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What makes a great employee experience?
Illustration by Elliot Mah

4 min read

What makes a great employee experience?

A positive employee experience is more than just a decent place to work. We recently attended an HR conference to see what factors people need for a great employee experience. Here's what the people had to say.

We recently visited an HR Conference in Vancouver, which was a thought-provoking and rewarding experience, not to mention highly convenient for us because the JostlePlex is located in Vancouver (yes, it’s currently raining).

While we were there, we decided to run a little experiment. We asked conference attendees who stopped by our booth to tell us what employee experience means to them. More specifically, what makes a great employee experience? We gave them some sticky-notes and let them loose.

Pretty soon our booth was covered in bright neon sticky-notes. The answers were interesting, but perhaps not very surprising. Except of course one attendee who told us a great employee experience involved “on-site massages”. That was surprising.

1. Great leaders and acknowledgment (feeling valued)

Among the dozens of responses we received there were only a couple repeats. They were “Acknowledgment” (2) and “Great leaders” (2), which makes sense because recognition (or lack thereof) and quality of leadership have a huge impact on how people perceive their organization and their roles within it.

A culture where managers and peers are consistently recognizing each other in a frequent and meaningful way gives people a greater sense of purpose which can positively impact their employee experience.

2. Psychological safety (to be yourself)

This answer was one of our favorites because we think psychological safety is essential for a great employee experience. It describes the freedom to be yourself in the workplace—speak up in a meeting, share an opinion, and most importantly, be vulnerable—without fear of being put down or humiliated by your colleagues. In a psychologically safe workplace, people “feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.”

Psychological safety makes us feel valued, accepted, and connected with the people we work with.

3. Learning and development opportunities

A positive employee experience in most cases requires a little more than showing up to work at 9, finishing your tasks, leaving at 5, and getting paid. Ideally workplaces have more to offer, like learning and development opportunities.

People love to learn, after all. We want to get better at what we do, learn new tricks, and ultimately progress in our careers. And that’s why a great employee experience includes having the opportunity to grow. Creating a culture focused on learning and development can mean holding regular lunch-and-learns, giving people an annual learning stipend, creating an in-depth education program for future leaders, or all of the above.

4. The company puts its people first

Couldn’t agree more with this one. I’ve written before about why an employee experience can’t be completely mapped out for people by their employer; however, the more an employer focuses on what’s best for their people, the greater each employee’s experience will be.

This doesn’t mean paying lip service in internal communications, but actively committing to creating a people-centric workplace. What do they want? What do they care about? What matters most to them? By catering to your people’s needs and, more importantly, actually caring for them, you’re not only creating a positive experience, you’re strengthening their commitment to each other and giving them a shared purpose.

5. Autonomy

This one’s interesting because it could be taken a few different ways: autonomy to work independently without being interrupted or micro-managed, autonomy to choose to work on the projects that matter most to us, or maybe the freedom to figure out on our own what the company’s values are. Whichever way you cut it, though, autonomy seems like an important ingredient in creating a great employee experience.

To give us a better sense of why that is, Barry Chignell offers some important advantages of employee autonomy:

  • Employees are happier and more engaged
  • Accountability lies with the employee
  • Employees feel a greater sense of value
  • Employees have more motivation to learn new skills
  • Work/life balance benefits
  • Productivity increases
  • Company culture improves
  • Leadership qualities are encouraged

6. Work-life balance and flexible working environment

We’ve written before about why people crave a flexible working environment and a better work-life balance, but honestly, it’s kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? Our employee experience isn’t only impacted by our experiences at work; it’s also about how much our work affects us when we’re not at work. A more balanced schedule that takes into account everything else we’re doing in our busy lives, outside of our daily work, is the ticket to a more satisfied, less stressed workforce.

7. Community

I’ll end with another interesting answer that we all quite liked. The most successful organizations operate not as a family but as a community. Every person and department plays a role in sustaining their community: in their work, but also in the ways they engage with and contribute to their company culture. A great employee experience is the result of people who are able to come together and help each other out, offer support, and collaborate in meaningful, productive ways.

Conclusion

It was a lot of fun to attend this conference and learn from presenters and attendees what makes a great employee experience. Thank you to everyone who stopped by the Jostle booth and submitted such thought-provoking, interesting answers. You made this article possible! And yes, we’re still thinking about how on-site massages might be a good addition to the JostlePlex.

Want to learn more about employee experience?

Read why it's critical

Read more by
Corey Moseley

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