This Op-Ed was originally published by The Chronicle Herald
on June 4, 2019. It is written by The Conference Board of Canada's Dr. Bill Howatt.
There are a number of strategies, processes or policies that have been designed to support employees to thrive within an organization.
Some examples of the elements that can be put into a policy, process or strategy are: people, retention, engagement, mental health, hiring, training and development, attendance and disability management, flexible work locations and schedules, return to work, succession planning, on-boarding, compensation and retirement, benefits, culture, occupational health and safety, respectful workplace, impairment, off-boarding, performance management, recruiting, employee value proposition and management effectiveness.
Each element can directly or indirectly impact an employee’s mental health. Without good mental health, it’s normal to believe that one has nothing. In this mental state, safety, engagement and productivity are at risk.
How clear are you on the reasons for including those elements and how they have been implemented?
What level of confidence do you have that the average employee knows all the elements?
It’s not uncommon for the response to be “low confidence.”
At a recent presentation one theme that came from the group of more than 50 leaders from public and private organizations across Canada is the positive role employers can play in influencing employees’ experience.
One common challenge in many organizations is how often elements of strategies, processes or policies are not aligned, integrated or communicated, or have their value ever become fully appreciated by most employees.
While there may be good intentions and lots of good work, too often employees are unclear on the intentions and procedures of strategies, policies and processes and how they can be of personal value to them.
Strategy impact test
Randomly pick 20 employees from different levels and ask them three questions: Why do we do X (e.g., mental health strategy), what is X, and how is X having a positive impact on you?Evaluate the degree of consistency among the 20 responses against X element’s goals.
One way to mitigate having a bunch of unintegrated policies, processes and strategies and silos is to stop having a bunch of strategies. Consider the benefit of having just one integrated employee experience strategy. The primary goal is to support health, engagement and productivity across the employee’s career lifecycle.
The desired length of the average career lifecycle can play a role in the degree of investment employers are prepared to make.
Regardless of the average career lifecycle goal (e.g., 10 years) when designing an employee engagement strategy, it’s valuable to consider what elements will be covered.
One way to start to reframe to one employee experience strategy is to determine what elements will be included. The primary goal is to facilitate the average employee’s day-to-day experience in the workplace by making targeted elements such as training and development relevant, accessible and meaningful.
Begin with no more than five elements, perhaps: mental health, on-boarding, performance management, occupational health and safety and respectful workplace. This provides more ability to integrate and align each element’s strategy, policies, process, programs and metrics into one framework. Before adding additional elements, ensure the average employee understands why and how all elements can support their experience.
A committee of key stakeholders from all levels and groups within the organization may be formed to choose and frame the foundational elements to be used in an employee experience strategy. The committee’s role will be to:
1. Define the purpose and objective.
2. Determine the first elements that will be covered. Some may be new (e.g., on-boarding) and others have some operational form (e.g., respectful workplace).
3. Define each element’s critical purpose and primary goals, along with what success will look like and how it will be measured.
4. Define how each element will support employees’ health, engagement and productivity.
Key factors that will assist in the design, integration and evaluation of the strategy:
- Diversity and inclusion to be considered for every element.
- All new hires will be on-boarded on the organization’s employee experience strategy and followed up at three, six, nine and 12 months to ensure they are experiencing the benefits.
- All employees will be asked to evaluate their experience yearly with respect to each element that supports the strategy.
- Every element’s financial value will be evaluated to provide senior leaders with evidence of the benefits of making the investment. The end goal is maintaining funding support.
Ultimately, every element that supports health, engagement and productivity can fall under an employee experience strategy.
Starting slow, with a measured approach, can be helpful for getting evidence-based results through ensuring elements are aligned, integrated, accessible and purposeful, and that the organization is committed to measuring impact and continuous improvement.
Bill Howatt is the chief of research, workforce productivity The Conference Board of Canada, former chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell.