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8 Challenges of Delivering a Great Employee Experience

Companies recognise that delivering a great Employee Experience (EX) that considers and puts its people first is the key to unlocking better business outcomes, from higher productivity and improved ‘stickiness’ for attracting and retaining talented employees, to the ultimate reward of an enthusiastic, engaged workforce – higher customer satisfaction, recommendation and loyalty. 

Shifts in the employer-employee dynamic has led to business leaders setting out and prioritising practices and behaviours that contribute to a great employee experience. Dedicated HR roles are springing up, such as Employee Experience Manager and Employee Relations Specialist. Their main aim: embedding an effective cross-company strategy that treats employees like customers throughout their work lifecycle.

Prioritising attributes employees value most

As part of our research work in helping employee experience personnel identify and understand employees’ needs, we get clear insight into the internal and external challenges they face, including:

Just as a range of factors come together to form a great Customer Experience (CX), employees value an array of characteristics in an employer.

Our employee engagement research reveals several key factors that contribute to employee engagement and satisfaction, including Leadership – where employees feel valued by managers and leaders and their opinions listened to, Empowerment – where employees are enabled and trusted to make decisions and Development, where workers can access relevant personal and career development opportunities.           

Employees are also increasingly prioritising values integral to the company’s leadership culture, such as what the company stands for, its reputation, diversity and inclusion, as well as how well it treats its customers, the wider community and the environment. With many variables at play – and the fact that employees’ perceptions and expectations change over time as they experience shifts in their role, responsibilities and outlook – it’s difficult to know which actions to take to improve employee engagement.  

Defining the measurements that matter

Developing an effective employee experience relies on isolating the metrics that matter. But what are the defining metrics that go into building an accurate picture of employee experience – Satisfaction? Loyalty? Willingness to recommend an employer to other people? The truth is, it’s all of these. The difficulty is that while annual employee surveys and pulse surveys are ideal for capturing a ‘snapshot’ of employee feeling at a certain point in time, a holistic understanding of engagement, and the factors that drive engagement, is needed to make accurate, effective changes.   

Too much employee data = no actionable insight

In the drive to identify and understand engagement drivers, companies often use a variety of tools, from employee satisfaction surveys to establishing cross-function feedback panels. Although well intentioned, implementing multiple techniques can lead to an unintelligible mass of data and recommendations. Without a tangible link between measurements and results, it’s difficult to draw cohesive actionable insights that will make a difference to the employee experience.

Tackling outdated performance management processes

When it comes to employee experience, performance management plays a pivotal role. Employing the right performance management tools and techniques can lead to higher engagement, better, more trusting relationships between employees and line managers, as well as greater confidence and satisfaction in employees’ work.

Stuart Hearn, Founder and CEO of Clear Review says:

“We all know that performance management is crucial when it comes to building a quality employee experience, but one of the main challenges is time. Managers often feel that they don’t have enough time to introduce new, effective performance management measures. Some also feel they don’t have the time to do regular performance reviews, preferring instead to stick to traditional yearly reviews. Yearly appraisals ultimately represent a waste of time — not to mention, employees and managers alike hate them.

“Another challenge of performance management is that of goal setting. All too often, the goal-setting process isn’t adequately thought out. Employees are given objectives that are vague, misaligned with the organisation’s goals, or simply unrealistic. Giving employees too many goals, or goals that are too difficult to realistically achieve, will only serve to stress out employees.

“One further major obstacle to good employee experience is the managers themselves. All too often, managers disregard performance management, thinking it isn’t their responsibility. However, the performance and wellbeing of employees is everyone’s responsibility. Managers need to wake up and embrace their role in this area — after all, generally speaking, employees don’t leave roles. They leave managers. The key thing is, managers need, and deserve, appropriate training when it comes to performance management — they need to know to interact and engage with employees, how to deliver effective feedback and when to step in to help employees who are struggling. This requires great effort from organisations, but the results are worth it in the long run.

“It’s all about having regular, authentic communication and timely feedback so employees know what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it — they need to know why their role exists and how it benefits the organisation.”

Holding regular performance-based discussions are not only effective for relationship building but help employees feel more engaged, happier and confident — in turn leading to increased productivity.

Scatter-gun tactics

Again although well-intentioned, managers and leaders can introduce bias by introducing non evidence-based tactics they believe will enhance employee experience. As well as channelling resources into initiatives that might not work, a spontaneous, rather than data-led approach, can cause further problems. For example, implementing a generous flexible working policy enabling employees to work from home can impact the employee experience in a variety of ways.

As Julie Tumilty, Director at Feature Media points out:

“With the way we work changing, the increase in flexible hours, remote workers and companies being spread across different locations, it is getting harder to maintain consistent communication internally. When communications become disjointed, confusion, irritation and unhappiness fester in organisations. This often leaves employees feeling undervalued and unmotivated.

