The Employee Experience Needs to Be HR’s Primary Objective

February 27, 2018

The Employee Experience Needs to Be HR’s Primary Objective

How good is your organization’s employee experience? If you’re like most organizations, it’s not as good or as validating as it could be. And, in this healthy global economy, that lousy employee experience could inspire your talented, engaged team members to proactively hunt for new opportunities.

The data is undeniable. Our workplaces are not great places to hang out in. Christine Porath found that 98 percent of the employees she’s interviewed over the past 20 years have experienced incivility or rudeness in the workplace. Only 35 percent of employees across the globe are actively engaged at work. That number hasn’t shifted in over two decades. Respectful treatment of all employees at all levels occurs in only 38 percent of global workplaces.

Your organization may be much better than these studies indicate, but I’ll bet there are opportunities for your organization to improve how employees are treated daily. The employee experience—the creation of a mutually beneficial relationship between an organization and the individuals who choose to work at that organization—has a powerful impact on employee perceptions of your leaders and your company, for better or worse. 80 percent of executives realize how important the employee experience is but only 22 percent believe their organization provides a validating, respectful environment.

Digitization increases transparency across organizations. Younger generations read and post opinions about their companies’ systems, practices, benefits, flexibility, and more. Millennial and Gen Z employees want a purposeful, positive, productive work experience—and leaders and team members of every generation deserve that kind of experience.

A workplace where everyone treats others with trust and respect in every interaction won’t happen by default. It only happens by design. Senior leaders are typically disconnected from the experience your team members enjoy (or don’t enjoy) each day. As HR professionals, you’re very much in tune with the employee experience—and must take the reins, set high standards, and drive to improve that experience.

Design a purposeful, positive, productive employee experience
First, help senior leaders make values—how people treat each other—as important as results. That sounds like a great thing, but it’s a lot of work. Values must be as tangible and as measurable as results. Just as you have performance expectations that indicate sales, profitability, market share, and more, you must create values expectations that define exactly how a great company citizen behaves.

Don’t publish vague values and “hope” that everyone embraces those values. Don’t leave it up to people to guess what you want—tell them exactly what each of your values requires.

One client defined their integrity value with these observable, measurable behaviors: “I am honest,” “I do what I say I will do,” and “I work to resolve problems and differences by directly communicating with the people involved.” Their service value requires these measurable behaviors: “I engage everyone in a friendly, respectful manner,” “I help others meet their commitments to our customers,” and “I act with urgency to resolve customer challenges.” They created the same observable, tangible, measurable behaviors for their other values. By crafting specific formalized behaviors, there is no question in anyone’s mind how they and their colleagues are expected to treat others each day.

Align all plans, decisions, and actions to your valued behaviors
We know that simply defining and publishing your values and valued behaviors does not ensure that everyone embraces those behaviors. That’s called “managing by announcements” —where you announce a new policy then hope everyone aligns to the new policy. We know that approach never sustains desired behavior over time. Once you publish your values and measurable behaviors, the hard work begins.

Senior leaders must model and coach these valued behaviors daily. They must praise aligned behavior and re-direct mis-aligned behavior. When senior leaders build credibility for your desired valued behaviors by demonstrating them, will the organization’s leaders and team members embrace them, too? Many will. Some won’t.

Don’t let anyone off the hook. Just has you hold players accountable for performance, you must hold players accountable for demonstrating your desired valued behaviors. You’re embedding your minimum requirements for respectful interactions. Praise aligned behaviors. Redirect misaligned behaviors.

You can’t tolerate anyone demeaning others, dismissing others, or discounting others. Those behaviors—especially from leaders—will erode your positive, productive employee experience deeply.

By defining and demonstrating your desired values and behaviors, employees’ efforts and accomplishments will be validated daily. They’ll experience trust and respect in daily interactions. Their confidence in their leaders, colleagues, and the company will grow—as will their choice to apply discretionary energy towards company customers and projects. That’s the way for HR to help your company create an amazing employee experience.

The Authors: 

S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, executive consultant, and founder of The Purposeful Culture Group. He's one of Inc. Magazine’s 100 Top Leadership Speakers and one of Richtopia’s 200 Most Influential Authors.

Chris is the author of the Amazon bestseller, The Culture Engine, and five other books. Chris' blog, podcasts, and videos are at Driving Results Through Culture. Chris’ short, rich Culture Leadership Charge video episodes can be found on YouTube.