Customer experience is the buzzword for every company now. Companies are realizing the need to deliver an experience that stands out. Competing on your product or services alone doesn’t cut it anymore in today’s markets.

Today, 89% of companies compete on customer experience, which is a significant jump from the 36% that used to in 2010. However, in the race to own the best customer experience, most companies don’t realize that employee experience is also just as important, if not more.

A company cannot deliver excellent customer service when the employees, who enable this, are unmotivated and find it difficult to get simple work done.

We need to put the human back in human resources. An organization’s focus on reducing costs, improving shareholder value and generating revenue are always going to be at odds with human-centered business practices, such as developing the employee experience within the company. However, this is a long term tactic that will eventually benefit your bottom line for a much longer period.

There’s no question about the fact that employee retention is now more difficult than it ever was. Blame it on the millennials, blame it on the laidback startup culture, blame it on Google for showing us what workplace utopia looks like- but the truth is that skilled employees will no longer just stay in a job where they don't feel valued for the salary alone.

Today’s world is very different. Employees today have a voice they never had before with hundreds of sites ranking companies on everything- from the best places to work in, to the companies that offer the most flexibility and companies that promote employee mental well-being. Combine that with social media reviews and websites like Glassdoor that offer greater transparency, and you’re living in a world where companies can no longer afford to ignore employee experience if they want to hire the best talent.

Within the Middle East, even the 10 companies ranked by Aon as the best employers in the region are organizations that implemented a continuous feedback loop and enable greater organizational transparency to better improve employee experience.

If an employee feels unheard, unappreciated and unable to create value, not only will they move to an organization where they don’t feel that way, there's now also a good chance that they'll expose this to potential future recruits. This is why it’s now more important than ever that every company rises to the same standard.

But what does employee experience consist of?

An MIT research defined employee experience as the work complexity and behavioral norms that influence employees’ ability to create value.

The same research found that organizations that prioritize employee experience achieve double the customer satisfaction, double the innovation and 25% greater profitability.

Work complexity refers to how difficult it is to get work done in your company due to a lack of automation, bureaucracy or a particularly complex organizational structure. Behavioral norms, on the other hand, refer to the organizational norms and the expected behavior within the different teams. These are two main factors that an organization needs to fix to improve their overall employee experience.

So how can we create a company where people want to show up vs need to show up?

Promote Open and Continuous Dialogue

Employee concerns should not only be addressed during the annual performance review. Enough channels should be clearly established so that your employees feel comfortable discussing their concerns at regular intervals, thereby making it possible to address these concerns as soon as possible.

A study conducted by Aon identified that continuous dialogue leads to more engaged employees which has a direct and positive impact on the company’s revenue. This is why it’s crucial for a business to focus on their problem areas, identify the best interventions and elevate the employee experience around it.

From on-boarding to exit, your employees should have the channels to ensure that their voices are heard. This type of high engagement will lead to better performance and longer tenure among your employees.

How can we do this?
Changing into a culture of open dialogue won’t happen overnight. This is a long process that needs to start by explaining to all the stakeholders the desired behaviors expected in this new culture.

It’s also important to communicate the different changes and progress within this new approach to the entire organization, so that everyone is clear on the impact of the new changes within the organization. You should always be open to feedback from employees within different teams and different hierarchical levels, encouraging them to give feedback and share ideas about what’s working and what’s not working.

Speed of response is also another factor to ensure that this change is properly implemented within the organization. Ensure that you have the resources available to respond quickly to concerns and to act on real-time insights to reap the most from this approach.

Emphasize Career Development

In the Salary and Employment report of 2019 by Hays, one of the most popular factors employees in the GCC consider when looking at a new job, aside from salary and benefits, is career development. Your employees need to know that they’ll be able to grow within the company to senior roles or different teams.

Within Tap, professional development is a priority for our employees which is why we have an organizational structure focused on promoting cross-functional training, to bring in a culture of performance and co-creation. As a Tap employee you’re encouraged not only to focus on your core role, but also to dedicate time to work with teams related to your role. We believe this reduces team silos and helps our employees to become more T-shaped and to further enhance their skills.

Years of studies and research have shown that employees stay at companies that have an established mentorship program and actively promotes employee skill development and career development. Talented professionals want to work in a company that will support and help them advance their career paths.

How can we do this?
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are pretty much a necessity at any company and a great way to promote career development. How is an employee meant to get better at their role when they are not given any clear indication on what they are meant to be achieving. KPIs help your employees understand what they need to do to excel at their role and to be considered for promotions.

You also need to foster a culture of continuous learning with an emphasis on professional development training. Companies that are just starting out may find it difficult to budget for external trainings, however in these cases you could encourage more internal trainings in areas of expertise. Some companies provide incentives to employees who conduct training sessions on areas they are experts in. This is a quick and inexpensive way to enable a culture of training and learning.

Setting a precedent of internal hires for senior positions also emphasizes the career development opportunities available by staying within the company. Hiring internally is a big morale booster and makes an employee feel like their contributions to the company are valued. According to research conducted by HCI and Oracle, 60% of employees who were promoted to jobs performed significantly better than those who were hired for those roles.

These are also employees that have proved themselves to be a good cultural fit, and won’t need time or resources to be on-boarded which can positively impact the bottom line of the company.

Enable Organizational Transparency

Organizational transparency has become a priority among most organizations around the world. This is because when you are transparent with your employees about the state of the organization and where things are moving towards, it creates more openness and accountability. It also boosts morale since their roles make more sense within the bigger picture.

If it was you, Would you be more motivated to complete your task if you consider it a standalone project with no idea what it contributes to, or if you were told how that affects the company milestones?

Management transparency is one of the most significant predictors to determine employee happiness, and the leaders who practise transparency are considered the most trustworthy to employees. This is an important factor that distinguishes between leaders and bosses. Bosses tell you what to do and expect it to be done whereas leaders take the extra time to explain why you are doing something and the effect it’ll have on the organization.

The reason why transparency is so important to us as individuals is because it creates a sense of fairness when everyone knows exactly what they are working towards. It makes the work we do meaningful. As Tom Rath, an expert in employee engagement, said “Work is a purpose, not  a place” and transparency within an organization helps turn work into a purpose rather than completing a set of tasks.

There are also studies that prove that there is a direct correlation between employer transparency and employee creativity. This is because we are most creative when we feel comfortable enough to take risks without fear of being penalized for making mistakes, so when leaders are honest about the mistakes they’ve made and the challenges they’ve faced, it encourages a climate of test and experimentation without fear of failure among the employees as well.

How can we do this?
The easiest way to start creating a culture of transparency is to have a town hall. This is just a meeting where the entire organization is brought together to update everyone on what’s happening within the company- the challenges faced, the wins, and the next set of goals to accomplish.

Depending on the company culture, this can be in a formal or an informal setting- it can be a company retreat or even just a dinner- to thank your employees for everything they put in and to explain the next few steps within the company.

We could even utilize technology to create more efficient channels of communication such as regular recorded videos from the CEO or the COO or regular emails. Depending on the time and resources you want to put in to foster a culture of transparency, there are many options available.