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Article 11 min read

What is employee experience? Guide for the future of work

Work is changing, probably forever. Get up to speed on employee experience best practices for the new era of hybrid work.

By Sarah Olson, Staff Writer, @seolson5

Last updated September 1, 2022

One thing about employee experience is very clear: Workers don’t want to go back to the days of long commutes and uncomfortable pants.

Collectively, workers are calling BS on “the way it’s always been done” in favour of flexible work and healthier work-life boundaries. Instead of drawing a line in the sand, now is the time to bring your employees to the collaboration table and start problem-solving.

In the future of work, employees are your most important stakeholders. If you want to keep your best people from jumping ship, you need to be attuned to your employees’ needs and priorities. You need to support your people, just like you support your customers, and give them a reason to feel good about working for you.

Here are a few things you should know to get started.

What is employee experience?

Employee experience (EX) refers to how employees feel about their job, work environment, and the company they work for.

Practical aspects of the job—such as pay, benefits, flexibility, and PTO—are important. But just as important is the company culture.

  • Is communication generally positive and solution-oriented?

  • Do employees feel safe enough that they can share feedback freely?

  • Do managers respect their employees' personal time and PTO?

  • Do leaders provide transparency around company priorities and KPIs?

For better or worse, people have to work. The goal of employee experience is to minimise the small, daily annoyances of the workplace so that it's easier to be productive–whatever that means to you.


Why is employee experience important?

Employee experience is important because your employees are the ones doing the work: They develop products and services, build customer relationships, solve business challenges, and support your back-office operations.

If you don’t treat them well, it will show up in their work. Or it'll show up on TikTok.

CX professional Nate Brown said it well:

Data supports this too. In a Zendesk survey, 68 percent of company leaders said they see a direct link between employee service and business growth.

In the next section, we'll get into a few reasons why that is.

Image showing a picture of various items that you'd find on someone's desk at work paired with copy that reads: Employee Experience Trends 2022 and a button that says download now

Benefits of a good employee experience

  1. Save on turnover costs

    Research by CultureAmp showed that the cost to replace someone can range from 30 percent to 200 percent of their salary. But it's more than just money. New hires need time to get up to speed, and some say it takes up to a year before a new employee is fully established.
  2. Keep the best people on your team

    In the wake of the Great Resignation, companies need their long-term employees to stay. Joblist found that 1 in 4 bosses personally begged their tenured employees to stay upon receiving their resignation. These internal experts are extremely valuable, so make sure you're creating a work environment where they feel appreciated and supported.
  3. Generate leads from employee advocacy

    Employee advocacy on LinkedIn and other networking sites could be the reason that job candidates, or even potential customers, discover your company. That's why you need to make sure that when your employees talk about you, they have something good to say.

How to use Zendesk for employee experience

Find out how HR teams use Zendesk tools to provide internal support with less hassle.

How to improve employee experience

Develop a strong onboarding program

A Gallup survey found that only 12 percent of employees think their organisation does a great job onboarding new employees. Yikes.

Here's a TikTok about the impact of onboarding on the overall employee experience.

Not putting enough thought and effort into the onboarding experience is a mistake that a lot of companies make, and it can keep you from retaining good people.

Employees need to be welcomed, supported, and inspired right from the beginning. You need to show them why they should be excited about their new role (besides just the paycheck). In the Harvard Business Review article mentioned in the TikTok above, the author suggests assigning new employees an onboarding buddy or mentor who can be a go-to person when they have questions.

Developing social ties is really important, especially for remote employees, so make sure you add them to any social channels on Slack and encourage them to set up intro conversations with key people.

Train your managers

Don't underestimate the role that managers play in shaping the employee experience. As the saying goes: People don't quit their jobs, they quit their managers.

Lack of training seems to be a widespread problem.

You don't need an MBA to be a great manager, but managers need skills training just like any other employee would. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Develop an internal training program for new managers.

  • Provide enablement resources like toolkits, seminars, etc.

  • Offer shadowing opportunities with more experienced managers.

  • Invest in professional development and continuing education for managers.

  • Help managers identify helpful books, videos, podcasts, etc.

Make internal resources easy to find

Sometimes, internal knowledge is spread out across multiple different tools and systems, which makes it hard to answer even the simplest questions, like "When can I change my health insurance election?" or "Is President's Day a holiday?"

Contact information for the internal service desk should be included in your onboarding program, and managers should know where to direct employees if they need help with a specific issue.

Save your employees from going down a rabbit hole, and consolidate internal resources like FAQs, employee handbooks, and benefits information in one place where it's easy to find.

Another thing to think about is how your internal support is accommodating both in-person and remote employees. Remote employees might appreciate having text or chat support that they can access from anywhere, while in-person employees may be more inclined to simply pick up the phone.

