According to the employee experience barometer carried out by Parlons RH in partnership with ARAGO Consulting, the employee experience is becoming more democratic, although many HR departments are still reluctant to embrace it. For Etienne Audoin, HR innovation and employee experience specialist at ARAGO Consulting, the lines are moving, and more and more companies are seizing on this crucial subject to recruit and retain talent.
What information in this employee experience study most appeals to you?
This barometer shows that the employee experience (EX) is becoming more democratic, but at the same time, one third of HR professionals do not consider it a priority. And 60-70% of companies do not have the digital tools to systematically collect employee feedback.
These figures are striking. They contrast with the fact that today, faced with the new norm of hybrid work, companies are almost obliged to rethink their human model, by valuing the employee experience. In contact with organisations, we can see that employees express two main needs: to be listened to, and to be supported in their development. Many of them are tempted to leave their employer when these expectations are not taken into account.
The challenge for HRDs is therefore to respond to these aspirations, in order to retain those who are already in post, and to attract new talent. This development of the EX involves an increased digitalisation of processes. Firstly, those linked to training, with a view to moving towards a learning organisation. Secondly, those that enable feedback from employees to be captured.
How do you perceive, in contact with French companies, the development of the employee experience on their behalf?
The barometer shows this, and we see it too: companies that have started a process around the employee experience during the health crisis (notably by surveying employee engagement and feelings) have maintained their good practices.
Some organisations have, for example, put in place continuous measurement tools to better understand what works and what doesn’t work in telework, and to put in place more appropriate action plans. They have asked employees about their experience of telework, both in terms of the physical/technical aspects and in terms of stress and life balance. In this way, they have learned to measure the commitment, needs and well-being of employees differently, through much more frequent and shorter surveys. At the same time, they have been able to implement training much more quickly, in particular to develop a more collaborative management style.
It is clear that for the past 4 or 5 years, companies that measure employee engagement and experience are no longer just large companies. In particular, we can see that small and medium-sized companies are now taking this subject into their own hands, because the challenge for them is to overcome a major skills shortage. Faced with the war for talent, they have no choice but to focus more on the needs of their employees and on what will make them happy to stay.
Beyond salary, this includes work-life balance, teleworking and QWL. In terms of wellbeing, we are seeing more and more companies setting up physical activity programmes, yoga and online meditation courses. HR is now embracing these issues.
If a third of HRDs do not consider EX a priority, is it not because they confuse this concept with QWL alone?
The employee experience is in fact much broader than QWL. The barometer gives a clear definition: “a structured HR marketing approach that consists of segmenting internal and external audiences, identifying and prioritising expectations, devising responses in the form of HR service offerings, deploying them, evaluating their success and then starting again”.
Some HRDs probably misunderstand the meaning of EX because of a persistent cultural bias. In France, commitment has long been confused with satisfaction. However, a “happy” employee will not necessarily be committed to the company’s project. QWL is one of the criteria that influence engagement, but there are many others: CSR and the company’s raison d’être, the quality of management, integration and team spirit, inclusion and diversity, training and internal mobility, etc. It is not enough to implement actions related to well-being to improve the employee experience. This takes longer to develop than “happiness at work”. It requires innovative training, coaching, mentoring and knowledge exchange. It also requires more agile management of skills and the employer brand.
But if HR professionals do not perceive the EX as a priority, it is also because traditionally, the HRD has been confined to a set of legal obligations: managing payroll and social plans, as well as employees’ careers. The employee experience goes beyond the traditional attributes of HR decision-makers. In some companies, specific departments for EX, CSR and engagement are being created and attached to HR. However, if these organisations are not to remain a minority, senior management must take up this issue.
But we should remain optimistic. As time goes by, many managers and HRDs should come to realise the importance of taking the employee experience in hand. Because the business impact of an underdeveloped EX is very significant. It manifests itself in a loss of employee engagement and productivity, increased resignations, as well as problematic recruitment.
The challenge for HRDs tomorrow will be, more than ever, to attract and retain talent. To do this, they will have to offer them sustainable hybrid working methods, and demonstrate (in practice) the existence of a real balance of life times and career development opportunities. From this perspective, the employee experience is key. If a company does not reshape its HR practices in line with the EX, and if it does not move towards a service-oriented HR marketing approach to the employee, it simply risks losing the war for talent.