“Over the last year or two we’ve had an increasing number of enquiries from businesses asking us how they can use video to address these issues around the employee experience. From what we’ve seen, video is supporting the transformation of internal processes, making employees feel involved, creating consistency and transparency and injecting personality to messages helping to build connection and trust. When included as part of a wider internal communication strategy, video has been shown to address the growing challenges faced by an evolving workforce that’s demanding more from employers.“

To pinpoint potential issues, a key starting point for developing an effective EX strategy is grounding it in hard data about employees’ real wants and needs, then adopting practices that are practicable and mutually beneficial for employee and employer.

Managing EX across multiple channels

With more staff working remotely, hot-desking and, as we move to more project-based working, staff needing to check in with different colleagues and managers, employees’ day to day interactions are increasingly complex. Employees are also likely to receive communications from different company functions – each using different channels – as well as use employee self-service apps. The challenge for HR and EX managers is not only identifying and managing each touchpoint on the employee journey but establishing how these channels interact with each other.

Often tasked with mapping and understanding employee touchpoints, from every day written and verbal communication to benefits and training plans, bringing consistency to multiple interactions across multiple channels is a daunting task.   

Breaking down company silos

Gaining support and input from different department functions can be challenging, particularly if priorities and processes differ. It makes accessing employee information hard and developing and embedding a set of employee experience priorities that everyone agrees on even harder. As well as forging cross-functional support for an overarching employee experience strategy, getting managers to align practices and values can be extremely demanding.

What are our competitors doing?

Like CX, delivering a strong employee experience is an emerging concept. To build a differentiated employee experience, it’s important to know (and learn lessons from) what direct competitors are doing, their focus areas and what engagement strategies they use that work effectively. With many companies still using annual staff surveys or using a variety of research tools each producing different outcomes, difficulty comes in accessing like-for-like external benchmarking research to compare employee experience too.  

How to implement an exceptional EX

Developing an integrated EX strategy which improves employee experience to the point it tips over into enhancing customer satisfaction and advocacy, requires an agile employee experience research framework. One that has the capability of identifying what employees want at touchpoints across multiple end-to-end journeys, whether an office-based senior manager or remote working trainee.

Our research deciphering drivers of employee engagement and the factors that contribute to a compelling employee experience led us to develop EEQA (Employee Experience Quality Analysis), an enterprise-grade research system capable of tracking and measuring employee journeys in an omni-channel setting.

EEQA delivers actionable data for all employee segments, identifying and prioritising staff expectations at each touchpoint, enabling companies to design an employee experience in step with their needs.  

Customised EX survey

Unlike a lot of EX survey solutions, EEQA’s questionnaire design is derived from in-depth gap analysis into what employees want, including expectations of their role and responsibilities, team leaders, managers and leaders, workplace culture and values, training and development, financial rewards and benefits, workplace environment, technology and self-service tools.

Obtaining direct feedback across all elements of the work experience enables us to deliver an employee survey targeting the exact factors they value the most. Alongside cutting out bias of what leaders *think* employees’ want and eliminating risk of costly of costly mistakes, EEQA delivers actionable insight into the practices and behaviours staff want, in priority order, and how to achieve them.     

Understanding and enhancing multiple employee journeys

EEQA survey enables companies to collect real-time employee feedback at defining touchpoints, allowing them to design and develop interactions that align with staff expectations.

As well as targeting specific touchpoints, such as onboarding, performance management and training and development, it garners deeper understanding of cultural factors around empowerment, trust and appreciation. 

EEQA management dashboard

EEQA provides regular insights that allow employee engagement metrics (and the effect of improvement actions) to be monitored and tracked over time.

The survey is managed and issued via a management dashboard and automatically updates with real-time results. As well as an overarching view of employee engagement, it shows employee engagement by role, function and at key interaction points, enabling companies to drill down into areas that raise engagement and where it falls away.  

Company-wide focus on EX

EEQA has been used by companies of all sizes around the world to align leaders, managers and workforce thinking around improving employee experience. Its capability to plot engagement, how it changes and how employee feeling reacts to improvement actions, encourages everyone to focus on and prioritise the employee experience.

Employee benchmark evaluation offer

How does your employee experience measure up? Our employee experience research solutions are tailored, giving you clear understanding of your employee expectations, what’s working and where action is needed. To help start, we’re offering a free sample of your sector’s employee engagement scores and other relevant benchmarks from our latest data set. To find out more, contact us today.

About the Authors

Glyn Luckett
Glyn Luckett is Director of our Research practice and joined GP Strategies in 2018 through acquisition of TTi Global. He is a Certified member of the Market Research Society. Glyn previously led the commercial team at Maven Research, a private equity backed business and one of the Top 10 UK Research agencies. Glyn has effective experience applying research to support business management challenges and objectives. His experience developing and managing customer, employee and stakeholder research supports the delivery of insightful research that drives outcomes supporting strategic decision making. Throughout his successful research career, he has built a wealth of qualitative and quantitative research experience, supporting clients across Utilities, Manufacturing, Automotive, Construction, Financial and Business Services sectors, as well as working with public sector organizations and regulatory bodies.

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