How your employees interact with your organization at each point in their working lives has the potential to make or break the productivity of your workforce.
Frequent, positive interactions at important points (say, the onboarding process) can help build an engaged, productive workforce that could give you the edge over your nearest rivals.
Negative experiences here, or a lack of positive ones, will result in a high (and therefore costly) employee turnover rate, disengaged staff and plummeting productivity levels.
Your employees’ path through your organization, and how they interact with the company throughout this path, is known as the "employee journey." In this blog, we’ll cover a bit more about what we mean by this phrase and why it’s important, as well as offering a comprehensive guide on how to create, map, monitor and improve it.
You might not be familiar with the concept of an employee journey, or how you map it.
If not, think about the much more prevalent "customer journey." Your organization probably has one of these in place to visualize the stages your customers go through during their relationship with your organization (e.g attraction, research, sale, aftercare), and to outline the activities and type of relationship your sales team should aim for at each stage.
In short, the customer journey is in place to attract and retain customers so they contribute to your revenue growth time and again.
The employee journey is exactly the same, but for your employees, rather than customers. It lays out how your company should interact at each stage of the map to get the most out of each employee.
...So Why Do We Need One?
All too often, companies have adopted a "churn and burn" approach to hiring, particularly for rank and file positions. Someone leaves? Find someone else to do their job. Simple.
The issue with this, which organizations are starting to wake up to, is that high employee turnover is expensive, contributes to a culture of absenteeism, and prevents that bank of operational knowledge, essential for productivity and good customer service, from building up. A stable and engaged workforce is a key competitive asset now more than ever, and a good reputation here will allow you the pick of the crop when hiring for new positions.
An employee journey—often plotted on a "map" or flowchart of some description—helps you create this stable and engaged workforce. By thinking about how your employees move through the company, and their needs and wants as they do so, you have the opportunity to engage employees with your company values, encourage them to apply for promotions and show that you take their concerns and their welfare seriously.
All of this makes it so much more likely that they will stick around, and that they’ll enjoy their work, leading to better customer service levels and higher productivity.
...or ‘journeys’? Really, it should be plural.
Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Your legal team, for example, might be attracted and onboarded to your company in a very different way than your customer service workers.
Instead, sit down with representatives of each department to get a feel for how their journey with your company plays out. Then, sit down as an HR department to identify similar groups. You might find that your top lawyers and financial analysts take a similar path, for example, or your remote sales team and your drivers interact with the company in a similar way.
From here, you can create a number of employee ‘personas’, for which you can map out separate employee journeys - much like you might have different buyer personas for different types of customers.
You should think about their expectations when they join, the communications channels they respond best to (email? Mobile employee intranet?), and how and whether they want to progress through the company before leaving.
Your Employee Journey Framework: The Basics
Typically, organizations divide their employee journey into the following stages:
Attraction: a potential employee sees a role advertized and decides to apply.
- Interview: a potential employee meets representatives from your company and discusses the role in more depth.
- Job acceptance and onboarding: the employee accepts a job offer and starts work at your company. The onboarding process begins.
- Learning and development: the employee gains experience, completes training, and receives feedback on their performance
- Promotion: the employee climbs up the next rung of the ladder. Both their workload and their benefits package might change here.
- Offboarding: the employee leaves the company, either to retire or to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
It’s worth noting that stages four through six might happen several times before the employee leaves the company, or they might not happen at all (i.e the employee leaves the company without ever being promoted). Bear in mind that your employee journey might not be entirely linear, and plan accordingly.
The next step is to lay out the activities and milestones associated with each phase in this employee journey. This will often depend on your resources and how your company is structured, but as an example, you could consider the following:
- Acknowledgment of application (to reduce the workload, look for an applicant tracking system that can automate this).
- Clear instructions on time and date of the interview, agreed long enough in advance for the candidate to make arrangements for time off work if needed.
- A positive on-the-day experience. Make sure they have a space to park their car if they need, offer them a drink, and start the interview on time. When making a good first impression, the little things add up!
- A decision within a reasonable agreed timeframe, and detailed interview feedback.
Job acceptance and onboarding
- Easy-to-complete online admin, if possible. Making your prospective employees print everything out and send it back to you via snail mail will slow down this stage considerably.
- Basic login details and equipment ready and waiting when they arrive on their first day. This sounds like an obvious point, but the number of times you hear about first-day employees turning up to find that their equipment isn’t ready is disheartening.
- A welcome lunch on the first day - this can be in the cafeteria if you’re not in a position splash out. It’s the thought that counts.
- Meetings with line managers, other team members, and anyone else that the employee will need to liaise with regularly in the first week.
- A group induction with a board member or senior member of staff within the first month
- A selection of core training modules (e.g GDPR, whistleblowing, fraud prevention) to be completed in the first month.
