‘By putting the employee first, the customer effectively comes first by default. And in the end, the shareholder comes first by default as well’ – Richard Branson
With the changing dynamics of the new workplace of today, the demands organizations face are also shifting into new, uncharted areas. The traditional is no longer acceptable and organizations are reworking their age-old strategies. However, in the middle of all the chaos, the one universal organizational growth strategy that can work across sectors and industries is ‘employee-first’.
An IBM and Globoforce Research of 2016 explained the relationship between employee experience and organizations’ financial outcome. Recognizing that “the battle for the hearts and minds of employees is played out daily through their workplace experiences,” the report concluded organizations need to re-examine their employees’ experience at work as a path to sustained competitive advantage.
So what makes for a great Employee Experience?
The experience of employees is their perception about their workplace and the organisation in its entirety. This perception drives the way they work, the way they talk about their work and eventually, the way customers perceive the company.
The IBM-Globoforce study identified a 5-Dimension Index to measure Employee Experience:
1. Belonging – feeling part of a team, group or organization
2. Purpose – understanding why one’s work matters
3. Achievement – a sense of accomplishment in the work that is done
4. Happiness – the pleasant feeling arising in and around work
5. Vigor – the presence of energy, enthusiasm and excitement at work
The outcomes of great Employee Experience (EX) were seen to be directly correlated to work performance, discretionary effort and retention. The report showed how organizations that score in the top 25% in EXI report nearly three times the return on assets and double the return on sales as compared to organizations in the bottom quartile. Hence, employee first!
Snapshot of the IBM – Globoforce Research
Must-dos for an effective ‘employee-first’ strategy
The study, in fact, corroborates what Abraham Maslow laid down succinctly way back in 1943. Maslow’s motivation model may have evolved beyond its initial definition, but the basic tenets of human behaviour have not changed. People, in their personal and professional lives, are motivated to fulfil their most basic needs before moving on to higher ones.
The focus of an employee-first strategy thus must be aligned to the needs of the employees and what motivates them to come to work every single day.
Physiological: While financial remuneration and benefits do play a decisive role in attracting/retaining talent, the workforce today is unwilling to compromise on the quality of life and work-life balance. Physical, emotional and financial well-being are equally important to them. Organizations need to go the extra length to provide their staff with holistic working experience.
Safety: Empowering people to decide on the how and why of their work lets them know that they are trusted. Removing hierarchies, inculcating a work culture of collaboration and team-work, flexibility and freedom to choose when and where they work from – all these reiterate the fact that employees are the biggest stakeholders in their own success, and are in a place safe enough for them to experiment to achieve their full potential.
Belonging and Love: Employees need to know that the organisation has their interests at heart; hence in-house training, skill development, access to digital/technological tools and mentoring, sabbaticals for acquiring professional qualifications – all play a part. Investments in training and development of employees arm them with requisite skills to deal with new challenges and also reassures them that they are at the right place. And the keyword today is ‘equal’. Across demographics of age, gender and seniority, everyone needs to be given equal opportunities for professional and personal growth.
Esteem: Designing and delivering a comprehensive R&R programme that acknowledges both professional achievements and personal milestones goes a long way in making employees truly happy. A programme that appreciates and felicitates skills and not positions is the best way to show that the organisation respects its people for who they are. Digitalised solutions allowing flexibility and freedom of choice are easy to administer, going a long way in enhancing employee experience.
By shifting focus and putting people ahead of profits, ‘Employee-first organizations that are invested in the employees and their welfare see lower attrition, improved performance and increased profitability. With superior EX, organisations can avert the costs of hiring and training new people. In that sense, the associated cost of retaining people with good EX will work as a multiplier effect.
The workforce also feels a sense of ownership and is therefore vested in the organisation’s vision for the future, enabling sustained growth and success. In the current business environment, where disruptions are the norm and change the only constant, an employee-first strategy is not just investment in employees’ success; but the only way for sustained organizational growth.
By Pramul Saxena, Chief Finance Officer, Sodexo Benefits and Rewards, India