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Employee experience must transcend mere engagement, experts say

Dive Brief:

  • Cultivating better employee engagement was top of mind for experts in HR, finance and marketing who spoke as part of Paycor’s 2019 Rise Web Summit — a two-day webinar series on Feb. 19 and 20. Webinars covered a variety of HR’s other focus areas, too, such as benefits compliance and unconscious bias in recruiting.
  • “Employee experience goes beyond employee engagement,” said Katy Bunn, senior director, marketing communications at Paycor, in a lecture on the topic. Bunn said that engagement starts on day one and encouraged managers and HR to build a supportive culture for new employees backed by frequent check-ins and goal setting. Once HR sees that workers are truly engaged, Bunn said, they can offer a referral program with incentives and source current employees to work as “social media ambassadors” to help promote the workplace culture to the public.
  • For Kelly Charles-Collins, partner at Smoak, Chistolini & Barnett, PLLC, the concept of ACE, or “atmosphere, culture and environment,” can positively impact employee experience by making workplaces more diverse, inclusive and mutually trusting. “Shifting culture is not enough,” she said in her talk. Charles-Collins encouraged HR to create safe spaces for employees to discuss when they experience unconscious bias at work, provide options in their environments — including access to standing desks and natural light — and prioritize inclusivity. “It’s not enough to just have the diversity piece. ‘We have 10 people who are diverse,’ okay, but what’re you doing with those people? Are they involved in any way? Are they empowered and do they feel valued within the company?” she said.

Dive Insight:

When HR sets out to improve employee experience and engagement, it can be daunting. A positive employee experience is linked to competitive pay and benefits, a supportive workplace culture and more. “This is not just about putting a pingpong table in the break room and calling it a day. This is about inspecting every single thing your organization is doing,” Bunn said in her talk.

Implementing a “culture of recognition” through gradual changes can be a good start. Bunn recommended praising employees in blog posts or the company newsletter and noted that HR should be sensitive to employees’ personality types — perhaps opting for a personalized note over public recognition for introverted employees. HR can lead the charge by codifying rules for recognizing employees and by advising managers and other higher-ups to take on the mantle.

“You have to live your words,” Scott Conklin, Paycor’s SVP of human resources previously told HR Dive, adding that “if not seen at all levels, people aren’t going to do it.”

Working toward diversity and inclusion is of vital importance, both to engage employees and meet business goals. Though 98% of employers have invested in diversity, a quarter of workers in diverse groups don’t experience a measurable benefit, according to a recent Boston Consulting Group survey. Charles-Collins acknowledged that diversity initiatives can misfire unless employers work to banish exclusivity from the workplace and solicit input and participation from diverse workers. “Inclusion is the empowerment and the involvement of those people in your decision making,” she said. For talent professionals, blind recruiting can be a powerful tool to check unconscious bias and bring more diverse candidates into the fold, Charles-Collins said.

When employees are engaged, retention is better and recruiting new talent can be easier. Several Rise speakers referenced a Paycor study of 700 HR leaders and C-suite executives released earlier this year, which found that 80% of small- to medium-sized businesses and 72% of CEOs don’t believe their workers are engaged. The survey also found that, among these businesses, those with highly engaged employees were 86% more likely to report that their company has an effective referral process.

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