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At this point, just about every company is clear about the value of customer experience. But the same can't be said about employee experience.

That's a shame, because employee experience is a key factor in creating an engaged workforce, one that boasts increased performance, lower attrition, better customer satisfaction and increased profitability.

We’re not just talking here about job training, skills development and work experience, though they all have a role. Employee experience refers to all the elements that constitute the living and working experience of individuals who contribute their talent and capability to the mission of an organization, explained Jason Ashlock, vice president of customer and employee experience at Kuehne + Nagel International AG, a global transport and logistics company based in Schindellegi, Switzerland.

“Any leader interested in leading their teams toward their highest performance needs to inquire after all the factors that contribute to the team member’s experience — as an employee, a family member, a citizen,” Ashlock said.

“The word ‘experience’ is meant to convey the breadth of this way of thinking; from technology and tools, to connection and belonging, to communication and role clarity, to benefits and compensation, to education and growth, to financial and physical wellness, to all aspects of human development,” Ashlock continued. “An employee’s experience is multi-dimensional and each element requires thought and care.”

Related Article: Why Employee Experience Is the New Customer Experience

Driving Business Strategy With a Foundation of Employee Experience

For many organizations, embracing employee experience means nothing short of a cultural shift. Ashlock said that if employee experience is viewed as just a program, it is likely to fail.

“Employee experience must be a holistic approach to designing each journey an employee makes … their onboarding journey, their development journey, their team integration journey, their promotion journey, etc.,” Ashlock explained. “It’s clear that if a company expects its talented people to contribute their best, then the company must design the context for that outstanding work to be done, creating the ideal experience that challenges, equips, motivates, inspires, invites and teaches.”

Ashlock, and Kuehne + Nagel, practice what it preaches. In 2017 the firm announced its five-year strategy, with employee experience as the foundation.

“Our aspiration to be the best company to do business with is achievable only when we become the best place to work,” Ashlock stressed. “As we often say: customer experience and employee experience are inextricably linked. The quality of our people experience inside our organization is directly reflected in the quality of customer experience in dealing with us.”

The firm has identified five cultural keystones that have been impacted by the dedicated employee experience effort, Ashlock said. These are:

  • Collaboration: Less friction, more cooperation across departments, teams, locations.
  • Reflection: More frequent and purposeful feedback and analysis of how work gets done, including celebration and recognition.
  • Learning: More opportunities for knowledge sharing and skill-building.
  • Service Actions: Greater clarity on what "good" looks like, in engaging colleagues and customers.
  • Social Connectedness: Higher levels of trust between teams, among teams and between employees and the company.

Related Article: Defining a Good – Dare I Say Great? – Digital Employee Experience

Implementing a Successful Effort

So how does a firm best go about the task of implementing a successful employee experience effort? For starters, get the entire organization involved.

“There are a number of things organizations can do, but the one piece of advice I would emphasize is have a plan to involve the entire organization,” said Aimee Lucas, a senior principal analyst with Qualtrics XM Institute. “Employee experience and employee engagement is not the job of the human resources function alone. Senior executives play a part in defining and supporting the strategy and modeling desired behaviors.”

Middle managers are also key levers in an employee experience program and should be involved in the design of it, Lucas said.

“They should also get the training, tools and support they need to do the right things with the teams,” Lucas stressed. “And every employee impacts the experiences of others at work, as well as their own. When designing a program, consider how to communicate, prepare and support employees at all levels to embrace employee experience-centric behaviors in their own roles … and celebrate successes when those behaviors are demonstrated and create positive results.”

When an organization gets it right, a successful employee engagement effort can provide significant benefits, Lucas said.

“The cumulative effect of an employees’ experiences shapes their engagement at work,” Lucas said. “When employees are engaged, research shows they are motivated at work to go above and beyond, to be more dedicated to their work, and are more likely to stay at the organization rather than leave. All of that collectively impacts the success of the organization.”