EngagementCultureCrafting the employee experience

Crafting the employee experience

A recent HRD Connect webinar saw Editor Emily Sexton-Brown joined by a panel of eminent figures in the world of talent development to discuss how companies can successfully design their employee experience.

The Panelists:

Andrea Pettico is Chief People Officer (CPO) of one of the UK’s most interesting and innovative marketing agencies, MVF. In her role as CPO, Pettico says her main priority is to build a culture of inclusiveness, positivity and improvement at all levels.

Pettico was joined by George Elioart, Change Manager at Avado. As the largest online leading provider in the UK, Avado is ideally placed to place development right at the heart of its offering. Indeed, Elioart began his career at Avado as an apprentice – something he says gave him an insight into what it takes to successfully onboard and develop talent.

The third member of the panel was Harry Gooding, Sales & Marketing Director at Arch Apprentices. His role, he said, centred around helping companies successfully integrate new apprentices into the organisation, and to boost the chances of retaining and developing the best and the brightest.

Getting the right fit 

The panelists began by discussing how their organisations had set about designing an employee experience programme. “From our experience, what’s difficult is that some companies try to design experience and development programmes that apply to everyone in the business,” Elioart said.

“But that doesn’t always work, and the best experiences are ones that are specific. So how do we build something that engages everyone but that’s also discrete to them?”

“One size doesn’t fit all, when it comes to people,” Pettico agreed, and went on to argue that companies that spend the time and effort to design bespoke plans will reap benefits across the board, and particularly when it comes to productivity.

“What happens is that, instead of simply giving people instructions and tasks to perform, rather you tell where you want to get to and let them work it our for themselves in the best way. And if you hire bright capable people, then they can create their own experiences.”

“You don’t measure employee experience by salary or benefits, job title or status,” said Elioart, who believes that real employee engagement and satisfaction cannot simply be measured in numbers. “One of the things I would say is leaders should start with what employees want. This isn’t about what you can do or want to do – really engaging with your employees starts with putting their needs first.”

It’s good to talk

Ultimately, there’s no substitute for good feedback. “The moment where skills overlap with employee experience is where learning happens,” said Gooding, whose work at Arch sees him advising companies on how to carve out a competitive advantage by using their learning and development programmes.

To do that, Gooding says, learning is the key. “It’s proven that companies that roll out learning have better retention rates,” he said. “Some of Avado’s clients have had issues with retention, and once upskilling became standard they soon started to notice a sizable impact.”

A question of culture

But what is the most important part of the employee experience? For some, leadership is the key factor, while others place health and wellbeing at the head of the list. A Q&A revealed that a majority (47%) of people pinpointed the company culture as the critical factor.

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“It strikes me as the hardest one to get right,” Gooding said. “Changing a culture is really hard work.”

Pattico agreed and said her experience at MVF had involved looking at the various aspects that make up a company culture and deciding which ones could be improved.

“You don’t want to use the essence of the business, and there are things you can do to improve it. Accessibility is a big thing: I’ve worked at places where you wouldn’t know who the founders or owners are because they simply blend in to the team, and pull together without that aspect of hierarchy. That’s hugely important to fostering a great team culture.”

For Elioart, the difference maker is how well the company connects new hires with a mentor, whether through formal structures or as an informal sounding board. “To have someone who is removed from my day to day work experience as a sounding board to challenge what I’m doing and help is really useful. And we’ve found that an assigned mentor can pretty quickly spot when an employee isn’t happy with the way things are going, which gives the company a better chance of addressing that early.”

The right rewards

What the Q&A also revealed was the total lack of interest in rewards as a defining characteristic of a good employee experience. Not a single respondent to the survey believed they were the key factor.

Indeed, it’s fair to say that the webinar covered a whole range of topics – from personal development to building a programme of balanced training.

Pattico’s believes that MVF excel in certain areas thanks to its culture of continuous improvement. “That extends to our people – and the idea of Growth Conversations is crucial to how we help our people. That comes back to the idea of aspirations – what the people want, what the company needs, and how we can align those two things to ensure we work well together.”

MVF focus heavily on two angles in that: honesty, where employees are encouraged to be open about their aspirations; and concentrating on strengths as opposed to weaknesses.

“You’ll never tackle your weaknesses if you don’t stretch your strengths, so we’re a really strengths-based development business,” she said. “Once you’ve figured out your strengths you can accelerate your development, so we support that with a broad range of training and encourage as much ‘blended learning as we can.”

Pattico pointed out that although digital learning has become increasingly popular in recent times, face to face collaboration is still important. “Millennials still want to do that, to work in teams, so we have to provide access to blended learning tools to help them.”

It was clear from the webinar that there is no one set way for companies to succeed in this area. The challenges are there – it’s a competitive landscape, after all – but for those companies that take this seriously, the sky’s the limit.

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