Hybrid, gig and project work are now the fabric of our working lives. You’ll know from experience that there have been seismic shifts in our workplaces and in employee expectations. Change is the one certainty we all have. But, have Europe’s businesses been paying enough attention to their employee experience as we adapt to our changing world? The answer is not yet. Study after study tells us that there is a rising tide across the continent of employee dissatisfaction. Poor employee experiences are no longer a problem limited to ‘elsewhere’. This matters. Employee experience makes or breaks a good customer experience. In this article we look at just how deep the problem runs, and we offer some ideas on where to start to design a change positive EX programme. First, let’s better understand the scale of the issue.
Employee experience – the state we’re in
Life’s good in Europe, eight of our countries are among the ten most happiest places in the world, according to the latest World Happiness Report. Europe has dominated the index for the past decade or so. But this is only one side of the story. Europeans are dissatisfied in their workplaces and prepared to switch jobs in increasing numbers. And, while strong labour protections and cultural factors have traditionally meant that people have been inclined to stay in their job – for good – this is fast changing.
McKinsey last year reported that as many as 30% of European workers were ready to walk out of the door within six months. Looking at situation country by country, Poland was the outlier. Half of respondents said they planned to leave their jobs in the near term. Austria at 26%, Belgium at 27% and Germany at 28% were at the lower end. But this still means that around 1 in 4 workers in these countries were prepared to quit. This is no time for inertia. IDC research in 2022 also found that, on average, 32% of European employees were looking for a new job. The retention problem is probably worse than you thought.
And things could get worse if you don’t take action now. Higher churn rates, an increase in recruitment costs, lower levels of production, an unmotivated workforce, a lack of innovation and ideas all = stagnating growth.
And who experiences the impact of all of this? Your customers. It’s your people that deliver great experiences; technology and processes are just the facilitators. Businesses that design a great customer experience also invest in the employee experience. But, as with all things CX and EX in Europe, there is no picture of uniformity (this is true for pretty everywhere else too). Some companies like Airbnb and Air France KLM are leading the way on employee experience (more on the reasons why later). Start-ups and challenger brands are also setting the standards on how to create thriving workplace cultures and happy, motivated teams. Some companies are still at the drawing board, or just starting out. As with all things CX and EX, many B2B companies especially have more work to do.
Competition for talent is fierce. We face the same recruitment and retention challenges here in Europe as our colleagues in the US and across the globe. A competitive salary and employee benefits and perks aren’t enough any more. Mindsets are changing (in part this is driven by changing demographics). People are re-evaluating what’s important to them in the workplace. Is your business responding?
How have employee expectations changed?
Workers want personalised experiences, and recognition for the contribution they make. They want more open communication and have their say beyond the monthly team meeting or annual survey. People increasingly want an inclusive, diverse, connected and equitable experience. They want more fulfilling and purposeful work. And employees expect to have the resources and tools they need to be successful in their job (wherever, and however, they work).
Covid is in the rear-view mirror, but there are still disruptions ahead. Automation, robotics and the digitisation of roles are happening right now. Employees need to understand, and learn, how to embrace new technologies. They want their voices heard on how all of this impacts them.
Workers are also placing a premium on businesses that take proactive steps to help to improve their well-being and offer the flexibility they need to have a better work/life balance.
There is an opportunity here for those companies without a dedicated EX strategy to stand out and offer a differentiated experience to attract and keep the best talent. An experience which is the driving force behind great CX, innovation and growth. Before we explore some of the steps you can take to improve your EX, it’s important to first make a distinction between employee experience and employee engagement.
The difference between employee experience and employee engagement
Employee experience is everything a person sees, feels, learns and does from the moment they see a vacancy to the moment they leave the company. Employee engagement is about how committed and connected your people are towards their work, each other and the mission – your purpose and goals.
Improving engagement is critical to enhance your EX and CX. Companies must have engaged employees who are passionate about their work and committed to delivering exceptional experience. Engaged employees are more likely to be innovative and drive business growth. But, the number of European workers who feel engaged barely hits double figures. What’s going wrong? Gallup last year found that 14% of European employees were. on average, engaged at work. This is 7% lower than the global average (21%) and 19% lower than the US and Canada average (33%).
There’s work to do here.
To improve the experience of your employees, increase engagement and innovation, you’ll need to take a holistic approach and lift up the rocks on every aspect of your employees experience. Here a few factors to think about.
Designing a positive employee experience – 5 factors to consider
- Just ask – continuous listening and people analytics
When was the last time you asked your people about how they feel about work, and what they want? Can you wait until the next monthly meeting or annual survey to get the data and insights you need to identify pressing needs, fix problems and identify opportunities to improve your EX? As McKinsey asserts, continuous listening is the next competitive frontier in talent. Real-time insights mean you are listening right now, and more importantly able to act. Increased dialogue also fosters a culture of trust and partnership. Should your business introduce more regular feedback sessions or surveys? Learn more here about how McKinsey introduced weekly ‘pulse’ checks, and what happened next
Hierarchies were flatter during the pandemic. Communication was more open as teams worked out how to continue to serve customers and adapt. Employees expect to continue be part of the conversation about how the organisation can change for the better and how to improve the way they work. Two-way dialogue and mutual feedback also helps employees to ‘own their work’ and take greater responsibility.
