As originally published here.
We are now entering the employee experience economy—a place where workers are significantly impacting a company’s financial bottom line by their willingness and ability to take care of customers, be productive, and stay with their current employer. We are seeing employees take a stand on social issues and expecting company leaders to do the same. 45% of respondents in a recent survey stated that a company’s actions on major societal issues determine their employment decisions. Employees are raising their voices and flexing their muscles to influence a company’s products, whom the company does business with, and how the company operates. So, what does this mean for your company? Here are some crucial considerations for every company in 2019:
1) Selecting the Right People Is Imperative: Not everyone is meant to work at your company. You need to be selective and focus on finding the right cultural fit, which means that the applicant’s attitude, heart, and mind need to be aligned with the company’s values. I find that many managers select employees with their own interests in mind, not the company’s interests. Managers also focus too much on experience and not enough on values when selecting the right candidate for the job. Ensure your values are discussed during the selection process and you have developed activities and questions that provide insight into a candidate’s disposition and character. Values help guide decisions, and whom you bring into the organization is one the most important decisions you will make in 2019.
Also, consider revamping your selection process. We recently developed an interactive interviewing process that includes 1) a coffee hour for managers to interact with candidates as a way to check their social skills, 2) reviewing a new app to test candidates’ technology acumen, and 3) a scenario-based exercise to check their ability to be creative and troubleshoot problems. By steering candidates away from a traditional interview, we got to see more of who the candidate really is and could better determine if they were the right fit for the organization.
2) Provide Frontline Employees with Leadership Development: By 2025, 75% of employees will be millennials or Generation Zs, with many of them in management positions. As such, you must begin equipping them now to work through people, not over people so that they can grow into leadership roles. These employees crave development and seek out companies that provide growth opportunities. We often see companies investing in their senior managers and executives, but the frontline managers have the biggest impact because they work directly with employees each day. Unfortunately, these frontline supervisors and managers are not being equipped to give feedback, have tough conversations, provide meaningful recognition, and communicate with different generations of workers. Companies should offer their employees some form of leadership development not only to better equip them in their first managerial role but also to help them understand what they are getting into when they look for a promotion. We have to stop promoting employees just because they did the best job. Instead, we need to promote employees who understand how to do their job and can work through people respectfully and in a way that inspires performance.
3) Prioritize Listening: Senior executives and managers must make time to listen to their employees. The excuse of being too busy to listen isn’t going to cut it in the employee experience economy. According to research from Gallup, listening to employees’ work-related challenges is a key factor in reducing burnout and increasing morale. So, create outlets for employees to voice frustrations and opinions. These outlets must go well beyond an annual survey—it must include a consistent method for employees to share input and feel heard. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with direct reports and managers. It is crucial that managers are not afraid or defensive about what an employee might share—employees must be allowed to voice frustrations, share a difference of opinion, and explain their needs. Companies don’t need to do everything an employee asks of them, but companies need to consider whether it is one or two employees voicing concerns or the broader employee population.
When it comes to listening, companies must evolve their communication channels to ensure that managers are hearing their employees in their preferred communication method, not the managers. While managers will tell you they all know how to listen, the problem is often found in their preference to listen while completing other tasks or checking emails. Truly listening to employees means creating an environment and a time that are free from distractions. Companies must teach managers how to listen to understand. By listening to employees, we create the opportunity to hear the best ideas, have a pulse on our employees’ engagement, and know the needs of our people.
4) Update Your Benefits Package: Balance is essential in the employee experience economy. More than 40% of both millennials and Generation Z employees rank flexibility of work hours and location as top considerations when selecting a company to work for. Many companies are adapting to this change, with about 68% of large enterprises believing that the majority of employees will be mobile and not bound to an office space by 2021.
Flexibility is just one piece of what employees expect as a benefit. Generation Z employees are seeking personal and professional growth, help with finances, mentorship, lifestyle benefits, and the convenience of information received via mobile apps. By knowing the needs of our people, we can provide a menu of benefits that take into account what is most meaningful to them—flex hours, leave to take care of family, reimbursed tuition, opportunities to give back to the community, employee wellness incentives, and better rules to deal with an always (technologically) connected world. These benefits should help reduce workplace stress and the need that many employees feel of sacrificing their personal life for work. Balance is different for everyone, so a menu of options that considers a wide range of needs is important to keep employees motivated and satisfied.
5) Support Inclusion: Help people get more comfortable with differences, changes, and other points of view. The world is becoming a bigger melting point, where merging cultures, orientations, and points of view are coming together in the workplace like never before. Generation Z employees are seeking out diverse backgrounds, skills, and education to create optimal team environments, which means companies need to foster diversity and support inclusion throughout the organization.
While we would like to think people’s attitudes have evolved, being aware of and overcoming bias is something everyone needs help with, and some need it more than others. Being inclusive is not just a training exercise, but rather a conscious approach to creating diverse work teams and groups, providing opportunities to hear others’ stories, and making empathy and understanding a natural part of every company culture. Provide your managers with the tools to engage in inclusive leadership, which focus on involving others and making employees feel safe. It is important to consider that with many millennials now managing people, you can no longer think that the problem with inclusion is only about older managers connecting with younger employees. We are seeing younger managers struggling to connect with older employees, so ensure you are considering all generations and how they work together.
Commit to enhancing your employee experience so that you can attract, select, develop, and retain the absolute best employees. By focusing on these critical tasks, your company will reap the benefits of a more engaged, productive, and satisfied staff. The employee experience economy is now, and the longer you wait to shift your attention and investments regarding your employee experience, the further behind you will be.
Stay tuned for upcoming blogs detailing specifics on each of these five areas as part of our “Employee Experience Economy” blog series.