‘Meaningful work’ to be the key driver of a positive employee experience

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A recent survey by Globoforce’s WorkHuman Research Institute in partnership with IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute has found that the biggest driver of a positive employee experience at work is ‘meaningful’ work.

The survey, which questioned 23,000 employees from diverse industries and a wide variety of organisations from around the world, found that the Employee Experience Index score for the UK is 64 per cent, just below the European average (65 per cent) and below the global average (69 per cent).

A positive employee experience is best defined as an impactful and powerful – and ultimately human – experience, one in which employees become able, over time, to invest more of their entire selves into the workplace.

In the UK, meaningful work emerged as the single largest contributor at 30 per cent, 3 points above the global average. Meaningful work ensures that employees’ skills and talents are being fully utilised and there is greater alignment to shared, core values.

Building upon a foundation of meaningful work, research suggests that a more positive employee experience can be inspired by combining and integrating employee workplace practices: enabling empowerment and voice (contributes 17 per cent to employee experience), fostering a culture of recognition, feedback, and growth (contributes 16 per cent to employee experience), supporting co-worker relationships (contributes 16 per cent to employee experience), and building organisational trust (contributes 15 per cent to employee experience).

The final driver of a more human workplace is work-life balance and opportunities to recharge and disconnect, which contributes 9 per cent to employee experience.

Moving towards employee experience

The survey also notes a shift away from employee engagement, which only captures a small portion what ‘work’ means, towards employee experience. Experience is seen as being broader and more holistic – capturing the entire set of perceptions that employees have about their experiences at work, matching the higher expectations that employees bring to the workplace.

In order to enhance the employee experience, research found that organisations need to have effective leaders and managers who can provide a high level of clarity and direction, and focus on the human workplace practices that drive positive employee experiences.

As part of this, HR and business leaders need to know when and how to get out of the way.

Layers of bureaucracy have built up over time, a lingering mindset from the Industrial Era. They are ineffective at best and damaging at worst in response to growing complexity, change, and competition.

To be clear, getting out of the way is an intentional rather than passive approach requiring thoughtful design and implementation. It’s about more than just dismantling bureaucracy. Modern organisations are focused on adaptability and agility as drivers of competitive advantage, and for that, energising rather than stifling employees is key.

This is the mindset of the Human Era. Organisations are successful when they create human-centric workplaces that foster positive employee experiences – in essence, when they get out of the way and let employees get on with their jobs.

Organisations can effectively get out of the way by providing the right environment and context. The data from the research uncovered some of the drivers that help to form the key relationships between human workplace practices and a positive employee experience.

These practices share an emphasis on minimising the amount of bureaucracy and control, allowing employees to work in ways better suited to our core human nature. To examine just a few of these practices:

Using technology for a more personalised experience

It ought to go without saying that organisational processes should not be entirely absent. There will be times that assistance or nudging is required, or where human capability can be augmented and enhanced. Increasingly, technology can help organisations move at the pace of their people, jumping in where appropriate with a personalised experience.

Businesses should ensure that they develop strategies to enhance perceptions of the meaningfulness of work, for example creating deeper connections to stakeholders and beneficiaries by communicating how work outcomes contribute to the bigger picture.

In addition, HR and business leaders should listen regularly to the voice of their employees (through platforms such as census and pulse surveys, social listening, etc.) to understand the nature of their experiences at work and uncover opportunities for greater empowerment.

The implementation of social technologies can help employees develop a cadence of continuous conversations around performance, receive peer recognition and coaching, and document progress from regular manager check-ins. Whilst creating opportunities for social connections within and across teams can be enabled through collaboration spaces and office design, communication tools, and via the creation of virtual communities.

Businesses should ensure transparency and clarity of the organisation’s mission and core values, communicating why employees matter and the specific behaviours that exemplify those values throughout the organisation alongside providing opportunities for employees to flexibly manage their work and to disconnect during non-work hours, where possible.

Social and cognitive technologies applied to HR are well positioned to not only intervene at the right time and in the right way, but they are also able learn. At this intersection of technology and humans, organisations are poised to become more flexible, human-centric, and ultimately, successful.

Greg Stevens, Lead Researcher, Globoforce’s WorkHuman Research Institute
Image Credit: Netguru