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Richard Chappell, Managing Director at Wilson Learning explains how leaders and people professionals can work together to...
A CIPD blog post explained that the “employee experience is the result of all the interactions an employee has with their employer”. Of course, this can include the way that people are attracted and recruited into the business, the methods used to onboard them, and everything in between then and their eventual departure. Therefore, it is unsurprising that employee experience continues to be a top priority for employers and HR as firm’s strive to attract, engage and retain top talent. This is supported by data from Willis Towers Watson’s The 2021 Employee Experience Survey which found that a whopping 98% of UK employers said that strengthening the employee experience would be a top priority in their business over the next few years.
And with HR facing various employment challenges – consider the current skills and labour shortages and the ‘Great Resignation’, which are both expected to continue well into this year – focusing on carving out a good employee experience could have huge benefits for employers when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. One expert, Richard Chappell, Managing Director at Wilson Learning EMEA, has pointed towards some of these advantages. He said: “Focusing on the employee experience may save you cost, time, risk and pain. If HR is successful in ensuring that the workforce is being actively considered, not mollycoddled or sugar coated but engaged with, involved and valued, then retention will improve and all the pain, cost and risk of rehiring can be reduced or avoided.” At a time when many staff are looking to jump ship, often for a variety of reasons – data from Randstad UK found that a quarter of workers are actively planning to change firms in the next few months – a focus on employee experience could be what stands HR in good stead.
“For ill or good, leaders or managers can have a massive impact on the employee experience”
The role of leaders
While HR is the dedicated people function and is responsible for many people-related areas, it is not only HR that can influence the creation of a good employee experience. In fact, leaders and managers across the business can play a big role in creating a positive employee experience as data has pointed towards. Research published in IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute; The Employee Experience Index found that just 56% of respondents agreed that senior leaders give employees a clear picture of the direction that the organisation is headed – this is something which could impact the employee experience. Chappell also alluded towards this. He continued: “For ill or good, leaders or managers can have a massive impact on the employee experience. Their influence and actions are inextricably linked to the sometimes-elusive employee engagement, the sense of accountability and connection each staff member has towards the organisation and their overall feeling of wellbeing, fulfilment and of being valued, can be down to their boss.”
Chappell continued: “It starts with the senior leadership team or arguably the CEO, who ultimately dictates the culture of the organisation. However, we should not deny or dilute the influence each and every manager can have on their immediate reports, they can protect and buffer employees from an otherwise toxic environment, a wellbeing oasis of sorts, or they can create their very own toxic microcosm in an otherwise positive and fulfilling larger organisation. Leaders or managers of varying seniority can have a significant impact on the employee experience and, unenviable as it may be, the task falls to HR to ensure the leaders have the capability to lead effectively.”
What does a good employee experience look like?
Most in HR will understand the benefits that a good employee experience can bring to both the workforce and the business, but what does this look like in practice? Chappell explained: “You don’t want your staff waking up on Monday morning and having to steel themselves in order to come into work, ‘come on, it’s not that bad…’ that, or the milder indifference is definitely not the attitude you want from your employees. It may not be realistic to expect people to bounce out of bed screaming ‘yippee Monday morning’, however, you want them to arrive at work enthused and ready for the week.
“If they understand what the business is trying to achieve, how their role plays its part and have an affinity with their peers and their manager, then well done you; your organisation has engaged employees,” he added.
“Focusing on the employee experience may save you cost, time, risk and pain”
Working to create a good employee experience
HR can of course help to ensure that leaders have the capability to lead effectively. Yet as data has suggested – IBM's study found that 63% agreed that their manager serves and supports their team – leadership practices can be linked to the employee experience. With this in mind, it is possible that HR and leaders should work together to carve out a good employee experience. But how can this be achieved? Chappell said: “Being pragmatic for a moment, we appreciate that from an HR perspective it can be difficult if you have a powerful, rogue, senior leader who is central to the organisation’s toxicity. It will take an artful senior HR professional to address the issue, but address it you must.”
Wilson Learning’s Managing Director went on to explain that building credibility and trust can result in more open conversations with leaders or leadership teams. “Commercially orientated, even the most intransigent leaders will see the benefit of improved retention, especially as quality hires become a harder find.” Chappell’s thinking is not apropos of nothing. In fact, it aligns with research from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) – reported on by the Independent in July 2021 – which found that over two-thirds of UK firms trying to hire new staff are struggling to find new recruits. In addition to this, figures from TotalJobs' Hiring Trends Index found that 29% of UK businesses expected skills shortages to impact their success in the final quarter of 2021, pointing towards the extent of the challenge for employers. Chappell added: “Once bought in to the need, hopefully your ‘wayward’ leaders will be more willing to undertake the capability build and apply the skills in anger.”
He continued: “Remember, this is about driving the business, it isn’t about cosying up to the workforce, it’s about improving performance with fulfilment, wellbeing and staff retention, and as of 2022 this should be an absolutely critical business goal.”
With employers and HR faced with many challenges currently, it is clear that focusing on creating a good employee experience could help HR attract, engage and retain top talent. With Chappell explaining that “focusing on the employee experience may save you cost, time, risk and pain” this should be good food for thought for HR.