The concept of employee experience isn’t new, I (and many others) have been talking about it for years. But what is new, is the value of employee experience and the importance that organizations are placing on it in a post-COVID-19 world.
As a quick refresher, I define employee experience as creating an organization where employees WANT not NEED to show up to work each day, by focusing on three environments which are culture, technology, and physical space.
This is about making core changes to the workplace practices of your organization, not just focusing on perks or benefits.
The reason why employee experience has never been more important than it is now is because things haven’t been as tough as they are now.
It’s easy to create amazing employee experiences when things are going well, it’s much easier to do so when things are in a state of chaos and when global tragedies like COVID-19 have impacted the lives of so many people around the world. How you and your company respond NOW is what the world will remember. There's a lot of talk of leading by "putting people first" but what exactly does that mean and how do you actually go about doing that? Putting people first is a philosophy backed up by a set of actions that prioritizes the people of an organization above all else including shareholder value and profits, even if it means that leaders must make personal sacrifices.
The first part of this is easy, but it’s the second part most organizations struggle with. A philosophy is easy...values are easy. These are just words and phrases. Anyone can say they value things like “doing the right thing, trusting others, delighting customers, collaborating,” etc. But how do these things come to life?
There's a restaurant near where I live called "Ole’s Waffle Shop" which is owned by Ken and Vickie Monize that employs around 40 people. When you walk into the restaurant portraits of the employees line the walls to remind everyone what it takes to run a family business.
The owners of that restaurant wanted to retire next year and build their dream house on land they purchased in Santa Rosa. Then the pandemic hit and their sales plummeted by 85 percent. The owners could have just closed their doors and retired early, but they didn't. Instead, they sold their property and put nearly $400,000 of their own money into paying their employees so that they could survive during this difficult time.
This to me is putting people first. The owners of this small mom and pop restaurant believe that their job, their responsibility, and their privilege is to take care of the people who helped build the business, even if it means they have to sacrifice personally. If Ken and Vickie Monize are willing to do this then why aren't the many billion-dollar organizations out there who are putting their people on the chopping block? If a waffle shop can do this, then so can every other company...if they are willing to sacrifice.
How to put people first
In the context of most companies, there are 5 steps they can follow to put people first.
Understand what it means to be a leader
You are the lighthouse that guides other people to succeed in a safe way, your job is to help make other people more successful, even more, successful than you!
Know your people
Your employees are not workers, they are human beings with fears, dreams, aspirations, families, and passions. Get to know them!
Focus on employee experience
There are 3 environments your organization can shape which are culture, technology, and physical space. You have to invest in and optimize all three to create a place where employees WANT not NEED to show up to work each day.
Measure human factors
At Barry-Wehmiller, the 12,000 person manufacturing company, they don't measure "headcount" they measure "heart count," to remind themselves that they are in the business of taking care of people. Whether you are looking at diversity and inclusion or the overall happiness of your people, human factors are important to consider.
Focus on purpose and meaning
We all want to feel like we are making a difference and are contributing towards building something great. Purpose and meaning are two different yet crucial aspects that make us who we are as human beings. When you focus on employees, the profits will follow. Employees will become more engaged and productive and contribute to a culture that makes the world a better place. That’s the power of employee experience and we need it now more than ever!
Know more about what’s new in employee experience at the People Matters Employee Experience India Conference on 10th June, 2021. Register Now!