How to prioritize your employee experience initiatives?

Once you have identified the friction points that need to be addressed, whether it be in a top-down fashion starting from a few guiding principles or by sourcing them from the field there is still work to be done before taking action.

As we have seen previously, certain ideas or problems deserve to be studied in greater depth because one can make the mistake of treating what are only symptoms instead of going back to the root causes.

Then, whether you have ideas to implement or problems for which you still need to find the solution (no matter how, we will talk about it in a future article), it is important to prioritize. You will often find yourself with dozens of topics to deal with, some relatively quick to address and others that will subdivide themselves into sub-initiatives.

Contrary to what one might think, these trade-offs are not so obvious and many criteria can be taken into account.

The most popular ideas are not always the best.

A fairly obvious and fashionable approach is to choose the topics that are most popular with employees. This can be done either by looking at the ones that have been raised by the most people or by proposing a certain number of proposals to employees and getting them to vote on them.

The benefit of this approach is to satisfy as many people as possible. Its disadvantage is that it is very random in terms of impact and sometimes not very representative.

Let’s start with representativeness. Today who says vote says digital device. If you have a population composed mainly of white collar workers no problem. If you have stores, factories, if your employees work in the field in the literal sense (construction, at customers’ homes) you will have populations that you will be hard to reach, to get them to participate, even who are not equipped for or who do not have access to the tools to do so.

Then the impact.

An idea can be very popular among your employees but not concern minority populations who are not numerous enough to weigh in while their problems are no less important than others’. Sometimes it is even a prerequisite to target a small population (HR…) before putting this population at the service of other initiatives. But conversely, targeting a niche can have a big impact on that niche but bring nothing to 95% of your teams.

There can also be a misalignment between the company’s vision and the employees’ understanding of a subject. This can result in “nice to have” initiatives, on the surface, which are pleasing but have little or no impact on operations, performance and the customer.

But the opposite situation can also occur. Believing that employees will mainly ask for things related to well-being, for extras, whereas in the end they will ask for improvements in terms of processes and tools while the company did not intend to venture into this field. You have to bear in mind that if you are not ready to satisfy all requests, you should never ask people for their opinion.

Finally, because to implement a popular idea, a certain amount of groundwork must first be done. Here again we come back to the distinction between symptoms and root causes. And it is easy to be deceptive: try to explain that in order to solve this problem of connection to the tool that allows you to take your vacations, you have to wait for the update of another tool that is a big project planned for a year or two from now.

The simplest things send a message, not more.

One may also be tempted to start with the simplest things. One will therefore limit oneself to things that are pleasurable but that will have little impact on the real day-to-day problems and will have little operational impact.

On the other hand, they will have one advantage: they are usually quick wins that will send a message. They will say “we promised to do things and we are doing them”. This can be a good idea to get started, to occupy the field while working on substantive issues that take more time and whose impact will not be immediately noticeable.

High-impact subjects: beware of the tunnel effect

When I tackled the subject, this is exactly the kind of subject I was confronted with. We had convictions and long-term objectives which were to simplify and fluidify the organization to really address the flow of employees’ work and not be satisfied with peripheral initiatives.

1°) Fixing simple user experience problems in a business tool sometimes requires reviewing the processes behind what takes time (the tool is where complication is seen, not where it is born). It can also, after a thorough cost-benefit analysis, lead to more radical decisions such as changing the tool.

2°) In order to fluidify and bring quality to certain points of the employee experience, for example contacts and interactions with the support functions (rh…), it is first necessary to work at the level of the support function in question. This may mean, for example, automating things, reviewing certain processes and workflows, in order to free up time on the support function so that it has time to work on its own transformation, or giving more time to high-impact qualitative things by lightening routine tasks without added value.

3°) Things perceived by employees as seemingly simple to do have impacts in multiple places in the organization. Changing the emergent part of a workflow for a user in one department may require heavy changes in other departments. This can even initially lead to an increase in workload when it is realized that they have shifted some of their work to the “customers” of the process.

In the end, even if it was frustrating, it was necessary to recognize that it would take at least several months to put in place the things that the employees were most looking forward to. This led to two things:

1°) Working on quick wins, even a little superficial ones, in order to occupy the field while we worked on fundamental subjects that would then make things more ambitious but structuring possible. Put the infrastructure in place before the structure.

2°) Adopting an agile approach for the deployment of the employee experiencein order to show that, even invisibly, things progress and by involving, if possible, employees in the design of certain things so that they can witness this progress. But this subject will be discussed at greater length in the near future.

It’s all about arbitration

Unsurprisingly, therefore, each initiative will have to be scored according to :

  • The scope of the impacted population (small > large)
  • Speed of implementation (short>long)
  • Complexity of implementation (low > high)
  • Operating benefit (low>high)
  • The impact felt by the employee (weak > strong)
  • Sustainability of impact (Immediate satisfaction that disappears over time > Lasting benefit).

You will of course weight each criterion differently according to your objectives. If you are in a “Chief Happiness Officer” approach, you will not favor the same things as if you are convinced that the employee experience is largely based on operational excellence.

And you will surely have to carry out several projects in parallel in order, as we have seen, to occupy the field with slight or even superficial advances while you are working at the same time on fundamental subjects that will allow for major advances…but later on.

It will also be necessary to sprinkle the initiatives in order to make sure that no population feels left out.

Image : priorities by Eviart via Shutterstock

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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