For this issue’s column, I’m joined by Ram Charan, a good friend and a global business advisor, author and speaker who works with boards and CEOs to improve business and people performance.
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At the heart of workplace culture are the experiences every employee has at work. The employee experience is the foundation of the business enterprise, because the quality and content of those experiences create actual value—for the customer, the employer and the shareholder.
Providing an excellent experience means more than fun perks and upscale benefits; any competitor can match those. It’s a person’s intrinsic and heartfelt satisfaction that matters, reflected in expressions like “I love my job,” “I’m growing and developing here” and “I want to learn more about this business.” Those employees share their enthusiasm with friends and family and want to prepare themselves to rise to the next level. They become willing to stretch themselves and expand their capabilities to match their aspirations. That’s a recipe for a successful, sustainable enterprise.
The employee experience is a continuing journey that changes constantly with shifting expectations at work and in the world. It’s also not the same for every employee. So how can organizations create an excellent experience for each individual?
Quite simply, having constructive, one-on-one conversations with employees is a powerful tool for managers to create that customized experience and design those important employee moments.
But talking is not enough. HR is the trustee of the organizational culture, so our profession needs to step forward to incorporate the idea of the employee experience into the company’s measurable goals, and to make sure leadership at the top understands, supports and lives these aspirations. No matter where you are in your HR role and career, you can make a monumental impact in your organization by integrating the employee experience into the work you do every day.
Each individual employee experience must also be carefully quantified. HR is accustomed to measuring employee engagement, but we need to expand and shift that analysis to include the quality of the work experience, evaluating it in the same way we do the quality of the company’s products and services. All are intrinsically linked.
It’s up to HR to develop and deploy tools to measure experience and provide a strategic culture audit. This way, we can learn what employees really believe: Do we care about them as people? Do we support their future growth? Are they happy in their professional experience?
The tool could be as simple as a five-question survey that will deliver key information to leaders. When we discover dissatisfaction, we must dive deeply, doing a root cause analysis. Then we must take action to fix our cultural blind spots.
If employees are enjoying work, their capacity as individual contributors will increase, but we want them to know we’re committed to their intrinsic satisfaction.
In an ideal workplace, every individual comes to work with a sense of purpose and excitement about their future. Of course, even the best workplaces may not work for everyone, but we can’t know that unless we talk about it. Although it requires intention, effort and transparency, creating excellent employee experiences increases capability of both employers and employees to reach their highest goals.
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management.
Photograph of Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., by Delane Rouse for HR Magazine.
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