How to measure employee experience ?

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Slightly simplified image of a vintage barometer forecasting a change in the weather. Connotations of climate change and global warming.

Employee experience is like customer experience : everyone is talking about it but very few measure it. Beyond the qualitative side and the “Wow effect” it’s hard to measure it and identify directions for improvement. Once the employee has said “good/bad experience”, we need to know why, what works and doesn’t.

Employee experience measurement raised two questions : the nature of measurement and what elements to measure.

Employee experience is not happiness at work

I see many businesses tackling employee experience through satisfaction or happiness at work. It reminds me of the times when everybody was talking about engagement and used the old satisfaction barometer.

It’s quite the same thing here. Of course people can be satisfied because of a good experience and unsatisfied because of a poor one. But one can also be unsatisfied while the experience is good and the other way around. These “weird” cases can be caused by personal factors that have very little to do with work and on which organizations can’t act upon but that have impacts on employees worklife. Some employees can also cope with a poor experience because they’re new and motivated or because they’ve even had worse experiences in the past, but that’s not sustainable and will collapse one day. Moreover that’s not because employees can cope with a poor experience that businesses should not try to improve it because it drives engagement and efficiency.

What does employee experience consist of ?

If you want a ready to use model, I recommend that you read Jacob Morgan’s last book on employee experience.

For my part (but all models are only frameworks open to discussion, adaptation and improvement), I see areas to measure instead as considering employee experience as a whole.

• does the organization provide employees with the means to do their job efficiently, seamlessly and without unnecessary complexity (simplicity efficiency) ? It’ about employees and even candidates. This area is about tools, processes, management. It’s also about aligning with the promise made to the customer, in terms of means and symmetry of attentions.

• are employees happy in their work environment ?  It’s about factors that are external to work like atmosphere, services and benefits, relationships with others. Work-life balance also plays a role here.

• do employee feel they are on a trajectory ? Do they suffer their career path or do they know what they can do and how ? Are they on progress and continuity course or are they used a Tetris blocks, being moved and rotated without any clear line to solve short term talent issues ? And, at every moment of their career, are they compensated fairly regarding their contribution, their performance, their track record and peers ?

• do employee live something unique that’s peculiar to the company, that won’t be found anywhere else. I think that employee experience has must-haves that will be found in every organization but that will be translated differently based on the company culture and values. Then there will be unique things that will be at the crossing of culture, identity and industry. The goal here is to offer something that will make employees say “my company is different”. Knowing the power of word-of-mouth on the employer brand…

When employees are being given the means to achieve their mission, a nice work environment, that he’s in charge of his career path and that one or two things make him talk spontaneously and positively of his company around him, we can think we have a good employee experience.

Employee experience : quantitative or qualitative measurement ?

Logically the next question is : “how to measure it”. The normal today is a mix of quantitative (barometers) and qualitative (interviews). In the end the result is a global view, backed with numbers or not but nothing is really measured. By measured I mean based on a set of reference without any bias in regard to feelings or interpretation. However, by tackling the matter with a methodology we can measure what a business has done regarding each area, what completes the perception users have. As a matter of fact not everything is visible but if something is done and its consequences not felt it means that either it was useless or poorly communicated.

We can also measure the simplification effort (number of digitized processes, of steps or rules removed) and compare this to the user perception. It’s also possible to launch a program to favor irritants reporting by employees and measure what’s done to fix things.

Measuring the employee experience is good, measuring the outcomes is better

What leads us to a third step. After having measured the input (what people feel), the way it’s dealt with, then we need to measure the outcome. Here again there are many items to measure : efficiency/productivity, engagement, NPS. These outcomes must support a virtuous approach and feed the inputs to drive continuous improvement.

Measuring employee experience is a matter of ambition

As you have seen there are as many things to measure and ways to measure it as you want. So the true question is to know what you really want to measure (your definition of employee experience and its scope) and what you want to do with it (nice powerpoints or drive a continuous improvement program). In short there’s not a one-size-fits-all way to measure employee experience, it will always depend on how ambitious you are in regard to employee experience.