Let’s talk about your EX. No, not a past romantic interest, but the employee experience. Employee Experience (EX) and employee engagement are increasingly being placed at the foreground of company operations but what does this mean, why bother and where do you start?
Leaders need to focus on EX because it helps them understand their employees as people and not just a number in the company. Ultimately knowing your employees will go a long way to achieve positive company results.
There are two important building blocks that you should know and understand when trying to create a better employee experience. First, it is important to create a sense of belonging by embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Second, leaders need to understand and tap into intrinsic motivators for each employee, inspiring them to take action, be creative, and work at a high level.
Why Employee Experience Matters
EX determines employee engagement and this matters on both a personal and company level. For some time now companies have understood that customer experience (CX) strategies are also good for business. Now CX leaders are realising that every CX starts with a good EX. Leaders who care about their employees will create a space where they are happy and engaged. But it goes beyond individual job satisfaction. By understanding the full employee experience, companies can work towards a highly engaged workforce.
Engaged employees are those who have sense of purpose, meaning, progress and belonging, feel challenged, and are given autonomy. This results in higher focus, productivity, creativity and satisfaction in their job, all of which will ultimately benefit the company.
Consider, for example, an employee who has been given creative license and autonomy to work on a certain project. That employee is likely to become highly engaged in their work, utilising their creativity and passion. So, when the time comes to engage with clients in the sales process, that employee is going to create an amazing customer experience (CX)—they are passionate about the product, with deep knowledge and ownership. The strong CX leads to happy customers, which leads to loyal customers, which helps the bottom line. Employee engagement starts a virtuous cycle that supports EX, CX, and the bottom line.
Employee engagement and experiences are not simple topics and there are a lot of different avenues to discuss. However, I want to focus and share on two foundational blocks for creating positive EX in a company: creating a sense of belonging and tapping into intrinsic motivation.
Diversity and Inclusion for Employee Engagement
One of the most important determinants of employee engagement is whether employees have a sense of belonging. Belonging is defined as ‘an affinity for a place or situation.’ Other terms for affinity include like-mindedness and kinship. The starting point for any company is to ensure that they are a safe, open space for every employee, no matter their background or identity.
DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives have become increasingly more common in the workplace in attempt to address the racial, gender, or other inequalities that are unfortunately still prevalent in society.
While DEI is more common today, it can still be a sensitive topic. It challenges each person to embrace differences and confront their unconscious biases, which are judgements or behaviours we are not aware of. This moves us out of our comfort zones and can be uncomfortable. But, if a leader is committed to creating a sense of belonging, embracing DEI and managing unconscious bias is a necessary first step.
Here are some strategies:
· Be accountable to your own biases as a leader. Be proactive in trying to understand those around you and take steps to listen and learn from others.
· Listen to others and give them space to express themselves. Practice active listening and truly seek to understand.
· Call-in, don’t call-out. Try to take the opposite route from today’s ‘cancel culture.’ Instead of calling someone out for their mistakes, call them in. Ask questions like ‘When this happened, what did it mean to you?’ or ‘This is how it came across. What did you intend for it to mean?’
· Be okay with not always getting it right. Acknowledge where you are wrong and make changes.
· Amplify voices of those who are ignored. Make a conscious effort to amplify the voices that may be ignored or historically undervalued.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of DEI, however implementing these tips as a leader can help you become more aware of your unconscious biases and take some steps towards building a safe space of belonging for employees. Make sure you continue to educate yourself about DEI from professionals and educators to take it to the next level.
Building Intrinsic Motivation
If embracing the diversity of each individual is the baseline for creating a sense of belonging, then understanding intrinsic motivators is the baseline for productivity in a workplace. Companies are missing out on real productivity and creativity from their employees because they don’t understand the psychology of motivation and what makes people do what they do.
Intrinsic motivators come from within a person, I like to think of it that they come from your heart’s desires not from what your eyes envy. Some intrinsic motivators may be a desire to do well, feel a sense of progress, a love for a certain task, a sense of connection and more autonomy. In contrast, extrinsic motivators are about gain and the avoidance of loss and include financial and tangible rewards, status and fame, all whilst trying to avoid consequences.
One downfall of extrinsic motivators is that they tend to be one-size-fits-all. While one person might love a free lunch, another person doesn’t because of their food allergies. One person may really want an iPad whilst another is not interested in technology or already has one, and we all perceived the value of money differently depending on our personal situation. $25 may be a lot to one person but to another it only represents a small value. Extrinsic motivators may work in the short-term or as I like to say they are loud and get attention, but they do not have long-lasting impacts like intrinsic motivation. In contrast, intrinsic motivators tap into deep human desires, such as feeling valued, purposeful, and recognised—what we all desire. These intrinsic motivators tend to be quieter but have a long lasting and powerful effect.
To increase intrinsic motivation and, in turn, employee engagement, focus on these factors:
· Embrace Purpose by allowing employees to develop goals with personal meaning.
· Release control over every minute detail and allow employees autonomy and decision-making power within the scope of their role.
· Build cooperation into the workplace so that everyone can receive satisfaction from helping others.
· Embrace creativity and innovation by providing space for curiosity.
· Give recognition and be generous with praise and affirmation for accomplishments.
To Wrap Up
Employee experiences determine employee engagement and is something that leaders need to be thinking about. A workplace that is safe and open to all employees creates an important sense of belonging. DEI initiatives and conversations that force leaders to confront unconscious biases is a powerful first step towards achieving this.
In addition to focusing on this sense of belonging, leaders need to find ways to boost intrinsic motivation. What motivates their employees towards success, innovation, and productivity? Building a workplace that empowers employees to take on challenges and be more autonomous, leaves room for failure, gives recognition regularly and encourages creativity. These are all positive first steps to tapping into the power of intrinsic motivation to achieve employee and company success.
By Luke Jamieson
Keywords: Culture, Customer Experience, Future of Work