by Mary C. Schaefer

Win the war for talent by improving employee experience

Jan 27, 2017
CareersIT Leadership

Employee experience — it’s similar to employee engagement. It includes perks and casual Fridays, and also how performance reviews are run, and the quality of the working relationship with the boss. How do you do employee experience?

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This is not the first time I’ve heard this story. An acquaintance of mine questions whether she is in the right job, in the right industry and working for the right employer. She recounts the story of her 20-year career in different roles and divisions with the same enterprise. She has reported to several different supervisors.

She views her career as spotty. She’s been promoted, and she’s been overlooked or set up to fail, depending on the day. She’s doubting her skills and choices.

As I listen to her story, my heart aches at how her experience has depleted her self-confidence. At the same time, I thought to myself that this was a fairly typical story of a 20-year career.

I’ve talked to hundreds if not thousands of employees as a friend, a fellow employee or an HR manager, and now as a solo coach and trainer. Many employment stories mirror hers.

Last week, I received dozens of requests for coaching. This is three times more than I’ve received any other week over the past several months. It’s nothing I’m doing differently. Based on the requests I’m receiving, I suspect employees’ dissatisfaction and their desire for change are both growing.

It’s ‘the war for talent,’ not ‘the war on talent’

I’m perplexed as I listen to stories of employees whose needs go ignored or whose voices go unheard. I hear too many people tell me they don’t know one person they would consider an advocate for them at work.

I understand there’s a “war for talent” going on. To me, that means you want to not only attract the best people, but also keep the best people.

Turnover costs range from 16% to 20% of an employee’s annual pay, depending on the role, according to studies by The Center for American Progress. The Society for Human Resources Management says there’s a 50% to 75% turnover cost for salaried employees.

Then there are Gallup stats that won’t go away. We’re now hearing employee disengagement is at 60% to 70%, as compared to a solid 70% a few years ago. This is costing $350 billion to $550 billion per year. That’s still a lot of money wasted on turnover, plummeting productivity, etc. because people are disengaged — no matter what the reason. 

Some employers have told me that they’re not concerned about retention. Depending on the reasons, at some point your retention rate is going to hamper your ability to appeal to great prospective employees.

Let’s be exceptional at ’employee experience’

I know you have employees who aren’t delivering, or who are disrupting productivity. They may have to go.

That aside, if you want to win the war for talent, it’s time to give much more attention to the entire employee experience. This includes taking steps to ensure that people don’t feel useless and exhausted because of how they are treated at work.

I spoke with a colleague recently who is enjoying respect and attention from his current employer. His boss recently asked him what he needed to do his job better. His answer surprised her. They had a relatively long discussion about how they could improve his situation together. They made plans.

When it was time for his performance review, his boss invited him to lunch, at a place of his choosing. She did this because she knew he would like it.

This same employee felt that his job title didn’t match how his role had evolved. After he brought up that subject, his boss and HR revamped his title and job description. These people are listening.

This employer has created a culture that’s concerned with employee experience, from a broad perspective.

Employee empowerment: Good news, bad news

The good news is that employees are more empowered. The bad news is that employees are more empowered.

As the number of employees reaching out for help increases, I’m delighted to see people take charge of their careers. More are seeking help with their own development. Some want a guide for a job search. Others want a sounding board to explore their options. Many are seeking this on their own time and their own dime.

The flip side of that phenomenon is that it means that there are employers that are losing the respect and commitment of their employees. And that means they may lose those employees. It’s costly whether employees stay or go.

How are you managing your employees’ experience so you don’t lose that war for talent?