Andy Golding knows that work should be fun. Why? Well, when it comes to the long-term success of the business, the employee experience is as important as the customer experience.
Understand the trust factor
No amount of perks will make up for a lack of trust or communication in the work place. If you’re serious about creating a great workplace culture and experience, you need to start with trust — this means being transparent with your employees and communicating with them openly and often.
Ask your employees what they care about
You wouldn’t design something for customers without discovery and feedback, so why do you ignore this process when it comes to employees? The easiest way to find out what employees want is to ask them.
Company culture is like wasabi — a little goes a long way
You don’t need to have huge interventions and staff parties. You need to pay attention to the details. What makes employees comfortable, and what seemingly innocuous things cause discomfort that mounts over time?
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Andy Golding started out working for Missing Link, a company famous for its iconoclastic founder Rich Mulholland and its curious workplace benefits like free tattoos. It was a formative workplace experience that forever altered the way she views work.
“Here I was working for this crazy company and loving every moment of it, but I quickly realised that this wasn’t a typical experience. Most people hate their jobs. So, I tried to figure out what the major differences were. How could one group of employees love every moment of the workday, while so many others hate going to work?” says Golding.
Her search for an answer started with a blog called Companies Behaving Awesomely, which tried to unearth the true reasons behind employee satisfaction. In 2014, however, she took the next step, launching a company called Strive, which aims to help companies not only attract the best people, but also retain them.
Entrepreneur spoke to her about the importance of the employee experience.
What is the secret to a great employee experience? Is it about free food and fun offices, or is there more to it?
It’s not about the fluffy stuff. Sure, free food and funky offices can help, but ultimately, that doesn’t guarantee a great employee experience. The environment and the perks are two important aspects of the employee experience, but there are many others to consider. The employee experience constitutes absolutely every aspect of a workday, from the moment an employee arrives, to the moment he or she leaves. It’s about the systems and processes, the tools of the job and the interaction between employees.
So, how do you craft a great employee experience?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. It really depends on the nature of the business and the founder. Early on, an entrepreneur needs to consider the future of the business. Where do I want to take the company? How do I get it there? What sort of people do I need to attract and retain to help me get there? Once you know the answers, you can begin crafting a company culture and employee experience that suits the business.
That said, some things are crucial to a great employee experience, namely trust and communication. If you don’t have great trust and communication in a company, nothing else matters. No amount of perks will make up for that. Communication is one of the key drivers. It has to be instant and multi-directional. Thanks to social media, we now have instant access to large brands and companies. We need that same kind of ability to communicate in the workplace.
What should this communication look like? How should companies speak to their employees?
I believe in creating the same sort of personas for employees that you would for customers. Successful marketing departments make use of personas because they realise that different customers respond to different forms of communication — different messages, mediums and channels. The same is true for employees. Blanket communication doesn’t work.
Companies often spend less time thinking about how to talk to employees than they do about communicating with customers. You wouldn’t design something for customers without discovery and feedback, so the same should be true when it comes to employees. The easiest way to find out what employees want is to ask them.
How do you actually cultivate a better company culture?
Huge interventions and ‘mandatory’ fun, like board games and company braais, don’t work. It starts with those small habits and behaviours that you modify. We always say that company culture is like wasabi — a little goes a long way. Once again, it comes down to knowing and understanding your employees. What frustrates them? What do they want and need in the workplace? What would delight them? Design a company culture that suits the business and its people.
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Business communication is largely driven by email these days. What do you think of the modern tendency to email co-workers?
We strongly discourage the companies we work with from creating an environment where everyone uses email for internal communication. We believe in a strict communication hierarchy. Nothing trumps face-to-face communications. If that’s impossible, make a phone call and email only as a last resort. You want an inclusive environment where people feel like a team, and email doesn’t help foster that sort of environment.
Nothing beats sitting down with someone and speaking to them directly. The communication is more meaningful and miscommunication is less likely.
You warn against perks as a way to improve the employee experience, but can these be useful?
They definitely can, especially if they improve communication. For instance, banning people from eating at their desks and offering free or subsidised meals in a central cafeteria is a great way of improving communication across departments. It results in what we call ‘unintentional collisions’ where colleagues from different departments run into one another and quickly chat about an issue that they would otherwise probably just have discussed over email. It breaks down silos and forms connections across an organisation.
The Bottom Line
- A positive or negative employee experience has a huge impact on earnings. Where experience is positive, businesses show a 19% increase in earnings per share, yet where experience is negative businesses show a 33% decrease in earnings per share. That is a 51% gap — you simply cannot ignore the impact that this has on profitability.
- In a 14 year study, Watermark Consulting proved that employee experience leaders’ annualised returns are consistently double that of the overall S&P Index.Employees having a positive experience are 21% more productive than those having a poor experience.
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