that you want to bring each employee along for the process. Second, you have ongoing communications. These are communications that are not tied to the HR annual calendar but are related to an ongoing goal, task, change initiative, or project. An example of this would be a wellness campaign – not yet added to your HR calendar or something that has a specific start and end date but is an ongoing initiative that needs to be communicated in an ongoing basis. Finally, you have one-off or ad-hoc communications. These are things that are usually not planned – such as an organizational announcement, a leadership message, a newsletter or update, and so on. Essentially, messages that are not exactly planned or known in advance and/or tied to a specific planned campaign.

Considering these three buckets, how do your current communications fit? Most HR teams tend to fall into the one-off category for all messages, with some “pick-up what we did last year” to apply to some campaign-driven messages. The exciting thing about having different communication buckets is that you can more easily influence the employee experience the more planning you are able to fit into your plan. And of course, the less reactive you are when the time comes to deliver messages.

Have you looked at your #employeecommunications from a bucket perspective? Examine these 3 buckets to influence your #employeexperience. #HR Click To Tweet


4. What does your talent acquisition life-cycle look like?

Think back to the last job you landed and consider the entire process. Did it leave you with a good impression of the company? Did the online application make you want to pull your hair out? Did you feel like you were working with professional recruiters who were knowledgeable, helpful and your ally? Was the process timely or did it drag on for ages? Was it easy to evaluate the offer and learn more about the company’s benefits, perks, and culture?

And once you joined the company, what was your onboarding experience? Again, did it make you more excited about accepting the position or did it make you start to worry that you made a terrible choice? Were you warmly welcomed or left to fend for yourself? And let’s not even start about the technology component – did you have a computer, login information, a phone, and so on? How quickly were you able to start working, get training, and get started?

We can parse out each and every step within the lifecycle and ask these hard questions to determine how seamless your employee experience actually is. And hopefully, your Recruiting team is doing exactly that to help improve all of the touchpoints (and of course then align with your HR brand).

However, this is not just a job for Recruiting – every HR team members helps create the life-cycle experience. One little thing that hits a roadblock along the way, can have a significant and long-lasting impact for the employee and your company. One nugget of doubt, questioning, frustration, or annoyance, can easily flip the switch for someone from engaged to disengaged and looking for a new role.

Putting yourself in the shoes of someone new joining your organization, creating the ideal talent acquisition and onboarding process for each employee to go through, will not only influence how connected your new hires feel to the company, but your current employees will also see new talent onboard as engaged, excited and ready to partner – a win all around.

5. Who are you partnering with?

Depending on the size of your HR department, you likely have various vendors and partners that help you deliver the HR experience along the way. Whether it’s the payroll company, benefits administrator, HR consultants, trainers, outsourced recruiters/sources, recruiting platform, and so on – they greatly influence your overall employee experience in ways you probably haven’t considered.

When you hire on a new vendor or choose a new platform, you consider the look and feel of the product and determine the best fit for what you’re seeking. But how much further does your vendor partnership investigation go? Does that vendor care about the same things you care about? Do they conduct business in a way that matches your company’s culture, values, and mission?

While the interaction your vendors and partners provide to your employees may be positive (or at the very least, mostly positive), it’s not the only important puzzle piece when considering elevating your employee experience. It may sound somewhat like “millennial thinking” to care about and know what your vendors stand for, but with an increasing number of employees looking to do work that matters (including you), there should be a direct correlation for what they bring to the table.

Let’s use an example that is well known in the retail space – The Container Store. Having spent a few months working at The Container Store, also known as one of the best places on Earth, their culture is paramount for their success – and they stress it through every single touchpoint. From the suppliers they chose to work with for distribution, the vendors who sell their products at the store and the HR systems they use. One of their differentiating factors, outside of their incredible people-first philosophy, is that they “Fill the other guy’s basket to the brim.” There is a lot of great content behind this value, but during new employee orientation, I remember their example: we pay our suppliers on time, and early if we can. There were audible gaps in the room – and I immediately thought of how other companies I’ve worked with have finagled payment terms. This approach is truly different – and one that they believe is so paramount to their success, they will only work with partners who have similarly strong beliefs in partnership and how together, customers and employees win.

Take a gut-check with your HR partners – this is not something that you can likely change quickly, but it does warrant a pulse check. If your company cares deeply about diversity and inclusion, and your vendor only talks about but doesn’t walk the walk – how will YOUR employee experience that or feel about that? Does that reflect on your HR brand positively?

Do you care about & know what your vendors stand for? With employees looking to do work that matters (including you), there should be a direct correlation for what they bring to the table. #EmployeeExperience #HR Click To Tweet

To Conclude

These five questions will get you started moving forward, with creating your ideal employee experience – for you to continue to dig deeper into each item, layer on additional programs relevant to your organization and tweak the experience in an ongoing basis. In order to fully know if your employee experience efforts are working, you’ll need to implement and/or interpret a few HR metrics to ensure your hard work is not only paying off but positively influencing engagement.