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Top HR Mistakes that Cause Employees to Leave

The HR function is evolving. Yesteryear’s personnel department was compliance- and policy-focused. One of the HR mistakes that holds companies back today is a failure to evolve and become more than policy administrators. 

To stay relevant, add real value, and deliver on the promise of HUMAN resources, HR needs a dual perspective:

  1. Business needs. HR protects the organization by ensuring that employment laws are followed, that employees are treated fairly, and that pay, benefits, leave, hiring, disciplinary measures, and policies are administered properly. 

  2. Employee needs. HR supports a positive workplace culture through employee well-being and employee engagement initiatives. L&D offerings, for example, can be designed to retain, engage, and develop employees.  

If you have to pick one over the other, lean towards employee needs. Ultimately, businesses survive and thrive because of their employees. That’s why HR (and the entire organization!) must allocate time, attention and resources to creating a positive employee experience.    

What Is “Employee Experience” and Why Is It More Important Now?  

Graphic Showing an Employee Hopping on a ResumeYou’ve heard the term and may have assumed it’s just another business buzzword. But employee experience is here to stay, and it’s more than you might think. Employee experience isn’t a replacement for employee engagement. It’s not a matter of adding free lunches, allowing pets in the office, or offering a hybrid model of work-from-home / work-onsite. Employee experience isn’t one-and-done, rah-rah teambuilding. And there is no magic bullet HRIS, ERP, or other system that will do it for you. 

Employee experience is all-encompassing and long-term. It ought to be a part of your strategic plan. 

Defining the Concept of Employee Experience: 

According to Bersin, the employee experience is “the sum total of all the touchpoints an employee has with his or her employer, from the time of being a candidate (active or passive) to becoming an alumnus or alumna.” 

You can also think of it as “what the culture feels like to employees. It’s not what you say it is or isn’t. It’s how they experience it through interactions with other employees, interactions with technologies, and with the work itself.” That illuminating definition comes from Go Daddy’s Director of HR Operations, Zuri Baker. 

Medallia’s definition adds an important distinction. “Employee experience is not a new name for employee engagement. The term employee experience defines a generational shift in attitudes and clear differences in employee expectations toward how the workplace should work.” Employee engagement is a byproduct of employee experience. 

To fully understand what’s involved in the employee experience, consider the following:

  • Every single person in and around the organization shapes the employee experience – that includes your customers, your vendors, your partners, and other stakeholders. 

  • Employee experience broadly includes what people do, observe, or feel over the course of their employee journey at an organization. 

  • Positive employee experiences flow from positive work environments where people feel ennobled, supported, and clear about what’s expected.

  • Employee experience is impacted by work space, technology, communication channels, processes, culture, and systems.

  • Negative employee experiences can be caused by unaddressed stressors, unproductive conflict, ongoing ambiguity and uncertainty, relentless and unnecessary change, and a lack of quality interactions with managers.  

Why Employee Experience Is Increasingly Important:

Employees have always had positive and negative experiences at work. They’ve endured them in exchange for a paycheck and, perhaps, for opportunities of advancement. Why the need now for attending to the employee experience?

As consumers, we’ve all become accustomed to a higher level of customer experience with personalization, opportunities to voice our opinions and be heard by the businesses we frequent, and the ability to shape our own experiences (even in the mundane details like paper or plastic?). 

These customer experiences have conditioned us to expect no less in workplace. Employees, like consumers, want personalized, relevant and meaningful experiences. They want to be heard and considered. Transactional, generic, impersonal experiences won’t suffice.

To stay competitive in today’s job market, employers have to deliver what employees expect. 

In addition to improving employee retention, a solid employee experience significantly boosts employee engagement. Reams of research show the proven links between high engagement and stronger business results. For example, Gallup reports that highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share. According to SHRM, organizations with high rankings in culture, technology, and physical workspace outperformed their peers by 400% in profits. These are no small numbers! 

By focusing on and improving the employee experience, an employer can become positively differentiated vs. their competitors. A positive employee experience is the essence of being an employer of choice. Attracting and retaining talent is much easier when you have a positive employer brand. 

This translates into key business outcomes in other ways, too. In one Accenture study, 65% of consumers reported that they consider how well employees are treated when determining which products or services to purchase.  

In addition to these compelling reasons that impact business success, a positive employee experience makes the workday smoother, job satisfaction higher, and going to work easier. Engaged, happy employees are more likely to behave in ways that positively impact others. A good employee experience has a pass-along effect that improves other employees’ experiences (including the experiences for HR employees!). 

