Why you should forget engagement and focus on your EX

One of the hottest topics at the moment in business leadership and HR circles is Employee Experience or EX.

Recently, Talent was lucky enough to have EX-pert Kim Smith, CEO of Ignite Global, and author of The 2018 Employee Experience Report: The value of employee experience in Australian workplaces, facilitate an employee experience workshop, in our Sydney head office.

EX is a methodology, and practical tool for organisations to use to increase employee engagement and retention. There is a direct correlation between employee engagement and overall business success. With Australian engagement rates tracking down, it’s in the best interests of organisations to invest in the engagement of their employees.

According to Thomas Friedman, New York Times Columnist, “Companies that don’t embrace new ways to attract and retain staff will not survive through the next decade.”

EX is an improved strategy based on more than just engagement, Kim’s Ignite Global EX framework defines EX as, “The lens through which to view every interaction a current, future or past employee has with your organisation.”

Here are the three main points I took away from the session that might help you adapt EX into your organisation.

1. Focus on the recruitment process to attract top talent

EX starts at the very beginning of the recruitment process, to help a company attract top talent. The application and interview process needs to ensure a candidate feels informed and comfortable.

Organisations often neglect the importance of creating a positive recruitment and interview processes for their candidates. EX asks organisations to consider the full physical and mental experience of a candidate applying for a role e.g. how are interviews conducted; is the interview space comfortable; how long and what is involved in the interview process; and how negative and positive feedback is communicated to the candidates. The premise of this is to create a feeling of excitement for candidates throughout the recruitment process. Even if they are not the successful candidate, they will have a positive association with the company if they are properly communicated with, and treated with respect and kindness.

Uber recognises the importance of EX during the interview process and gives candidates a free ride to and from their interviews. They also provide updates frequently throughout the process, letting candidates know as their job hopefully “approaches”.

I often work with my clients to help them develop a positive recruitment process. I ask them to consider how effective their interviews are. Do they take the time to explain the benefits of the role and the company rather than just asking the candidate questions? Do they try to learn about the candidate’s personality and values, to establish if they might be a good cultural fit for the organisation?

With a tech skill shortage in the market, the best talent is often found through headhunting and these candidates need to be proactively ‘sold’ to throughout the recruitment process.

2. Recognise the importance of management

Management is essential to creating a positive employee experience. According to the EX report, there is a 70% variance in employee engagement scores that is directly caused by managers. To create increased engagement, employees must trust and respect their direct manager. The report findings show that if a manager takes a strength-based approach i.e. focuses on the strengths of the employees, it is 73% more likely employees will be engaged at work, the organisation will be 44% more likely to earn higher customer satisfaction scores, and 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover.

Short answer: positive, trustworthy and respectful management makes for a strong, happy workplace and better bottom line.

3. Establish purpose in your organisation

Kim’s evidence demonstrates how important it is for an organisation to have a clear vision and purpose, communicating this to employees will help them connect to that purpose.

Kim used the example of a young man who worked in a factory, his job was to clean and sterilise medical equipment. He was miserable, always late, looked sloppy and totally disengaged. His boss thought about the best way to engage him, and sat him down and explained that the purpose of his job was to protect lives by preventing the spread of infection. The young man’s entire attitude towards his job changed, he recoganised the importance of what he did and the greater purpose, he worked harder and enjoyed his job more. This example illustrates how people are more engaged when they have a reason that’s bigger than themselves to inspire them. 

Kim also referred to Talent as a great example of a company with a clear and meaningful purpose, something quite rare for the recruitment industry. She attributed our high retention rates and overall positive engagement results, in part, to our strong purpose to redefine the world of recruitment and enable opportunity for our customers, contractors and colleagues.

If you recognise that your intangible assets - your people, are essential to your business performance, I highly recommend adapting EX initiatives into your organisation.

As Simon Sinek says, “When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.”