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How to Build an Employee Experience

Experience is top of mind for most Americans today. Especially when it comes to a restaurant, an airline, a car dealership, a childcare facility, a mechanic, a travel agency, or a groomer; whatever it is we are checking Google and Yelp reviews, and asking our friends and family for advice. So why is finding a new career any different?

An employee's experience can make or break a company's hiring abilities. Employees who have a negative experience at your workplace will tell their friends and family. On the other hand, if an employee has an exceptional experience at your company, they will tell EVERYONE and be a loyal, long-term employee.

When building an employee experience strategy, you must start with a strong foundation. This foundation should include a proper first impression (recruitment), seamless onboarding (welcome to the team!), exceptional training, retention strategy (engagement), and lastly the termination process (exit interview). A true employee experience focuses on all phases of an employee's life-cycle.

According to Gallup, the average employee works approximately 83,400 hours in their lifetime. Most people work more than that if they started working full time in their early 20s and retire after 61 (which is happening more and more). Most people spend more time at work than they spend with their families so it isn't a surprise that employees want a good working experience.

To break down the importance of the employee experience, let's evaluate the employee life-cycle (shown here) is a five-phase theory that suggests that employees go through these five stages with all employers, regardless of a "formal" program.

Let's do an exercise and put ourselves in the shoes of employees as they work through each phase of the employee life-cycle.

77% of job seekers say that employee experience is a deciding factor when choosing an employer. - Glassdoor

1) Recruitment - The candidate sees that you are hiring. They see your well-crafted job description posted on a popular job board or in a newspaper and immediately can tell from the works used that this is a good culture to be part of. They apply for the position and come in for an interview with you or the hiring manager. If the interview goes well the employee will be offered the position and decided whether or not to join the team. **Things they consider** What was the interview experience like? Did I like the hiring manager? Did other employees appear happy? Were my questions answered thoroughly? Was I offered what was discussed at the interview?

2) Onboarding - The employee starts on their first day. **Things they consider** They were instructed where to go, what to bring with them, and what to expect on their first day. They were greeted by their new manager. They are asked to complete all of their onboarding paperwork with their manager or owner or HR. They could ask questions and get a full understanding of their employment relationship (policies). Their onboarding paperwork accurately reflects their rate of pay discussed, their benefits and effective dates, and how they can make changes if needed. They are given a tour of the facility, office, or shop. They are shown where they can clock in, leave their belonging, and what to expect for the rest of the day. They are assigned a buddy to shadow for the week.

3) Training - This phase is typically the first two weeks of a new employee's position. This is where the employee is partnered with a buddy or trainer and allowed to shadow and try the job on their own. This phase is critical for employee retention. The employee is gauging how good their training is. They are gauging others in the workplace for their overall happiness. They are considering if this position is a good fit for them. If not correctly organized, the employee may not show up for their 2nd, 3rd, or 10th day. **Things they consider** Was I given all the tools needed to be successful? Is my trainer looking out for my best interests? Has my manager talked to me or checked in with me since I started? Is there someone who can answer my questions? How does the team accept me?

4) Retention - When we think of retention we think of how long an employee stays with an employer. Many factors go into consideration here but the largest is what drives engagement. This factor is different for many. Managers who have a good relationship with their employees know what motivates and drives their employees. And the more managers connect with their employees the more they can impact engagement. **Things they consider** Am I being challenged? Do I have the opportunity to learn a new skill? Is there an opportunity for growth? Does my manager interact with me, frequently? Do I see myself here for the next 5 years? Do I enjoy the work culture? Do other employees seem satisfied with their work?

5) Termination - Every employment relationship ends with some form of separation. Termination can take many forms; voluntary, involuntary, retirement, layoff, or death (sadly). When employees get to this point in a voluntary situation, they have considered this move for some time. They may have even been disengaged and not putting their best forward. Watch for these warning signs during phase 4. **Things they consider** What opportunities are there for me at another employer? What can I get elsewhere that I'm not getting here? Have I been happy at this employer? Could my employer have stopped me if they talked to me? Even though I'm leaving, would I recommend this employer to a friend or family?

When we think of an employment relationship we often don't think of it as cyclical. But there is always a beginning and an end. Ensuring that each employee has the best experience with your company ensures that you are sourcing the right candidates and saying goodbye when necessary. Of course, in the best possible scenario, you have many employees in stage 4 - retention. This is your opportunity for a truly great impact.

Throughout every phase, employees are talking about their employer and their experience. This is a HUGE opportunity for employers to get it right. If your best employees are talking about how great it is to work for you, they will attract their friends, family, previous co-workers, etc. These are usually the employees you want at your business. And FREE recruitment advertising!

"The best way to control your customer (employee) experience is to intentionally create it." - Elle Robertson

The Power of Engagement (Retention Phase)

By not having a strong employee experience, employers are missing a huge opportunity. Did you know that 65% of employees are disengaged? This is phase 4 and possibly one of the most missed phases in the employee's life cycle. The same study by Gallup found that when employees are highly engaged, teams see a difference of 81% in absenteeism and 14% in productivity compared to their disengaged teammates.

Gallup also finds that engaged organizations see 59% less employee turnover. Saving your company money!

Building the Employee Experience

Here are some simple steps to get you on the right path for an exceptional employee experience.

1) Employee Application - Make sure you have a way for employees to apply to work for your company.

2) Seamless Recruitment - Each candidate's interview experience should be the same.

3) Composed Job Descriptions - Job descriptions set the tone for the candidate/employee's position and overall expectations. This is usually the first thing they see when they apply. Be sure there are no missed opportunities to highlight the role.

4) Onboarding Paperwork - Provide a comprehensive onboarding packet for each new employee. This should include an offer letter, job description, W-4, I-9 Verification Form, Direct Deposit option, Emergency Contact Form, and benefit enrollment materials.

5) Employee Handbook - Set the expectations of the employment relationship.

6) Performance Reviews - Give time for proactive feedback. Ensure this process is documented and aligns with the employee's career development.

7) Training & Development Opportunities - Give opportunities for employees to learn more about their job or another position within the company. Cross-training within a department and across departments is a great way to do this.

8) Termination (Offboarding) - Have an opportunity for an exit interview to hear feedback on their overall employee experience. This is equivalent to a Google review. Also, ensure that employees are paid their final wages for the week including any vacation time they have accrued and are owed.

The best way to establish an employee experience strategy in your business is to stand in the shoes of your current and future employees. Be honest with yourself and ask what would I want as an employee who worked here.

If your business lacks the tools necessary to set a solid foundation for employee experience, let's chat!

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