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Creating a people-first approach to the employee experience

Savvy businesses recognize the importance of employee experience, from the hiring process to exit interviews.

June 9th, 2023


In today's competitive talent market, there's no denying that employee experience has emerged as a crucial cornerstone of success. It encompasses how your employees perceive their work environment and relationships with colleagues and how they engage with their daily responsibilities.

Savvy businesses recognize the importance of nurturing a positive employee experience from the get-go, starting with the hiring process and extending to exit interviews. They acknowledge that employees are not merely assets, but rather valuable contributors to the organization's journey, deserving of appreciation and support.

With the fierce competition for top talent and the ongoing wave of the Great Resignation, it's more important than ever for leaders to adopt a people-centric approach to the employee experience. So, how can you foster an environment where employees feel valued, enjoy their work, and consistently deliver exceptional results? In this blog, we'll explore innovative techniques and strategies to help you create a thriving workplace where your team can flourish.

13 ideas for creating a better employee experience

Let's look at several ways to create an exceptional employee experience. We'll cover career progression, stay interviews, diversity and inclusion, and more. 

1. Provide opportunities to grow and succeed

If there's one thing most employees want, it's a clear career path. The opportunity to achieve more is one of the primary reasons for moving jobs. And that's closely followed by a lack of challenge. 

This point comes first because it's likely the most significant of all those mentioned below. Employers must provide some form of career development and progression if they want to retain top talent. 

This means online courses, lunch and learns, 1-2-1 career coaching, and promotions. The list goes on, and leaders must get creative with providing opportunities to grow and succeed. 

Regardless of budgets, there are opportunities for all organizations to provide career progression schemes. Consider mentoring from another employee or a buddy system with someone from another department. 

Simply put, progression and development don't need to break the bank.

2. Create an inclusive workplace culture

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are essential to successful workplaces. It's companies that can bring people together from different backgrounds that truly build great products and services. 

Without diversity and inclusion, companies will lack the ability to attract talent and fail to grow. Employers also run the risk of losing talented individuals who will seek out more accepting workplaces. 

From an employee experience perspective, it creates a more accepting environment that educates people on different lifestyles, cultures, and more. Finally, by hiring employees from all walks of life, you can continue building a team in that very way.

Look at your recruitment strategy and ensure you're hiring with D&I in mind – not just for the happiness of future talent but that of your current workplace culture.

3. Carry out stay interviews with your employees

Often underestimated, stay interviews help leaders retain talent by discovering why they choose to stay and what could cause them to leave. It sounds simple, but the information that leaders receive can make a difference regarding retention. 

As part of the employee experience, stay interviews also ensure that employees' thoughts, feelings, and ideas are heard. Nobody likes to feel ignored, unappreciated, or unheard, and stay interviews give concerned employees a chance to speak up. 

This approach also transforms workplace culture, creating more openness and honesty among your workforce. Below, we've included just a few stay interview questions to ask your team: 

  • Have you considered leaving in the past six months? 

  • For what reason would you leave right now, if any?

  • How can leadership improve the employee experience for you?

  • Do you feel there are ample growth opportunities?

  • What are the negatives of your role?

Remember, the best way to adopt stay interviews is to learn to listen. It's no good to have a conversation with your employees without action, as this will make the stay interview strategy pointless – act on their concerns and thoughts. 

4. Communication is critical in a remote-first world

Communication had to remain robust as the world turned to remote and hybrid working. Some companies failed, and others prevailed. As we navigate these post-pandemic times, many employees feel lonely while working from home

2021 survey found 81% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 expressed concerns about loneliness while working remotely.

While workplace culture can be challenging in a remote-first environment, leaders must do their best to create a sense of belonging and a solid employee experience. This means regularly checking in with employees on how they are doing, whether through applications like Slack or video-call software like Zoom. 

Some companies even create channels and group conversations for certain topics of interest. Communicate effectively with your employees about all matters of business and personal life for a better employee experience. If there's one thing the world has learned from working remotely, it is that small talk really does matter. 

5. Construct your employee journey map

Employee journey maps provide leaders with a bird's-eye view of the employee experience. It helps HR teams keep track of the different stages and events during the employee experience – from the onboarding to exit interviews. 

Like anything you're trying to revamp, the employee experience is no different. A better grasp of what stage employees are at gives you a clearer idea of what to do next (or how to improve a particular stage). 

Coupling your employee journey map with eNPS surveys and stay interviews will provide a potent mix of strategies to increase retention and truly connect with your workforce. While the points above offer ideas for your employee experience, your journey map details how they will all fit into place. 

Without one, it's just a collection of events and ideas that should happen at some point but without any real structure – and that's precisely why we've included constructing an employee journey map. 

6. Empower employees through voting

One of the best ways to make an HR strategy people-first is by giving your employees a voice and the chance to make changes when most votes agree to change a process or implement an idea. 

Every month, provide the opportunity to suggest an idea or change and post it anonymously. The idea with the most votes gets implemented, allowing the company's work culture and strategy to be people-first and make employees feel valued, heard, and appreciated.

Suggested by Max Wesman, Chief Operating Officer, GoodHire

7. Design tailored HR initiatives

It's possible that merely implementing new programs to improve the work experience will fail to strike a chord with the staff. The program's significance to one person may differ from that of another.

