Focus On The Employee Experience, Drive Results
How you jumpstart your employee experience (EX) strategy is important. The key idea around building a strategy is to “think big, start small,” meaning to think about the overarching strategy and make a pilot effort to test and iterate on it before rolling it out enterprise-wide. Applying this approach to your employee experience strategy can be pivotal. Piloting the strategy at a small scale de-risks your effort by lowering your resource costs, allows for faster course corrections, and makes the whole endeavor more manageable.
1. Listen To Employees
What do your employees desire, need, and want? Conduct small group discussions, open office hours, and hold one-on-one interviews. Ask open-ended questions about their experience. Do they feel comfortable enough to share their opinion? Do they feel heard and seen? Do they have the tools they need to do their job? Do they have a comfortable workspace to do their job? At the end of this step, you should have engaged with at least 50% of your employees through surveys or small group discussions. This step is essential and can take a long time depending on the size of your organization, so plan to allocate 2–4 weeks to complete it.
2. Document, Analyze, And Distil Employee Feedback
Document and analyze the employee responses under the three heads, culture, tech, and physical space, which represent the three environments that drive the employee experience. By the end of this step, you should have collected employee responses, codified, and distilled 5–7 critical elements under each head. This step can take between 1–2 weeks to complete.
3 (a) Do A Gap Analysis
You will need to review the data between what employees need and want and what your organization currently offers across the three heads. Review the data! What did the data tell you? Do employees feel they are not being heard or seen? Does your IT help desk take forever to respond to employee tech requests? Do your employees work in their closets at home because it is the quietest place? By the end of this step, you should have precisely analyzed any gaps across the three heads visible in the data. This step can take between 1–2 weeks to complete.
3 (b) Conduct Market Research
While some of your team members conduct the gap analysis, assign a team to review use cases from industry and current research. This exercise will help you learn from other organizations’ experiences and offer ideas that you can adopt and adapt to your context. This will help you craft ideas on how to tackle your biggest challenges. This step can take 1–2 weeks to complete.
4. Dig Deeper With Design Thinking
By now, you should have a clear picture of the gap across the three heads, and you should have some ideas on how others closed the gaps. This step is essential because in it we will bring members of the organization together, including employees, to ideate and develop solutions. Invite a cross section of stakeholders, business unit leaders, and, importantly, employees from all ranks to the team. It would help if you aimed to have between 12–35 people on the team, depending on the size of your organization. If you have an extensive organization of over 5000 employees, you may need to engage more than one team to work in parallel and converge later.
In this step, you will conduct design thinking sessions with the team, which will give everyone the opportunity to ideate and apply divergent thinking, and then converge to identify and prioritize solutions. If team members are not familiar with design thinking, it may help them if they familiarize themselves with the concept ahead of time. One way to do this is to curate a few microlearning options, including videos, articles, and 30 or 45 microlearning modules. Another way could be to assign a short training module to everyone on the team as homework ahead of the design thinking sessions. Most likely, you will be into the couple sessions remotely, and in that case, it is recommended that you split the session two four-hour sessions of days apart. Breaking the sessions allows the team to digest the new ideas generated and tackle the challenges.
It is good to use an online collaboration tool during the session where teams can use virtual sticky notes to share their ideas and then vote on them to distill the key priorities to tackle. Online collaboration tools offer transparency to the process and allow the team to go back and review their journey if they need to. By the end of this step, you should have the prioritized challenges across each of the three heads, culture, tech, and physical space, and prioritized ideas on how to address them, the metrics with which to measure success, the workstreams needed to tackle the solutions and the teams formed. This step should take about 8–12 hours, split into 4–hour or 6–hour sessions.
5. Kick Off The Pilot
In this step, you kick off the pilot whereby all the teams formed during the design thinking session will work together to tackle the challenges and address them. Pilots can be as short as 2–3 weeks or as long as a few months. A 10–12 week pilot typically allows the teams to form, storm, and get a lot done. It is crucial to hold weekly drumbeat team meetings to keep the project going momentum and track weekly progress across the workstreams, discuss challenges and failures, and identify new opportunities. Also recommended are 4–week, 8–week, and 10–week or 12–week updates to organizational leadership and the broader organization.
These updates help communication the progress on the pilot and help build rapport and coalitions with business unit leaders who will soon need to support similar, enterprise-wide, changes across their units. Such updates also underscore the importance of the employee experience and offer an opportunity to others to offer perspectives and ideas that can inform the effort. By the end of this step, you should have a set of tried and tested approaches and metrics to support the effort to close the gaps identified in employee experience across your organization’s culture, tech, and physical environments. The outcome of the pilot will be blueprints and lessons learned that will help to tackle the enterprise-wide challenges. The duration of this step depends on how the teams decide to organize. A good rule of thumb for the pilot duration is 10–12 weeks.
6. Report Pilot Results And Roll Out Enterprise-Wide
Congratulations! After the pilot, you will need to report the results achieved by each team and the lessons learned. Ensure you also spend time discussing the failures and what did not work. Confronting loss helps the teams embrace the fear of failure as they prepare to scale the effort out enterprise-wide.
Next, engage the business unit leaders and ask them to assign resources from their teams to take on the enterprise-wide implementation of the employee experience strategy. The employee experience strategy is an enterprise-wide initiative embraced by the organization; it is essential to continue with periodic updates, preferably monthly or quarterly. At the end of 6 or 12 months since kickoff, you will need to collect employee data again to compare the changes since the inception of your effort. You will need to course-correct and iterate until the changes become part of the organization’s fabric.
Implementing an employee experience strategy can be complex, risky, and resource-heavy. Considering the six steps offered in this article can help you de-risk your effort and focus on the employee’s most critical element.