2017’s Biggest Trends in Employee Experience, Part 2

In last week’s blog, we reviewed three of the biggest employee experience trends of 2017, including:

  1. Our industries are complex and competitive. We must take action to keep the best people, our success depends on it.
  2. Generational differences impact both talent and business strategy.
  3. A little emotional intelligence goes a long way.

In this final installment of this series, I’ll share trends 4 – 6 and focus on how we can continue to thrive and compete, and even make our lives a little easier while we’re at it.

4. We stand to benefit from doing more of what’s really important and less of everything else.

If you’ve been hearing more about the power of mindfulness at work, you’re not alone. In a busy world where no one has time to get their work done, let alone build relationships and establish trust with others, the concept of doing less but more is powerful. And if you’ve ever read “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown or “Finding the Space to Lead” by Janice Marturnao, you understand the true power of minimalism and mindfulness applied to work. In our research, we heard from you that this is an area where we’re starting to make some progress, but where we should continue to put our focus. Eighty-five percent of you reported being able to be fully attentive in meetings, conference calls, and presentations. This kind of presence is great news, and ahead of the general curve. However, only two-thirds said that you are able to make time on most days to eliminate some tasks/meetings with limited productivity value, indicating that we still need to push our workplaces to fully embrace this trend and help employees focus on what really matters, and less of everything else.

5. You can’t move what you don’t measure, but measurement isn’t enough.

Creating an intentional employee experience is the most powerful way to attract, retain, engage, and harness the power of our best people. This reality underlies all the previous trends we’ve discussed so far in this series and is rising to the forefront as companies eagerly seek to measure and impact their culture, employee experience, space, engagement, satisfaction, and the list goes on. It’s important to state that this trend is good – objective bottom-up data allows you to implement way more powerful solutions and strategies than programs based on hunches or leadership perceptions alone. In fact, at our recent INSPIRE conference, over half our audience reported measuring their current state of engagement.

However, and this can’t be overstated, measuring isn’t enough. Too often we rely on measurement alone to generate action, and this puts too much pressure on leaders to generate and execute ways to change the culture in a vacuum. In fact, in a recent survey, 100% of respondents reported “Sort of” or “Not so much” when asked if they have yet to successfully use data from an employee engagement survey to increase employee engagement. Only through doing the more difficult work of taking action based on data can organizations actually grow and impact their employee experience.

6. We have to start creating more powerful and engaging employee experiences. But first, we have to separate the signal from the noise.

Engagement is one of the hottest topics in talent management with thought leaders writing blogs and books and building tools left and right to help companies like yours engage employees, keep top talent, increase retention, and improve organizational outcomes. Recently, however, the industry has started to push back, saying that engagement is overused and tired and that all these company cookouts and free t-shirts and company field trips just don’t work. And you know what, they’re right. But not because engagement us overused and tired, but because what the industry has led you to believe about engagement is wrong.

Engagement is NOT synonymous with employee satisfaction, fun, and making our employees lives easier – that’s just noise. The signal of engagement lies in the fact that engagement is an internal motivational state which leads employees to bring their focus, connection, and energy to their work – and this is where the true competitive advantage lies. While companies can do things to encourage more people to opt into engagement, those things are almost definitely not the activities put on by your engagement committee. The aspects of your culture that define the real employee experience live at a much deeper, below the surface level. These aspects include:

  1. Job fit and design elements like variety, ability to make an impact, and resources and tools
  2. Relationships (remember that conversation about the importance of emotional intelligence in part 1?)
  3. The company’s approach to creating a healthy and balanced employee lifestyle
  4. Organizational culture factors like fairness and vision

We sum these up in our Engagement Dials model, and these are the aspects of our culture we must be focused on to create more powerful and engaging employee experiences. They’re more difficult to change and take the time and effort of leadership, not a committee, to impact. But these are the things that lead to the elusive outcomes like increased performance, better company citizens, and longer retention.

So, to summarize the six key takeaways from ADVISA’s Take 5 series in 2017…

We’ve learned that doing business is more difficult than ever, and generational and demographic shifts in the workplace add an additional layer of complexity for organizations to navigate. However, at an individual level, tools like emotional intelligence and mindfulness can help us work better together focus on what’s really important. Similarly, at an organizational level, we must get more serious about taking action to create intentional cultures and employee experiences, and focus on the things that can really make a difference. This is more difficult work, but it’s the good work that will actually make a difference.  So, reflecting on your 2017 and looking into next year, what will you focus on to get to the next level? How might you improve both your work life and the company in turn?

Looking forward to another great year of improving the world, one leader at a time.

Erin Wood, M.S.

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