Google search the phrase “employee experience” and you will find yourself inundated with ways to create a great employee experience at work. Whether it’s your office design, your technology, or the miniature golf course in your kitchen, it’s almost impossible to navigate your way around the internet without finding someone intent on telling you how to make the experience your employees have at work an amazing one.
What I find interesting though is the lack of collateral out there discussing the reverse. While there’s a load of debate about what makes a great employee experience, there’s far less about the things that serve to ruin an employee experience. After all, it’s relatively easy to enable your employees to change their working patterns or raise ideas freely. It’s far, far harder to unpick behaviours and accepted elements of your culture which damage your employee experience. And, after all: there’s no amount of miniature golf courses in reception can undo the effects of a culture which is bullying, finger-pointing, and ultimately counter-productive to delivery.
I would argue therefore that, before starting to focus on the elements which will improve the employee experience, organisations first need to look very honestly at those base line factors which need to be addressed. Start with what you need to remove, not what you need to bring in:
#1 Dictatorial, top-down management
A great employee experience comes from everyone in the organisation feeling as though they are respected and treated as equals. If you permit your managers and leaders to behave in a way that suggests they’re better than others further down your organisational hierarchy, allow them to make decisions without considering the views of others, and generally act in a way that implies their team members are in some way subordinate to them, then that makes for a pretty miserable existence.
Taking #1 above even further, there are too many organisations out there with an undercurrent of bullying running through them. It is the responsibility of everyone within an organisation to step forward and address such behaviour. No employer can possibly claim to be providing a great employee experience if there is a risk that anyone within that business is able either to bully or to be bullied.
#3 A culture of blame and fear
The worst employee experience I ever had – thankfully, now, long in the past – was one where I felt genuinely frightened to go into work every day. If your employees are too scared to deliver because they fear the consequences of possible failure, you have a serious, serious cultural issue which needs to be tackled head on. Employees need to feel empowered to succeed, not terrified to fail.
#4 Reticence to change
A great employee experience is one which continuously develops and evolves, in response to the changing nature of the world of work, and the needs of the workforce. An employer that can’t or won’t change is very quickly going to find themselves left far, far behind. We need to enable our organisations not simply to change, but to actively seek out ways of doing so for the benefit of all.
#5 People seen as resources, not humans
Fundamental to every great employee experience is compassion. Compassion should run as the lifeblood throughout every single business out there. Caring about people isn’t a soft skill; it’s one of the most important things any of us can do. Because when we care for and look after our people, then they’ll care for and look after our business. It isn’t rocket science, and yet it’s staggering how many organisations are yet to work this out.
#6 Broken promises
It doesn’t matter how lovely your surroundings are, or how approachable your manager is. If we consistently fail to deliver what we’ve said we’re going to, then each time we do, we’re eroding our employees’ experience. This is basic psychological contract stuff; in fact it’s just basic human relationship stuff. Delivering on our commitments is absolutely fundamental.
#7 Lack of trust
We employ the people we do to work for us because we believe in their ability to deliver for us. If we don’t, then, frankly, we shouldn’t have hired them in the first place. And yet then, when we get them into the business, we surround them with a raft of restrictions and red tape which actually prevent them from doing what we want them to do. “I’d love to get that report out for you, but I’ve got a thirty-two step expense procedure to complete first which is going to delay me from meeting the deadline, I’m afraid.” Absolutely ludicrous. We need to hire great people, and then set them free to deliver. And when we do… that’s when we see our employee experience really start to fly.