Culture: Master the human element of employee experience

Culture: Master the human element of employee experience

This post originally appeared on the Organizational Communication Research Center blog for the Institute for Public Relations. 

The current emphasis among business leaders on shifting corporate culture isn’t merely about culture for its own sake. Rather, these leaders recognize that culture defines the employee experience (EX) on the job. Culture helps employees connect with the organization’s greater goals and feel a sense of identity and meaning in their work. In short, it determines their level of engagement and, ultimately, their success.

Employee Experience, Culture & How They’re Related

What exactly is “employee experience”? According to Denise Lee Yohn, author and expert in brand leadership, EX comprises the sum of everything an employee experiences throughout his or her connection to the organization—every employee interaction, from the first contact as a potential recruit to the last interaction after employment ends.

Too often leaders focus on well-being or career path as the sole driver of EX, without taking into account the co-mingling levers of corporate culture that shape an employee’s lived realities at work. MIT’s CISR research confirms that the definition of EX is changing with our digital landscape, which allows companies to re-imagine work and workplace culture.

A recent Glassdoor study reveals culture’s crucial role as a driver of employee satisfaction. After controlling employee ratings for business outlook, career opportunities, culture and values, compensation and benefits, senior leadership, and work–life balance, the research showed culture and values scoring as much more important for job satisfaction—and the overall experience—than compensation and work–life balance.

Employee Experience & Culture by the Numbers

The stakes couldn’t be higher for getting your employee experience and culture both aligned and optimized for peak performance. Consider the following statistics:

  • Companies with scores in the top quartile of employee experience were 2x as innovative as those in the bottom quartile, according to the MIT / CISR research cited above. Quartiles were based on the percentage of revenue from products and services in the last two years. By intentionally cultivating employee experience and culture, these companies paved the way for employees to work together effectively and engage with customers in new ways to enhance revenue streams.
  • PwC survey of 2,000 executives and employees conducted in 2013 and again in 2018 showed that over the course of just five years, the number of respondents who claim their company’s culture will need to evolve over the next three to five years has increased by nearly 30%.
  • According to a Deloitte study87% of organizations surveyed described culture and engagement as either “important” or “very important” to their success. Culture ranked as their single most important concern.

Investing in Culture & Employee Experience for Peak Performance

How can your organization build a culture intentionally to deliver an employee experience that drives high performance, attracts top talent, and makes customers feel great about working with you? Gagen MacDonald has identified six levers to be pulled in sync to achieve the best results:

It’s important to note that these levers don’t operate in clean silos. They touch and frequently overlap. The goal in examining these levers is not to determine in which “bucket” each employee activity sits. Rather, Gagen employs this framework to help our Fortune 500 clients gain a sense of which levers are not being proportionally utilized, or where various elements of the employee experience are misaligned.

Leaders can no longer overlook the human element inside their organizations. They need to master shaping strategy across all six levers of culture.

Pulling these levers in sync requires first assessing the employee experience from the employee’s POV. Imagine you’re an experience architect working inside the company. How can you determine what employees are seeing, feeling, and believing every day at work and harness all those inputs to shift the culture in the right direction to create a unique experience?

Can you measure changes in employee experience through the levers of culture? The answer is a definite yes. My previous IPR article, “Living Your Purpose: Driving and Measuring Business Adoption,” explains the value of frequent employee pulse surveys to benchmark and improve upon EX and culture initiatives. Gagen MacDonald has refined this measurement with experience over time, using proprietary intake surveys at every level of organization to get a candid, deep, accurate read on where EX and culture stand today, where the disconnects lie, and how to start closing them.

The costs of not assessing the employee experience against the levers of culture can be significant—to the point of undermining your organization’s fundamental goals. A company, for instance, cannot bill itself externally as an innovative technology company, and then over-sell that impression during hiring. When new hires encounter a very different world inside the company than the one they expected, they’ll leave fast, driving up attrition rates, which results in lower morale.

In Summary…

To create a rich and meaningful EX aligned with a company’s culture, leaders need to build enduring relationships with employees and create personalized, relevant experiences across an employee’s tenure—from pre-hire to onboarding to career development and learning to the final off-boarding process. Tapping into the rational and emotional components of the six levers is an important part of this equation. It can shape a distinct talent advantage, increase engagement and loyalty, and drive innovation and growth for the future.

To gain more insights on these topics, I encourage readers to download our complimentary eBook “The Case For Culture” today.