Learning and development
- Regular, informal catch-ups with line managers (ideally fortnightly or more frequently), both for feedback and wellness purposes
- Access to an employee app for company news updates and engagement with the wider workforce
- Opportunities to expand skill set and gain experience in new areas, like training courses, conferences or role shadowing.
- Opportunities to offer feedback on their role and their workplace, for example, regular employee engagement or ‘pulse’ surveys.
- Recognition for strong performance, for example, award ceremonies, prizes, or informal shout outs on the employee app.
- Recognition of achievements (announcements to colleagues, a cash bonus)
- Change in salary and benefits package.
- Onboarding into a new role - meeting direct reports, new line managers and any other people that they will now have to liaise with.
- Security - all logins for this employee closed down and passwords changed for any systems they had access to.
- An exit interview, so you can explore how they found their time at your organization, any pain points and why they’ve decided to leave.
How well are your employees responding to your efforts to engage them along this employee journey? You’ll never know unless you make a conscious effort to measure it.
There are two main ways of doing this:
1. Existing Metrics
If your employee journey works well, your workforce should be engaged and stable, with a low employee turnover rate.
There are various metrics you can use to track this, some of which you might well be monitoring already. These include:
- Employee turnover
- Average length of time employees spend at your company
- Percentage of outgoing employees who leave in under a year
- Promotion rate - the percentage of employees who get a promotion within a specified time with the company
- Percentage of outgoing employees who leave without being promoted
- Percentage of employees who have attended at least one training course in the past year
Tracking these metrics will give you a good idea of where things are going wrong currently. If nearly all of those employees that leave do so without being promoted, for example, that highlights potential issues with progression in your company. If you have a significant portion of employees that leave after six months, there’s something worrying going on with your onboarding strategy.
Metrics and KPIs
If you’re in the process of mapping and reshaping your employee journey, make sure to take baseline measurements before you implement your changes - this gives you a solid baseline on which you can improve.
Set yourself some targets to hit, and check every few months or so to see whether you’re on track. To make things more manageable, you could set quarterly targets rather than going for one big annual one - though this depends on how your team prefers to work.
Obviously, you want to hit your targets and should work hard to do so - but remember to be kind to yourself and identify any ‘outlier’ periods where metrics might dip or spike due to things beyond your control. Your retail outlets might take on temporary Christmas staff for a four-month period, for example - so your ‘percentage of outgoing employees who leave in under a year’ measurement won’t necessarily be representative over the holiday period.
Ask Your Employees Directly
There’s one fail-safe way of understanding the highs and lows of your employee journey - just ask your employees directly. They’ll be more than happy to let you know.
Quick, anonymous employee engagement surveys (also known as ‘pulse’ surveys) are probably the most effective way to do this. As they are comprised of just a few quick yes/no or answer-on-a-scale questions, they’re quick and easy to complete, and you can integrate them with your employee app for maximum reach.
They’re also fantastic for drilling down into particular subject areas. If you’ve got a hunch from your existing data that something’s off about your employees’ onboarding experience, send out a quick survey to confirm what precisely is up, and how your colleagues think it could be improved.
Creating a perfect employee engagement survey is a whole topic in itself, but as a quick guide, you should aim to:
- Keep it short (no more than five questions)
- Send it out on a channel where everyone can see it
- Share the raw survey results for transparency’s sake, alongside what you plan to do to improve things
- Update everyone on progress towards these goals - large-scale organizational change doesn’t happen immediately, so it helps to remind people you’re getting there
Tracking the metrics we mentioned above will alert you that something might be off. A pulse survey will confirm whether this is the case and offer some ways in which employees feel their journey with the company could be improved.
You can also, if you structure your pulse surveys correctly, test the waters for any potential solutions you have in mind for this, for example:
‘On a scale of one to five, how helpful do you think informal weekly meetings with your supervisor would help you track and improve your performance at work?’
It’s important to take this feedback seriously. If you ask people for suggestions about how to improve their workplace and you ignore them all, it will only be taken as another sign that the company doesn’t care - and may have the opposite effect to the one you intended.
Tweak, measure, repeat
Improving your customer journey can be somewhat of an imprecise science.
You can analyze all the data you want, but you’ll never know whether a potential improvement will be successful until you implement it, and measure its success over a period of time.
Obviously, it’s time-consuming, costly and generally impractical to roll these out over an entire workforce, so identify test populations for a ‘beta’ roll out before going company-wide. You might, for example, test your idea of weekly catch-ups with line managers in the marketing team, before rolling it out to the rest of your office-based teams. Or, you could roll out an employee engagement app for better communication with your drivers, before expanding to other remote or non-desk-based positions.
If it’s not quite right when you’re testing it, tweak and repeat until it works. Maybe once a week was too frequently for everyone to be able to fit into their schedules - so try fortnightly. Maybe the app you demoed didn’t have the right features, so look for another and test again.
Sustainable change comes gradually, so don’t be tempted to rush!