We continue to hear about the importance of the employee experience, yet we don’t hear many solutions. Rather, we spend a lot of time admiring the problem of low employee engagement.
Let’s put this in perspective: If I input the search terms “employee experience,” I get 4.2 million search results in 0.34 seconds. Clearly this is a popular topic, but what does it actually mean? To answer this question, take a few moments and contemplate your experience outside of the work environment. How difficult or easy is it to get things accomplished? How many choices do you have? How convenient is your life based on the technology you may use? And so on.
Now, ask yourself the same questions about your work environment.
If you are like most people, the experiences will be exponentially different. I can actually purchase and drive off the lot with a new automobile faster than I can order toner for my office printer. This disconnect between what we experience outside of work and what we experience inside our work environments can be significant but is often unaddressed.
If we are lucky, our employees recognize the source of their disconnect. However, more often than not the disconnect shows up in lower employee engagement, turnover, frustration and employee relations issues. Sadly, this schism between our experiences will likely only get worse as the world around us continues to change at a dizzying pace and our organizations continue to lag behind.
Here are some practical considerations to bring more the outside in.
Let me be clear: Policies do have a place in every organization. They mitigate unnecessary risk, reinforce organizational values, protect the organization and employees and provide guidance. But imagine an organization where, rather than employees having to wade through a multitude of policies in order to find out how to accomplish a particular task, employees engage with their peers, their supervisor and their team to understand how things work.
Examine your employee policy framework through this lens:
1. Policies should be legally required — not just because your general counsel says so, but because of actual laws.
2. Policies should be ethically necessary and support your organizational values.
3. Policies should be (gasp) employee-driven.
Once you have reviewed all of your policies from this framework, commit your organization to an elimination of one-third of all policies each year until all the policies in your organization fit within this framework.
Case in point, I have seen organizations use this framework and go from 163 official policies to 13. Anecdotally, employees were more engaged, and over the same time period as the reduction in policies there was an increase in employee engagement scores that crested at 84 out of a possible 100.
We’ve become accustomed to an environment in which we accept, almost at face value, everything our IT and IT security functions say — and for good reason! The threats are real. But don’t fall into the trap of believing that security and infrastructure concerns are the reasons why our organizations have outdated browsers, incompatible versions of software or laptops that weigh 11 pounds.
We have to give employees some level of choice. I can slip my home laptop into my briefcase and I don’t even notice it is there, but in the office, I have a laptop that weights seven times my personal device. Modernizing your hardware infrastructure is going to be an expensive proposition, so tread carefully. Giving employees a choice via an online store can be an efficient way to empower employees and give them access to devices that are similar to the ones they use at home.
While it may seem trivial, the ability to obtain the most basic office supplies can be a significant burden on staff. Many times I have simply ordered something with my personal online shopping account rather than go through a myriad of forms and approvals to obtain office staples.
I’ve seen many inventive solutions to this circumstance over the years. One organization had a basic office supply shop on the third floor. This was a relatively small organization (about 2,000 full-time employees), yet it managed to cut costs and improve service delivery by allowing employees to either order online using a department code or simply show up during regular operating hours to obtain their necessities. There are many ways to make these transactions easier for your employees. Be creative and simplify how your team gets what they need to accomplish their jobs.
A while back I needed an infographic for a project I was working on. I checked with our internal resource and, after learning it would take almost a month and cost my department over $800, I decided to go to the gig economy to get my graphic done. Two business days and $35 of my own money later, I had what I needed. Examine your internal resources. If they are slow, cumbersome and expensive, you may do well to at least explore the potential of using the gig economy to get what you need.
There are a multitude of ways you can bring the outside into the working environment — the only limitation is your imagination. So the next time you experience a seamless transaction — maybe when ordering household supplies or using your portable device to read this article — stop and ask yourself: How can I bring this to my work?