Employee experience maturity model

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Can you win the new war for talent? You won’t if you think it’s about money, titles, or job security, says Josh Bersin.

The new war for talent will be won on employee experience, believes global industry analyst, Josh Bersin. 

Topics like remote work, the digital work experience, wellbeing and mental health, and teaching managers how to hire, onboard, and support people under high stress are now top priorities in HR. And the HR function has been bonded with functions like facilities, safety, security, and legal to put together policies for all this change.

Against this backdrop, The Josh Bersin Company released a six-part report, The Definitive Guide: Employee Experience, commissioned by Microsoft, based on a massive study of 83 practices across a broad range of topics to identify 15 that matter most when correlated to high performance across eight business, people, and innovation outcomes.

Below are the 15 keys identified in the report to driving superior employee experience (EX): 

  1. Foster a culture of integrity and helping others.
  2. Embed mission and purpose as part of every activity.
  3. Inspire trust in leaders to be ethical and operate with integrity.
  4. Clearly communicate the mission and vision.
  5. Enable open, transparent, and honest leadership communication.
  6. Prioritise investment in people even when business is not good.
  7. Stand up for what’s right, even if it’s not popular.
  8. Encourage managers to help people tie their contributions to the mission.
  9. Operate under a people-first approach.
  10. See diversity, equity, and inclusion as a business priority.
  11. Use fair and equitable rewards and recognition programmes.
  12. Support communities at work and a sense of belonging.
  13. Encourage employees to bring their authentic selves to work.
  14. Encourage people to continuously develop, regardless of role.
  15. Use a clear, values-based management philosophy and model.

Josh Bersin, CEO and global industry analyst, said: "Without the right leadership, capabilities and behaviours, any progress in EX will be short-lived and unsustainable. It’s a choice to make: are you prioritising business-centered leadership in which the business is first and people are second or emphasising human-centered leadership that prioritises your people?

"Above all, remember that the journey to a world-class employee experience is an ongoing process enabled by close listening to your people."

The 15 essential practices for superior EX (listed above) are driven by six key findings highlighted in the report. These are briefly explained below:

#1 Focus on trust, transparency, inclusion, and care

One of the most important factors of trust in the organisation is trusting your employees. People will not trust you if you don’t trust them. How do you show people you trust them? Communication is important but what’s even more important is how managers and leaders act, and what policies and procedures you have in place.

  • Workplace and hybrid work approaches: Do you allow people to define where, when and how to complete their work? Or do you control work processes with rigid policies to mandate details of work that might not fit their needs?
  • Accountability for outcomes, not presence: How do you create accountability for work? Are you performance measures set to control presence at work? Do you give people autonomy about their goals and how to accomplish them?
  • No micromanagers: What’s the role of the manager in your company? Are they information hoarders that withhold insights from people to increase their power? Do they dictate every step of their team’s work and control them with endless checklists and status reports? Or do they empower people to do their best work, allowing them to experiment and learn from mistakes? 

#2 A supportive culture plays a big role

  • Transparency and ethics: A McKinsey study shows that when people feel included in detailed communications around remote work, they are almost five times more likely to be productive. So the actual decisions about the topic matter – but what matters more is how the company communicates about them. If people can trust leaders to involve them in decisions that involve their work, if they feel the company puts them first – then productivity is much higher.
  • Inclusion and psychological safety: When businesses see diversity, equity and inclusion not as an HR programme but as a business necessity, they are more profitable, have much higher engagement and retention and innovate more. When every person can be their authentic self, is valued and heard, companies do much better.
  • Empowerment and growth: Empowering people to make their own decisions, take their career and development into the direction they want to go, and enabling a learning culture that values mistakes as opportunities to learn is critical to innovation – but also to business outcomes.

#3 Innovation and sustainable growth depend on equitable rewards and building communities at work

  • Above-average pay and benefits don’t matter, but fair and equitable rewards and recognition make a big impact: EX is sometimes used as a code word for pay and perks. Companies that can afford it throw lavish amounts of money at people to attract them and to make it very hard for them to leave – the proverbial ‘golden handcuffs’. While this may work in the short-term to quickly hire talented people, if the work environment is not good, all that money won’t make up for it, and people will either leave altogether, or they will check out and ‘leave in place’, arguably even worse.
  • Fostering employee resource groups (ERGs): The most successful employee resource groups are inclusive in nature – encouraging participation from anybody, not just the people within that community, and work on more than events or networking to solve real business problems.
  • Powering communities of expertise: Effective, next-generation knowledge management centered not on content but on people is key here. When we contribute our expertise to others, we help create more knowledge and better business outcomes.  

#4 Consistent, mission-first people investments in any business climate improve business performance

  • Investments in people pay off: The pandemic has been a black swan event, impacting different industries and geographies in various different ways. It’s easy to clamp down on people investments when money is tight. Generally, industries that are more apt to see people as a commodity that can be replaced quickly – and that often turn over half their population every year – tend to lean towards a transactional approach to people relationships and less longer term investment in their employees.
  • Focus investments on mission, vision and purpose: Investments in people shouldn’t stop at individual support for skills, capabilities, growth and health. Instead, the most successful companies also focus on amplifying the mission and purpose throughout the company. Many studies show that every generation – not just Millennials – looks for purpose and meaning in their work. Every company has a mission statement, but how alive and ‘real’ is it in your company?

#5 EX excellence directly leads to business outcomes

  • Engagement is an important outcome of a great EX, but not the only one. Sure, if people are more engaged, they will be happier, more productive and provide better service to customers. But what was identified in the study is that companies that focus on the right EX strategies and practices have better business and innovation outcomes – and they also have a great place to work with higher employee engagement and retention.
  • In essence, when companies create a supportive environment and psychological safety, focus all business practices on the mission and purpose, and enable people to grow in an equitable way, they are not just recognised as a great place to work but they also excel in financial performance, customer outcomes, change agility, and innovation.
  • None of these practices are quick or easy to do, or can be solved with a small adjustment or a technology investment. They are systemic cultural shifts that will take years to master - and require companies to constantly listen to employees, understand what they need and adjust all the time. Not one group can own this charge – leadership has to come together across functions to address cultural issues, mistrust in the company, ethics challenges or changes in management approaches.

#6 HR capabilities and the right technologies are vital

  • Employee experience is about trust, transparency, caring and empathy. It’s about leadership and culture, about growth, communities and equity.
  • How do enable these big strategic concepts and scale them for our workforce? Two areas are critical to this: HR capabilities and the right technologies.
  • While many companies focus on technologies to improve the employee experience, improving HR capabilities is an incredibly important lever that you have to pull as well. 

All images / Provided by The Josh Bersin Company

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