How to Measure Employee Experience

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While there are varying definitions of employee experience available, from my perspective employee experience is simply the perception of and reaction to every touchpoint the employee has with the organization, including people, process, and technology. Employee experience begins before employment during the recruitment process and continues until separation from the organization, whether voluntary or involuntary. With employee experience measurement key in getting it right.

The reasons why positive employee experience is important for IT service management (ITSM) are amply explored elsewhere, so there’s no reason to do more than mention some of them, namely:

  • More productive employees
  • Reduction of employee turnover/attrition
  • Reduction of the risk of harmful actions by actively disengaged employees
  • Positive effects on company reputation
  • Positive effects on customer experience (CX).

For our purposes here, I will concentrate on two of these areas, intended to concretely illustrate the importance of employee experience: employee turnover/attrition and CX. Plus, the need to measure employee experience.

To concretely illustrate the importance of employee experience, here @RoyAtkinson takes a look at employee turnover/attrition and CX. #CX #EX Click To Tweet

Employee experience, attrition, and CX

Attrition is expensive. According to the Work Institute 2019 Retention Report, it costs $15,000 to replace an employee making $45,000 per year. The Institute estimates $617 billion in employee turnover costs to US businesses in 2018, but says, “A focus on retention has not reached an expected level of urgency.”

While anecdotal evidence has existed for years that satisfied and engaged employees have a positive impact on customer satisfaction and CX, the last few years have seen a boost in hard data. In HDI’s research, we’ve seen that organizations with high or very high levels of service desk employee satisfaction also have – on average – 5% higher customer satisfaction scores than organizations with neutral or lower levels of employee satisfaction.

If your organization can reduce turnover costs and improve your CX by focusing on employee experience, why wouldn’t you? Oftentimes, it’s simply because organizations don’t know how to measure employee experience. While each organization is unique, some straightforward techniques and be used to measure and track employee experience.

@RoyAtkinson: If your organization can reduce turnover costs and improve your CX by focusing on employee experience, why wouldn’t you? #CX #EX Click To Tweet

The people perspective

One of the key components of employee experience is relationships. This includes relationships within teams and with managers. In HDI’s annual research for 2018, among the organizations with satisfied or very satisfied staff, the top five factors* contributing to increased staff satisfaction were:

  1. Relationship within the team (78%)
  2. Compensation, including benefits (63%)
  3. Organizational culture (63%)
  4. Management (57%)
  5. Paid time off (53%).

(*The question indicated select all that apply therefore the total is > 100%)

Measuring these relationships requires frequent “pulse” surveying of the employees with some important notes:

  • If employees don’t feel free to respond to every question without fear of judgment or reprisal, your survey results won’t accurately represent the state of employee sentiment.
  • There must be open and honest communication. This includes the ability for them to add text comments to survey questions, which can then be reviewed, and also can be run through text analytics for sentiment analysis.
  • If the complete survey results can be machine evaluated, so much the better.

To keep participation high in surveys of a regular frequency, there should only be one or two questions with easily indicated responses, such as happy-face/frowny-face icons, plus the aforementioned free-text comment field. So, a weekly “pulse” survey might look like this:

  • How is your relationship with your team? 😊 😕 😩
  • How is your relationship with your manager/supervisor? 😊 😕 😩
  • What else would you like us to know?

On a longer cadence (quarterly, semiannually, or annually), surveys can be more detailed. Please don’t overlook this when looking to measure employee experience.

The process perspective

Sometimes, even though we like the work itself and the people we work with, we have some mixed or even negative feelings about the way we have to do it. Employees may find that hierarchical communication – having to ask a question of a supervisor, who then asks a manager, who then asks a director, who then asks a peer in another department, who then asks a manager in that department who then sends the answer back up the chain, across, and back down – to be arcane and unnecessary, for example.

Employees who give feedback which is then ignored or discarded out of hand will have negative feelings about giving feedback and will likely stop. Silence is often a sign of disengagement; the employee simply gives up suggesting improvements. To avoid this, include frequent feedback opportunities in team meetings and project plans, again ensuring that those who give feedback are not blamed or perceived as troublemakers.

Nobody responding to your feedback surveys? Silence is often a sign of disengagement says @RoyAtkinson; the employee simply gives up suggesting improvements. #CX #EX Click To Tweet

In the longer-cadence pulse surveys (quarterly, semiannual), include the opportunity for process improvement suggestions, but by all means that should not be the only feedback mechanism when looking to measure employee experience.

The technology perspective

Modern systems and networks are the backbone of business. When business leaders have come to IT asking for the ability to do something or improve something, IT’s traditional response has been to suggest some additional or replacement technology. Over time, this has led to the complexity of interdependent systems and applications, and the accumulation of technical debt.

Specifically in the service desk, we often see support analysts with six or eight different applications open simultaneously, having to copy and paste – or worse, retype – information from one system into another because of poor or nonexistent integration. The unfortunate truth is that, when systems are difficult and/or time consuming to use, employees will bypass them entirely, or use “hacks” to reduce the effort required. The amount of effort that is perceived as unnecessary to accomplish tasks tends to push employee experience toward the negative and breeds the use of nonstandard, unsupported applications that can do the job better and faster.

It’s most often the people who perform the work who see ways to improve it. Opportunities for feedback about employee effort required to use existing technology should abound in the workplace. The question, “Is there a better way?” should be presented frequently, both informally and formally.

Surveying on employee experience

As mentioned earlier, there are two basic approaches to be used for surveying employee experience:

  1. Frequent, short, simple pulse surveys that “take the temperature” of employees every week, say
  2. Less frequent but regular periodic surveys that include more questions about the processes and technologies employees use, as well as information gathering on work relationships.
There are two basic approaches to be used for surveying employee experience, says @RoyAtkinson. But the surveys are only half of the story. It's what's done with the data gathered that actually affects employee experience. #CX #EX Click To Tweet

But the surveys are only half the story when you measure employee experience. It’s what is done with the data gathered that actually affects employee experience. If nothing is done, employees tend to feel ignored and dismissed, leading to higher attrition and lower performance. If action is taken on their feedback, then they feel included and valued. And those feelings of inclusion are what push employee experience to higher levels.

Note that it’s not necessary to implement every suggestion received from employees, nor is it practical. But acknowledging feedback and taking it into account when making decisions that affect work-life is the foremost component of any employee experience program.

Acknowledging feedback and taking it into account when making decisions that affect work-life is the foremost component of any employee experience program, says @RoyAtkinson #CX #EX Click To Tweet

Does your IT organization currently measure employee experience? If so, please share any tips you have in the comments section below.

CEO | Principal Advisor at Clifton Butterfield, LLC

Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. In addition to many other lists, he was named one of the “10 ITSM Experts to Follow” by BMC Software, and one of  “The Top 50 Customer Service Experts of the Decade (2010-2020)” by Nextiva in May, 2020. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his former role as Group Principal Analyst at Informa Tech, he acted as in-house subject matter expert for HDI and ICMI, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business. Follow him on Twitter @RoyAtkinson

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