Remember, this isn’t just about multiple choice questions. Ask open-ended questions too.
- Encourage ideas
To foster innovation and new product development, companies must encourage employees to share their ideas and insights. This can be done through employee feedback surveys, suggestion boxes, brainstorming sessions, or innovation challenges. By tapping into the creativity and expertise of employees, companies can generate new ideas that lead to improved products, services, and customer experiences. And employees feel more empowered, motivated and fulfilled in their work. The impact of well-developed employee experience on innovation and new product development can be significant.
- Provide training and resources
Empower employees to deliver exceptional customer experiences and contribute to innovation by providing training and resources that enable them to develop new skills and knowledge. Do your employees understand what’s expected of them to deliver your CX, as it is today? Would they benefit from additional training, innovation workshops, or access to learning platforms that offer relevant courses and content?
- Foster collaboration and cross-functional teamwork
Innovation often requires collaboration across departments and teams. Companies must create an environment that fosters collaboration and cross-functional teamwork, breaking down silos and encouraging employees to work together to solve problems and create new ideas.
- Recognise and reward innovation
To encourage innovation and reinforce the importance of employee contributions, companies must recognise and reward innovation. This can be done through formal recognition programs, incentives, or other forms of recognition that acknowledge employee efforts and achievements. Think about ways to surprise your employees with rewards and make work fun.
These are just 5 areas to start thinking about. You’ll most likely need a significant shift in your workplace culture. Everybody will need to think and behave differently. Silos will need to be broken down. Cultural change will require leadership from the top to drive the change and role model new behaviours.
A few questions to think about:
- How do your leaders and teams need to think and behave differently?
- Do you need to think differently about your company values and purpose? How do these align with your people?
- What does meaningful work and a work/life balance mean to your employees?
- How can you create a more collaborative and connected workplace? What are the roadblocks?
- How do your processes and tools need to change?
- How can you better promote diversity and inclusion?
- How can you encourage your people to be the best versions of themselves?
- How can you encourage autonomy, innovation and creativity by using less complex process and procedures?
- How do you reward, recognise and surprise your employees, in the moment and through formal programmes?
- What do you do things differently to your competitors?
Taking flight – EX lessons from Airbnb and Air France KLM
Global online marketplace rentals company Airbnb understands there is an unbreakable link between a great EX and a great CX. Employees are involved in every at every level in creating the experience they have in work. The business has a clear mission, driven with passion and commitment from its leadership team. Staff believe in the mission and this passion infuses what customers experience. Airbnb constantly seeks employee feedback and its EX strategy is continually evolving.
Global airline group Air France KLM has added employee recognition to its employee app. The airline uses the feature to thank staff for their work. Every ‘thank you’ is publicly visible and comes with a message,and photo that aligns with its values. Colleagues are able to ‘like’ and comment when a contribution is recognised.
What else? Let’s sum up …
Employee loyalty is built on trust. Lead by example. If you promise employees an inclusive, diverse, purposeful experience, flexible working, a thriving culture etc., then you’ll need to deliver. Happier, motivated team members with a good work/life balance are more productive and innovative. And guess what? Your customers will notice too.
Creating exceptional customer experiences and driving innovation requires a focus on positive employee experiences. By investing in employee engagement, encouraging feedback and ideas, providing training and resources, fostering collaboration, and recognising and rewarding contributions and innovation, companies can create a culture that supports both employee and customer satisfaction, leading to business growth and success.
European talent is ready to walk out the door. How should companies respond?
What 2,785 European employees told IDC about employee experience and retention dynamics
World Happiness Report 2023
Europe gets life right, but work wrong
3 Lessons from Airbnb on creating an amazing employee experience
Air France KLM incorporate employee recognition into their employee communications app
Other recent articles to read and share:
- Designing a differentiated B2B experience – a 22 step challenge https://www.eglobalis.com/designing-a-differentiated-b2b-experience-a-22-step-challenge/
- Evolving Your B2B Customer Experience Maturity Model? The Return to the CX Key Pillars. https://www.eglobalis.com/evolving-your-b2b-customer-experience-maturity-model-the-return-to-the-cx-key-pillars/
- The beauty (and challenges) of European cultural differences in CX https://www.eglobalis.com/the-beauty-and-challenges-of-european-cultural-differences-in-cx/
- Why Your Customer and Design Chiefs (CCO-CDO) Need to Collaborate to Make a Success of Your CX https://www.eglobalis.com/why-your-customer-and-design-chiefs-cco-cdo-need-to-collaborate-to-make-a-success-of-your-cx/
- U$ 402bn is on the table for brands that simplify their CX and EX – here’s why https://www.eglobalis.com/u-402bn-is-on-the-table-for-brands-that-simplify-their-cx-and-ex-heres-why/