Getting employees to buy into the initiatives requires a high degree of individual authenticity. It would be great if HR could design tailored initiatives for each staff member.

Treating employees with empathy and listening to their stories is essential, as everyone has a unique perspective. It is crucial to approach the employee satisfaction and engagement survey results cautiously. Workers will take pride in their work since they know it is appreciated.

Create a robust intranet system from which they may take generic information, such as essential employee perks and rights. This needs to be autonomous, with its feedback loop and logging-in/logging-out systems. Engage the IT and marketing departments to make it interactive.

Suggested by Aleksandar Ginovski, Career Expert, Resume Expert, and Product Manager, Enhancv

8. Prioritize active listening

In a world filled with technological advancements and data-driven decision-making, losing sight of the human element is straightforward. Stay aware of that pitfall; always remember to listen.

Start by providing channels for employees to express their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. Regularly conduct surveys, feedback sessions, and one-on-one conversations and actively listen to their feedback and consider it when shaping policies, programs, and initiatives.

Also, foster an open-door policy where employees feel comfortable approaching HR with their challenges or suggestions. Create safe spaces for dialogue and encourage honest, transparent communication. Remember, listening goes beyond just hearing words—it involves understanding and valuing too.

Suggested by Piotrek Sosnowski, Chief People and Culture Officer, Life And My Finances

9. Adapt to diverse employee needs

You must understand the different personas that work for you, e.g., a new joiner will have different needs than a manager or senior leader.

Design your strategy with the individual in mind and keep it agile to adapt it to changes in engagement, the environment, and the business.

One size does not fit all with an HR strategy, so we like to think about putting people at heart, and then processes come last. A people-first approach, or what we call a consumer-grade experience, talks to the person's head and heart.

Actively seek feedback and listen to your people. If you do those things, then people will remember your organization. We want people to feel like your business is somewhere they could have incredible opportunities and are guided and led by inspiring people, and that is a people-first HR strategy in a nutshell.

Suggested by Jo Taylor, Managing Director, Let's Talk Talent

10. Foster real-life connections

A people-first strategy should always attempt to foster real-life connections between the company and its workers. 

Starting on the right foot with new hires is crucial to them developing motivations that align with the broader goals of the business, so HR should aim to book an open house, in-person interview, or phone call with all fresh faces. The human connection is hard to establish through email, and even Zoom can feel cold when you're attempting to get to know an applicant beyond their resume.

Suggested by Rob Reeves, CEO and President, Redfish Technology

11. Embrace flexibility and connections

To keep your HR strategy "people-first," my top tip would be to understand people's needs and find creative solutions that meet the individual needs of each team member. Let me give you a few examples. 

We are a hybrid company with an office-first approach, so we encourage some employees to visit the office several times a week. However, members with young children or an elderly family member who needs daycare aren't required to follow this rule—we understand that flexibility is critical for them. 

We allow our colleagues to bring their friends and family to the office, where we have a gym, bar, rooftop, cinema, and game rooms. The rule is "two guests only," but if someone's whole family shows up, we don't turn them away and are happy to host them in the office. 

Instead of creating comprehensive policies for every situation, focus on creating an environment that fosters connections and empowers employees to make decisions that align with the company's values.

Suggested by Ilona Bernotaite, Chief People Officer, Kilo Health

12. Value individuals and align job roles

The first step is recognizing and valuing individuals as unique rather than just numbers or employees. It requires acknowledging their abilities, limitations, likes and dislikes, expectations, and aspirations.

It is crucial to match employees with job roles that align with their skills and interests instead of forcing them into unfitting positions. While it may not be feasible to constantly customize every job or alter company policies to their preferences, fostering open dialogue and understanding individual strengths and interests can go a long way. Demonstrating a willingness to modify policies to accommodate individual needs to the extent possible can make employees feel valued and supported.

This people-centric approach should start from the moment an individual joins the organization. From the onboarding process to assigning roles and responsibilities, every interaction should convey a sense of being valued, cared for, and essential to the organization's success.

Suggested by Sudhir Kulkarni, Senior Advisor, Naman HR

13. Practice empathy in the hiring process

Looking for a job is stressful and exhausting. Candidates often experience a feeling of unease, and it is crucial to alleviate their anxiety by keeping them informed and up-to-date with the progress. Honesty and transparency are essential, yet regrettably, many companies still linger in replying to candidates.

A job interview, the most distressing part of the recruitment, should be approached as an engaging conversation rather than a harsh interrogation. For example, instead of simply asking why one desires the job, exploring what motivates the individual is more advantageous for both parties.

Showing empathy and respect and creating a safe space for job-seeker to express their ideas fosters a comfortable and open environment. But it also offers long-term advantages to the company.

Suggested by Martyna Szczesniak, Community Expert, MyPerfectResume

Final Thoughts

Adopting a people-first HR strategy is a multi-dimensional effort that involves prioritizing employees' needs and regularly checking in on their well-being. In a post-pandemic world, focusing on the human side of HR is essential. By implementing these strategies, companies can increase employee satisfaction and retention, leading to a healthier work environment and enhanced productivity. Remember, your employees are not just assets; they are invaluable contributors who deserve to be treated with care and respect. Make them feel valued, and they will appreciate the organization in return, laying the foundation for mutual growth and success.

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