Keeping good employees can be a challenge, with so many prepared to jump ship if they find that where they are isn’t to their liking. But a new study finds that providing employees with a positive experience on the job can not only make them happier in their work but more likely to stay.
The Employee Experience Index, by the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute and Globoforce’s WorkHuman Research Institute has resulted in the development of a new Employee Experience Index, which reveals key relationships between human workplace practices and a positive employee experience. The index is made up of five core dimensions that constitute a positive experience; those five dimensions also make employees more likely to report a high level of performance and discretionary effort in their work, as well as to be more likely to want to remain with their organization.
The dimensions are belonging (feeling part of a team, group or organization); purpose (understanding why one’s work matters); achievement (a sense of accomplishment in their work); happiness (pleasant feelings coming from work); and vigor (energy, enthusiasm and excitement at work).
But to bring about those dimensions in an employee’s workplace experience, other factors come into play—factors that aren’t always a part of U.S. workers’ job experience, or are more important in the U.S. than they might be in other countries. According to the report, while the North American employee experience index score is higher than the global average, Mexico outshines the U.S., at 79 percent, with the U.S. in the middle at 73 percent and Canada trailing the continent at 68 percent.
Both Brazil and Chile, incidentally, are the stars in South America, with scores of 76 percent and 75 percent, respectively.
The study identified six human workplace practices that it defines as “a set of qualities that acknowledge the human side of work.” These practices contribute to the employee experience by addressing the environment, “combining a strong sense of organizational trust and enabling supportive coworker relationships,” the work, “emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work and providing continuous feedback, recognition, and growth” and the person, “acknowledging the importance of empowerment and voice, as well as opportunities to disconnect and recharge from work.”
Such practices shift the focus of a workplace, emphasizing as they do the need to minimize the amount of bureaucracy and control, thus allowing employees to work in ways better suited to their core human nature.
What are the key practices that the report says are important to creating a sufficiently enticing workplace experience?
6. Work-life balance
As a driver of a more-human workplace, work-life balance, along with the opportunities to recharge and disconnect, contribute 9 percent to an employee’s experience. It’s not as important in Canada, where it constitutes 5 percent of the index, while in Mexico it’s even more prominent than in the U.S., making up 10 percent.
5. Organizational trust
Organizational trust constitutes 15 percent of an employee’s experience in the U.S. According to the report, organizations need to have effective leaders and managers who can provide a high level of clarity and direction to be able to contribute to employees’ experience. There also needs to be a focus on the human workplace practices that drive positive employee experiences.
A supportive workplace, particularly in the face of so many changes to regulations concerning benefits and protections, can go a long way toward building trust among employees and bolstering their comfort on the job.
4. Coworker relationships
Coworker relationships account for 16 percent of the employee experience, with this category being about the social connections that are created to get work done while creating a shared sense of community. These relationships are the conduit through which many of the human practices flow.
The tide of incivility that is engulfing so much of public discourse can spill over into the workplace and make it far more difficult for coworker relationships to thrive. Companies need to be aware of any tendencies within their own workplaces and take steps to prevent a breakdown in relationships among coworkers.
3. Feedback, recognition and growth
These account for another 16 percent of the employee experience, together capturing all aspects of performance development. As performance occurs in real time rather than through formal and infrequent processes, the report says, it expands the notion of performance far beyond the traditional appraisal and training rhythm.
2. Empowerment and voice
Employees need to feel that they have an active role in the work and decisions in the workplace, and the study finds that in making up 17 percent of the employee experience, empowerment and voice are crucial.
Empowerment, it finds, ensures that employees are active and inspired participants in the workplace. It creates an environment of shared leadership and responsibility in place of traditional command-and-control. But all too often, according to Globoforce, that’s not what companies are doing; instead, they talk about empowerment but fail to take the actions that will provide it. They need to remember that empowerment is a natural outcome of a workplace that functions with trust.
1. Meaningful work
Meaningful work emerges as the single largest contributor to employee perceptions of a positive employee experience, at 27 percent. This pattern was consistent globally as well as in the U.S., the report says, adding that humans naturally search for meaning to help guide behavior.
Understanding the “why” behind work helps to align behaviors to a shared mission and shared values. In fact, according to Globoforce, employees who clearly understand company values exhibit 17 times more engagement.