How HR can help the majority of UK businesses still struggling to create a clear and compelling employee experience as Brexit adds to the age of uncertainty
Against a backdrop of Brexit, political turmoil and a global talent war, retaining the best staff to deliver a competitive advantage has become a crucial priority for many UK business leaders – however, few know how to create and deliver the best employee experience.
While eight in ten (78%) organisations believe creating a positive experience for staff directly relates to commercial success, nearly three quarters (72%) are unclear on how to deliver one. As such, the fact is that under half (44%) of businesses are currently working on improving their employee experience strategy across all stages of an employee’s journey with an organisation.
These statistics are among the findings of Kincentric’s 2019 Global Employee eXperience (eX) Report, which quizzed 1,300 HR professionals across 43 countries to assess how they are taking steps to understand and improve the employee experience across the employment lifecycle.
And the stakes have never been higher.
The current economic and political uncertainty in the UK means that attracting and retaining the best people has never been as critical – or posed as many challenges – as it does today. Top talent is, of course, more aware of its marketability and more mobile as a result.
The Brexit vote and scheduled 2020 departure from the EU has placed particular pressures on organisations struggling to engage and lock in high calibre players. It has and will continue to restrict the flow of international labour, meaning that skills are not shared as much as in the past, leading to a diminution of knowledge pools.
Indeed, the CIPD reports a 95% drop in EU nationals joining the UK workforce over the last year alone; the view of the country as an aspirational destination of choice is under threat and the uncertainty about employee prospects and status means they are staying put or exploring other territories. The Institute has also shown that the number of specific hard-to-fill vacancies has risen since the referendum, which many employers have reported anecdotally for some time.
Meanwhile, EU workers already in place are expressing great concerns about the security of their jobs and residency rights, which means that the problems could be exacerbated in the near future.
Brexit is also likely to increase the challenge of providing meaningful and rewarding work experience across all generations in the workplace, including millennials and Gen Z. If revenues and profits of organisations are hit by the UK’s departure from the EU, pay levels may only be able to track inflation, which means that employers must devise other attraction and retention strategies.
In addition to this, organisations must factor in the impact of digital transformation on current staff and always have an eye on what the future of work is going to mean in terms of the roles and skills needed to achieve commercial success.
And yet, while companies are generally ready to invest significant amounts of time and budget in developing, implementing and heightening their customer experience strategies, they are largely falling short when it comes to doing the same for their teams.
However, organisations with a keen focus on, and effective delivery of, a fantastic employee experience are capitalising on enhanced business performance and are also establishing themselves as target employers for topnotch candidates.
By understanding and responding to the moments that matter to individuals, such as their first day in the job or their first day back from parental leave, employers can really create an engaged and productive workforce.
It’s high time, then, for them to get serious about an employee experience strategy and there are a number of key measures that can bring this about:
>Revisit your workforce planning strategy to make sure you have a robust approach to securing critical skills, taking multiple scenarios into account and updating these as the Brexit picture becomes clearer on things like immigration policy and economic conditions
>If you want a differentiated employee experience, define the required experience and for whom it is intended. Which segments and which behaviours matter most? And which align to your business strategy? Is the organisation ready to move quickly to make this happen?
>Focus on the key moments like onboarding, learning, advancement and recognition and on how employees’ experiences can be improved and, in turn, improve organisational agility. Remember that organisations don’t change – people change.
>Plan to keep close to employees to understand their ideas and concerns as you make any programme or policy changes and work to enhance the experiences you have identified as critical. Consider whether people are with you, falling behind, leading the charge, inspiring others? This means having effective mechanisms for gathering and acting on employee feedback on an ongoing basis rather than once-a-year-only surveys. Keep the dialogue going to boost ongoing engagement and retention of critical talent through the changes and continuous improvements.
>Use surveys and pulses to inform hypothesised actions for targeted stakeholders rather than treating them as research studies or action plans to be led by unprepared managers. Ask which actions are your pulses informing? How will these actions improve the employee experience?
>Remember that people deliver the employee experience to other people. In order to deliver a great, authentic and consistent experience, you must align programme, technology and people channels. Delivery often fails without the right people with the right skills and bandwidth to bring it to life. Make sure your leaders are ready to lead and have the necessary knowledge of issues that concern staff as well as empathy, listening and communication skills. Ask yourself who is most critical to deliver on your required employee experience? How ready are they? Managers are imperative but do they need upskilling with training and development to get to grips with the challenges? Has it even been communicated clearly enough to them what the challenges are?
> HR is in the driver’s seat. If you want to truly deliver on your intended experience, who is accountable to do so? The answer is that leaders, managers, HR and employees themselves all play an important role, but the vast majority see employee experience as HR’s to drive. Is your HR function optimised to deliver and support the eX you need?
Despite uncertainty around the impact of Brexit, alongside other external challenges, organisations have a unique opportunity to differentiate themselves through their employee experience. High-performing cultures come from highly engaged people having meaningful experiences throughout their time with an organisation. Unlocking their potential through moments that matter requires a holistic, agile approach (not a project) to align strategy, continuous dialogue and delivery.
Therefore, it’s essential to design and deliver an experience that unlocks the passion, inspiration and performance of your people and, in doing so, enables you to achieve inspired, enabled and connected individuals and teams who will contribute to strong business performance.
Jenny Merry, Market Leader for UK and France – Kincentric