Want to overhaul your employee experience? Tackle these four areas first
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Focusing on putting people first when it comes to policies, technology and more will help create an organisation where employees can flourish, says one positive psychologist
Crafting a brilliant employee experience has risen up leaders’ priority lists in recent years; in fact, according to a global 2021 survey by Willis Towers Watson, 92% of employers will focus on employee experience as a priority over the next three years.
But it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to putting humans at the heart of your organisation’s mission, strategy, and operations. In June 2022, CIPHR was joined by positive psychologist – and founder of happybyme – Meg Price, as she shared her tips for intentionally designing a working environment that enables employees to flourish.
Price identified four key areas that organisations need to tackle if they are to revolutionise their employee experience and create an optimum working environment: leadership behaviour, strategy, people policies, and technology. Here’s a summary of her advice, or you can watch the webinar in full here.
Four changes you need to make to improve your employee experience
Making your organisation more human-centric starts with a fundamental shift in mindset, said Price. “We need to challenge our thinking and ask, is this going to fulfil the needs of the humans in this organisation? Will it help them to flourish, or will it hinder them?”
Leadership behaviour: do your leaders have the right skills?
“HR professionals can create the best structures, policies and thought processes in the world, but if an organisation’s leaders don’t have the ability to behave in a way that is meaningful – to customers, shareholders, and staff – then it won’t work. We need to ensure that our leaders behave in ways that are aligned with the organisation’s strategy, and what that we believe to be true in our organisation.”
Emotions and connectedness are key to motivation and employee engagement, added Price. “If we’re emotionally connected to an organisation’s purpose, that purpose becomes meaningful and motivates us. If employees aren’t connected to the organisational goals on an emotional level, we have to manipulate their behaviours through things such as financial rewards, performance management, and policies.” Leaders that can inspire people, through methods such as storytelling, will boost engagement and productivity – and lessen the reliance on incentives and policies to regulate employees’ behaviour.
Strategy: are humans really at the heart of your organisation’s goals?
“Humans have an innate need for connectedness. How connected are your people to your organisation’s strategy? Do they believe in it? Is it articulated in a way that is so powerful that they understand it, and they will use this understanding to self-determine their behaviours and their contribution to the organisation?”
Price adds: “If you as the HR or leadership team don’t believe in your organisation’s stated mission and values, why do you expect employees to believe in them? Look at the last three big decisions your organisation made; were they in line with your values? You have to align values and behaviours.” One way to bring values to life is through storytelling. “Business love to let data tell the story, but it’s our ability to tell stories that makes us uniquely human. People won’t connect to your values through data – they’ll do it through storytelling.” One of the best ways to bring this to life is by inviting people to share stories in team sessions.
People policies: is the guiding framework aligned to your purpose?
“An amazing leader can create an amazing employee experience, but leaders (and employees) are given the guide rails by us HR professionals in the form of people policies. So your strategy can be right, you’ve got a high-performing leader, but when they encounter an absence or grievance problem, they need those guide rails. The question is: do these policies align with what it is we’re tyring to do as an organisation, with individuals’ needs at the centre of our thinking?”
When creating policies, HR professionals tend to approach the task as an exercise in risk mitigation. “They are driven by the risk that one of our employees are going to take us to tribunal, or try to take false sick leave. But the proportion of people in your organisation who will try to take you to tribunal, or call in sick when they aren’t actually unwell, is very, very small. So we are creating an employee experience that’s driven by the risk of something going wrong: we aren’t creating an experience for the 99% of your people who turn up to do good work.”
Price added: “What if we created these policies with an experience in mind; so if, for example, we say that we value family and work-life balance, then we offer more than statutory maternity and paternity pay and leave? The question is, how do we demonstrate our values through our people policies?” It’s useful here to think beyond the traditional employee lifecycle of hire, retain and offboard, and instead consider life stages, such as starting a family, moving house, or preparing for retirement.
Technology: does it support, not dictate, how your organisation works?
“Do you have flexibility in your tech stack to align to your strategy, behaviours, and policies, or are you creating policies and processes that are driven by technology? Do you have the tools in place to support how you want your leaders and people to work and behave, or are the tools either getting in the way, or are lacking?”
Put your people first when considering your people technology, said Price. You’ll want to find technology, such as HR software, that integrates with other applications to reduce data entry, and improve ease of use. And you’ll want software that your HR team can easily change or configure as required, rather than having to submit time-consuming change requests. Having a central HR system, such as CIPHR Connect, which integrates with other software – such as communications platforms – will help you take a human-first approach to technology.
There’s a lot to consider when reimagining your employee experience to put people first, summarised Price. She suggested starting by considering your current top three challenges: could a human-first approach help you to solve any or all of them? If the answer is yes, start to influence and gain buy-in from the wider team. Small wins will help to demonstrate this approach works and build momentum for broader change.
Want more tips on putting people at the heart of your organisation? Catch up on the full webinar now