6 phases of the employee experience and how to enhance them

CHRO SA's recent webinar featured Torque MD and employee experience expert Sally Acton.

CHRO South Africa hosted a webinar on Friday 3 July in which HR professionals were treated to a free employee experience masterclass. Sally Acton, MD of employee experience consultancy Torque, Solutions took attendees through the six stages of the employee journey – hiring, pre-onboarding, onboarding, day-to-day experiences, employee changes and offboarding – explaining the common mistakes that companies make along the way.

With the world of work disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, Sally said the there has never been a more pertinent time to zero in on employee experience as it would be critical to retaining key talent.

1 Hiring 

“The employee journey starts well before an employee sets foot in an organisation," said Sally, explaining that, when sending out a job specification, employers had to make sure the requirements outlined the culture of the organisation, telling candidates about the kind of behaviours and traits they would be expected to exhibit in order to thrive in the organisation. 

“You have to be able to best give employees an idea of what they will experience when they join the organisation. I'm not talking about things like 'access to a foosball table,' I'm talking about things like 'access to coaching', 'open-door policies with managers', and 'culture of recognition'. These are things that are incredibly important to employees.”  

Sally also said it was important to provide candidates who did not do well in the recruitment phase with feedback regarding their performance interviews. 

2 Pre-onboarding

Once an appointment has been made, Sally said it is important to provide even more information about what to expect. The pre-onboarding phase plays an important role in the mindset of an employee because it is the stage before the most important.  

In fact, half of the work of getting the employee experience right comes in the pre-onboarding and onboarding phase. 

Sally explains that when employees leave an organisation, they often say that the job description that drew them to apply for a role did not match reality. And, more often than not, this became clear during the onboarding process. For many employees, this first experience becomes the deal-breaker. 

Pre-onboarding is vital because it manages the expectation of an employee before they join the organisation. 

“I liken it to getting a new car. When you place your order at the dealership, it's the period before the car is delivered. You will open every single email and SMS you receive from the dealership because you are so excited about the car. Same with a new job,” said Sally. 

She said that this is when employers should be making contact with their new recruits, providing them with communication around culture, values and/or an organogram to give them interesting information about the business. 

“You can also give them information about their employee value proposition, allow them to complete forms for pensions fund and different kinds of medical aid options. Give them the space to make these decisions before they arrive at the organisation.”

3 Onboarding

If employers don't get onboarding right, Sally said there is a real rands-and-cents impact on the business. Quoting figures from BambooHR's onboarding survey of over 1,000 employed workers in the US, she said 31 percent of employees leave a job within the first six months. The same report says 68 percent of those depart within three months. 

“Why do these people leave? Reality did not match the expectation. To go back to my car analogy, it’s because the car that arrived from the dealership did not match the car that you test drove," she said, adding that this happens when there is a lack of equipment or smooth process to provide a positive onboarding experience.

In this instance, Sally said employers would benefit from automated onboarding through which new employees are not bombarded with too much information but are also given everything they need to hit the ground running in terms of having an email address, workspace and necessary equipment. 

It is also important to track the success of the onboarding process by getting feedback from new recruits asking them questions that allow them to rate the extent to which the experience matched their expectations. By doing this, Sally said employers would ensure that they are able to notice whether their processes are improving or worsening.

4 Day-to-day experience

The day-to-day part of the employee journey is where culture, recognition, and values come into play. It is where the organisations have the opportunity to prove that they offer an environment of continuous learning and development, for example, by providing training opportunities as well as mentorship and coaching. 

"How are you empowering people by allowing them to work in the business and not just for the business," Sally asked. 

“You have employees add more value to the business beyond doing they day to day job. It's important to understand that your employees can add a huge amount of value to your business if you will let them. Even from a marketing perspective, social media means your employees are a massive resource to tap into for reaching customers. You can get them to launch campaigns, participate in CSI projects, or to just be employer brand ambassadors.”

Sally gave an example of one of their clients that run a safari business at which one of their drivers came up with a new way to park and move the vehicles between game drives and ended up saving the company over $100,000 dollars in fuel when it was implemented across all the lodges. 

5 Employee changes

The 'Employee Changes’ part of the journey is where there is a need for change management. Whether it is a merger, a move to a new office, or an unforeseen scenario like Covid-19, companies have to be able to manage change events well in order to keep the employee experience positive. The key here, Sally said, is to communicate effectively by keeping employees informed every step of the way and to ensure that the organisation has processes in place to draw feedback and act upon it.

Many companies have surveys, but Sally said the mistake they often make is that these are often too long and cause survey fatigue. 

“If you want to be a true culture-first company, you can't do employee engagement twice a year. You have to look at every event in the employee life cycle and ask for feedback at the right time and with the right questions.”

When it comes to employee engagement surveys, she said the key is to perfect timing, inclusion and transparency.  

Timing, she said, is about ensuring that the surveys are short enough, adding that the mistake companies often make is wanting to ensure that all possible the bases. But this leads to surveys that require a heavy time investment and largely reduces the participation rate. 

“Surveys must be used only when you need to gain feedback on how people are feeling around a specific event that has happened,” said Sally.  

Regarding inclusivity, Sally said the language within a survey has to be inclusive of all employees from all backgrounds, education levels and geographical locations. It also has to be applicable to the person receiving it. 

“You wouldn’t want to ask employees about how they are coping with working from home when they are among those that aren’t actually doing so.”

Lastly, Sally said employees have to be transparent and open with employees about the results of the survey while also letting them know what actions would be taken to address queries and concerns. 

Offboarding 

“You don't want the first piece of communication that an employee receives after tendering their resignation to be 'your password has been revoked and we want you to drop off your laptop,” said Sally, referring to the onboarding process, which companies often get wrong because they do not realise the impact of letting an employee leave in a manner that leaves a sour taste in their mouth. 

“Even though a person is leaving, it can all be done so that the individual still feels positive about your organisation. Word of mouth is very powerful and when you have someone that enjoyed their time and had a positive offboarding experience, they will have no qualms about coming back and they will recommend your organisation to future candidates.”

At the end of the Webinar, Sally answered a number of questions from the attendees who had certainly derived value and left feeling more informed about mapping the employee journeys within their organisations.