Image showing two coworkers collaborating together with copy that reads: How to use Zendesk for employee experience and a button that says download now

Prioritise learning and professional development

Don't let your employees get so caught up in the daily grind that they don't have time for professional development opportunities, like taking a class or attending a conference. These opportunities are not just nice to have; they can also be a much-needed spark of inspiration.

Boredom, if left unaddressed, can actually lead to burnout. Below, burnout recovery coach Emily Ballesteros explains the different types of burnout and what you can do to address burnout from being bored in your job.

Consider development funds for employees where they can get funding to attend professional conferences or enroll in online classes. If money is tight, you could consider allowing your team to spend one hour per week on professional development activities that are available for free, like watching videos, listening to podcasts, or reading articles pertaining to their field.

Outline specific pathways for promotions and advancement

A common pain point for employees is not knowing what they need to do in order to get a promotion. Career advancement can be murky, making some feel like decisions are made based on popularity or clout versus demonstrated skills.

Without clear pathways for advancement, employees may be more inclined to look at opportunities outside the company where they can not only advance but also get a significant pay bump.

Promotions should be based on a career pathing framework and whether the person has demonstrated the skills and experience required for the role. Managers should prompt their employees to identify their goals and develop a plan to gain the skills necessary to advance to the next level, giving feedback along the way to ensure they are on track to achieve milestones.

Ask for feedback all year long, not just at the end of the year

The median amount of time that corporate workers stay in a job is about four years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Younger generations like Millennials and Gen Z tend to leave their jobs even more frequently. There's a chance these employees will have moved on before you've even had a chance to read the results of your annual survey.

Feedback should be part of your standard operating procedure. A quick pulse survey using Polly can help you see how employees are feeling after a company town hall or social event. The nice thing about using a tool like Polly for these surveys is that you can capture feedback in the moment while it's still fresh in your employees' minds. You can also take the learnings and start applying them right away.

Always-on feedback has become more popular in recent years, and for good reason. You shouldn't have to wait for the next performance review cycle to share feedback with an employee and vice versa.

Another important part of employee feedback is psychological safety. If you want your employees to share their honest (and sometimes brutal) feedback with you, they need to feel like it's safe and they won't face retribution for speaking up. Wharton psychology professor and business guru Adam Grant has some good advice on how to create psychological safety in the workplace.


How to measure employee experience

You can't improve what you can't measure. Employee experience can be somewhat subjective, but the good news is, there are a lot of different tools you can use to assess your EX: surveys, sentiment analysis, focus groups, and qualitative feedback, to name a few.

Surveys are maybe the most obvious, but they aren't one size fits all. Here are a few different ways you can use surveys to better understand what your employees are feeling.

Types of employee experience surveys

  • Team engagement surveys
    These can be administered using tools like Qualtrics or Glint. In these types of surveys, you'll most likely be asking employees to give a quantitative assessment of their experience, such as asking how satisfied they are on a scale of 1 to 5. This will help you see company-wide trends and pinpoint problem areas that may require more attention.
  • Individual satisfaction surveys
    Tools like Zendesk allow you to automatically send satisfaction surveys to employees after they've used your help desk or read a help center article. These surveys can give you a quick read on how helpful your internal services are, and if you receive any negative feedback, you can identify the area(s) in need of improvement.
  • Quick temperature checks
    You can use apps like Polly to administer short, focused surveys to different groups of employees. For example, you may send a Polly survey following a company meeting or event to ask participants what they thought of the experience. These quick temperature checks serve the important purpose of capturing feedback when it's most timely and actionable.
  • Sentiment and behavioural analysis
    Employee experience software can be used to identify patterns like what types of questions employees are asking and how internal resources are being utilised. For example, you can review ticket data in Zendesk to find frequently asked questions that may require more education or training. You could also use trend data to see where there are recurring issues, like a printer that's always out of order. Then you know it's time to replace it.
  • Qualitative survey responses
    Most survey tools have the option for write-in comments. These personal responses can be highly valuable, as employees are describing their experiences in their own words. Qualitative responses provide context that quantitative surveys simply can't. Both types of surveys are valuable, but make sure you pay close attention to any written responses you receive and take action when applicable.

Now is the time to prioritise your people

Work has changed, probably forever. There's no use trying to fight it. Your effort would be better spent investing in the people you rely on to be the stewards of your business. You need your employees to be on your side if you want to deliver exceptional customer experiences, innovate new and better solutions to problems, and build loyalty with your customer base.

Good EX is the foundation of good CX, and you need both if you want to compete and thrive during turbulent times.

Learn more about employee experience powered by Zendesk.

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