To learn more about employee experience and why it matters, check out this on-demand webinar.    

What HR Mistakes Mar the Employee Experience? 

Inadvertently, you may be making these seven HR mistakes that impair the employee experience. Any one of these can be frustrating for employees and can cause them to feel minimized. Take a close look at how you handle situations like these. 

  1. Slow response times or prolonged processes for investigating issues and implementing change. Remember, you’re competing with businesses who instantly respond to consumer complaints via social media, help desks, and proactive surveys immediately following the completion of service. They’ve raised the bar for consumer expectations, and those consumers are also your employees. 
  2. Employee engagement surveys that go nowhere disappoint employees. If there’s no visible effort to make changes after the survey, employees will feel that you’ve checked a box without really being interested in their input or concerns. Gathering input sets an expectation that something else will happen.  
  3. It’s too little, too late if you’re gathering feedback at the exit interview. HR needs mechanisms for listening to employees constantly and for giving employees voice. You may wish to implement a process for stay interviews or next-generation suggestion boxes or interactive townhalls. 
  4. Complexity is always a negative experience, especially if it seems unnecessary, inconsiderate, or self-serving. It should be easy for employees to get answers about benefits, pay, policies, and the like. If your HRIS self-serve kiosk is too hard to use and/or reaching humans who should know this stuff takes too long, look for ways to improve.  
  5. Training that’s Irrelevant or unengaging is a negative, time-wasting experience that causes employees to be skeptical about all future training, too. At the same time, if you’re not providing training that’s relevant, meaningful, and supportive of employee development goals, you have a multiplier effect on this negative employee experience. 
  6. Failing to train managers and develop leaders seriously hurts business results. Don’t overlook issues related to poor management. Don’t let managers skate when it comes to simultaneously managing work AND leading people. Leadership development is, by far, the most influential aspect of employee engagement. Without it, you’re fighting an uphill battle.  
  7. Lagging adoption of new technology is often the result of HR not being assertive enough with budget requests. Instead, HR accepts the extra burden of old or absent technology, manually entering data and combing through resumes, etc. This dramatically diminishes the time and attention HR could be paying to people processes and needs. 

In addition to examining HR mistakes that impair the employee experience, it’s also important to consider other parts of the business.

HR Can’t Solve This Problem Alone. Who Else Needs to Be Involved?  

The executive team plays a vital role in the employee experience. At a minimum, the C-Suite should be allocating budget and resources, creating performance metrics for managers that demonstrate how important this is, and building employee experience into the strategic plan. 

Frontline managers bear considerable responsibility for the employee experience, too. It’s up to the manager to check in on the employee experience and to be responsive when anything interferes with

productivity or positivity. Employee experiences are closely linked to manager interactions and support. 

Employees, too, play a part in the employee experience. No matter how skilled an employee is in the functional/technical requirements of the job, a pervasively negative attitude or inability to cooperate with others shouldn’t be overlooked. One difficult employee can sour the experience for many others. 

Broadly speaking, these shared responsibilities can have a big impact on employee experience. HR can raise awareness and partner with others to work on:

  • Workplace Culture is “how we get things done around here.” If you’re not deliberately defining it, then you’ll end up with a hodgepodge of conflicting cultural norms that are difficult to navigate.  

  • Professional Standards guide HOW the work is done. Set expectations for how people interact, communicate, and resolve differences. 

  • Values unify people and provide clarity about priorities and decisions. Be sure your company values are backed by examples of actions and descriptions of what those values look like in the day-to-day choices that are made. Recognize and celebrate positive examples. 

  • Vision provides context, stokes inspiration and motivation, and transcends differences of opinion about priorities and processes. 

  • Leadership at Every Level dignifies and ennobles employees. Understanding what leadership is and which behaviors make leaders effective can supercharge business results. To learn more about leadership behaviors, we invite you to join this free, highly interactive workshop

  • Empowerment. Instead of creating bottlenecks, distribute decision-making to the people most affected by decisions. Set expectations and parameters but stop micromanaging the details. Teach managers to manage and frontline employees to work more autonomously.

  • Digital Experience. WFH and WFA complicates the oversight of employee experience. Asynchronous communication, virtual meeting protocols, and cultural differences must all be considered along with technology support.  

Raising awareness about the importance of Employee Experience is vitally important. Start today! 

You can get started with the Employee Engagement Essentials course on the People First Leadersjhip Academy - click below to sign up for this free workshop!