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Corporate Culture

Reimagining Organizational Culture Through the Power of Employee Experience

Ali Payne
Ali Payne
President, ethOs

“Employee engagement” is the catch phrase right now among organizations of all sizes and industries — corporations, nonprofits, onsite teams, and remote. While we do think it should be a focus area for leaders, the ethOs team also challenges our clients to look closer at what employee engagement really means.

What we hear from clients is that they’re looking to create a culture that is enjoyable, productive, and passionate about the company’s purpose in the marketplace. In other words, they want every employee’s experience to be fulfilling.

So, if a positive organizational culture is the goal, the questions actually become a lot more specific — what does that experience look like, how do you cultivate it, and what’s the best way to measure effectiveness?

Employee Engagement vs. Employee Experiences

While leaders often want to increase employee engagement, they need to look at the bigger picture — the experience. What an employee experiences (sees, feels, and hears) is the input provided by their organization. On the other hand, their engagement is how they react because of those experiences and is often measured through engagement surveys.

For organizations to build a comfortable and enjoyable culture, there needs to be intention in creating valuable experiences inside and out of the office. The ultimate goal is to provide a space where people are welcomed for who they are, believed in, encouraged, inspired, and feel that they belong.

A positive culture that authentically encourages employee participation is driven by everyday experiences. When we enjoy something — any experience — we are more likely to stay physically and emotionally present, seek camaraderie with others, and feel energized and enthusiastic for the experience to continue.

Positive employee experiences are also important because they are reflected outside the organization’s walls — employee satisfaction affects the experiences of vendors, clients, and even the community. Every touch with a brand — positive or negative, exciting or frustrating — is often a direct reflection of the culture inside the business.

Measuring the Employee Experience

It’s also important to think differently about ways to measure the employee experience.

The truth is every organization will define the employee experience differently. What does it look and feel like specific to your employee demographics? The go-to for measuring employee satisfaction is often through annual engagement surveys or judging by the number of employees who show up to company events.

But, these metrics don’t always show the complete picture of what’s happening in the lives of individual employees who may affect a survey answer or personal appearance. Their attitudes and perceptions while in the workplace are also affected by their experiences outside of their time on the job.

If a young parent had a stressful morning getting their kids to school, which ultimately caused them to be late to work, their emotional state may very well be reflected that day in an employee engagement survey. Likewise, an employee who is the caretaker for an elderly parent may not be able to attend the company picnic because they need to care for their parent at that time. Both examples illustrate how life outside the workplace can impact work engagement at any given time.

For employees to have the capacity for positive experiences at work, they need to feel equally confident outside of work. While we can’t control employees’ personal lives, we can be aware of the ways they are supported as a whole person, not just an employee, so they feel safe to show up fully present and engaged.

Defining the Employee Experience

Before deciding on methods of measurement, define what the employee experience looks like within your own organization.

A positive employee experience looks a little different to everyone. This may seem like an impossible challenge to tackle — how do you create experiences unique to so many different needs? It all starts by asking what your employees value and how you may be able to better support them.

Once leaders research and discover the experiences their teams value, they can plan ways to best integrate those resources and opportunities, and then how to measure their experiences. Sometimes measurement is, in fact, a set of metrics. It can also just be a feeling.

  • Do employees feel like they have ways to connect to the communities they serve?
  • Do employees feel like they have resources for support they may need outside of the office (financial, physical, mental/emotional, parenting, etc.)?
  • Do employees feel like they matter?

Keep in mind that employee experiences and support needs are ever evolving. Are you continually checking in on how they’re feeling? Are you asking the right questions at exit interviews? Most employees don’t leave simply for higher pay. Listen to the reasons for their departure, and make sure you’re asking the right questions and listening for honest answers.

Employee Experience Outside of Work

The employee experience doesn’t just happen from 8 to 5.

The pandemic forced many teams into the lives of their coworkers outside of the office. Suddenly, kids and dogs are making cameos on video calls. We saw glimpses into our coworkers’ homes and their family’s homes. Work was being done in different rooms of the house and even in other states (or countries) altogether. And still, much to a lot of people’s surprise, the work got done.

As a result, job seekers are now looking for more flexibility and “perks” beyond free soda at the office and employee outings. There’s more interest in how prospective employers support their employees and their communities.

  • Is there flexibility for onsite and work-from-home job positions?
  • Are there options for starting earlier or ending later to accommodate parenting schedules or other personal interests and obligations?
  • Are there resources available to find help for personal struggles experienced outside of the office — financial/budgeting education, social support services, and mental health support?

Employees and even clients have shifted from how a company treats their workforce during working hours to the ways the brand is contributing to world on a larger scale. How is it focused on improving all lives?

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) plans and strategies have come to the forefront as ways for the world to better understand an organization’s commitment to its social, moral, and ethical responsibilities. In short, ESG and DEI efforts put focus and intention behind doing the right thing for the important people and causes to each organization.

The Impact to Your Bottom Line

Organizational culture also affects your bottom line.

We often say, “high-performing businesses have high-performing cultures,” yet study after study has shown when your employees have positive experiences in the workplace, your organizational performance reflects it. In the end, businesses exist to stay in business, so focusing on creating positive experiences for the people who make your business successful benefits everyone involved.

Thoughts on all of this? Do you agree? Do you see the impacts of a positive employee experience at your organization? What’s working and what isn’t? We’d love to hear from you. Reach out to our ethOs team, and let’s chat!

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