The employee journey: 5 questions for Sascha Becker and Wenda Bolink
1) There’s more and more talk about the employee journey. Why is it attracting so much attention?
Sascha: ’The importance of the employee journey and the translation to an optimal employee experience has been underestimated for a long time. And even now, organisations are still not paying enough attention to this and, in particular, take a fragmented approach to it. Even A brands that have a wonderful external image often don’t have the employee journey on the board’s agenda. It’s astonishing. Often, a business has an immediate recruitment requirement and so organisations quickly default to a tactical mode of ‘what-tools-can-I-use’. This may solve the short-term problem, but it doesn’t help you to win the ‘war for talent’ in the long term. Marketers have had a highly structured and well-thought-out approach to the customer journey for years. Looked at from that perspective, we are only just starting as far as the employee journey is concerned. Talent is scarce and, today, many different factors determine whether someone chooses a particular organisation. And stay with an organisation. Attracting, bonding with and retaining the right talent is essential. Also, having a good reputation and satisfied and loyal customers starts within the organisation, with your employees. They make the difference for your customers. Happy employees = Happy customers. Simple. And that gives the organisation long-term business value.’
Wenda: Exactly. But how do you ensure that scarce talent chooses you? That your employees give the best of themselves every day and fulfil your promise to your customers? And that if and when someone leaves your organisation they do so with a positive feeling? This requires a conscious and structural investment in improving the employee experience during the entire employee journey.’
2) So, the employee journey is some kind of holy grail?
Sascha: ‘The journey is a means and absolutely not a goal in itself. And the great thing about it, in fact, is that every organisation already has an employee journey – only they are often not aware of this and fail to invest sufficient time, money and attention in the ideal path this journey should take. Identifying the journey taken by an employee and future talent delivers a lot. It provides insight into the points to consider and it helps Communication and HR to determine priorities.’
Wenda: ‘It also creates consistency, especially if you take the promise you make to future and current employees as your starting point. If you make that promise part of every touchpoint and confirm it continuously throughout the journey. Do this and you tell a consistent story that you continuously give meaning to.’
3) That’s easier said than done. How do you put this into practice as an organisation?
Wenda: ‘There is no ‘one size fits all’, perfect interpretation of the employee journey. We can, however, identify a number of touchpoints in the three phases of the journey: orientation and application, working at the organisation, and leaving it. Things like looking at a ‘working at’ type section on your website, the job interview, the first working day, or an exit interview.’
Sascha: ‘On top of this, there are six factors that an organisation can work on to influence the employee experience. From leadership, to learning and developing to an empowering environment. We always advise clients to keep things manageable: to eat the elephant one bite at a time. So, investigate where the worst pain points are to be found – and so the biggest opportunities – and start working on these first, from the inside. First take your existing talent into your plans and ensure internal alignment because, after all, you have to make what you promise externally true internally.’
4) Clear. And who owns the employee journey?
Sascha:’ The top of the organisation is ultimately responsible. If they don’t believe in investing in the employee journey and don’t make it a priority, you might as well not bother. It won’t get beyond token gestures, becoming a plaything of Communication or HR that ultimately yields little. A waste of your time and budget. To not invest in the employee journey is to miss an opportunity. If you look at what aligned employees deliver for your organisation financially, and do your homework, then it becomes easy to make a convincing business case to your board and top management. Being able to talk money and how much business value you can create usually helps to quickly win over top management to your case.’
Wenda: ‘It’s the responsibility of HR and Communication to make senior management aware of this and encourage them to take ownership. This takes time, especially as the employee journey is still a fairly new concept in the Netherlands. Our experience is that you have to do a lot of lobbying; you are on a mission… But once you have commitment from the top, HR and Communication can work together to further flesh out and implement the journey. Both are important players who can reinforce and complement each other through close cooperation. The former can handle communication and the latter can think about what products to put on display in the ‘shop window’ and, eventually, design those products based on the needs, wishes and requirements of the organisation and its employees.’
5) Does the journey ever end?
Wenda: ‘In effect, there is no concrete end point for either employees or the organisation. Not even after someone leaves. In an ideal journey you stay in touch with ex-employees through, for example, alumni activities. The journey also never stops for the organisation. Investing in the employee journey is something for the long term. The needs of employees change constantly, new generations enter the labour market and developments in the labour market never stop.’
Sascha: ‘This means that, as an organisation, you must place and keep the employee journey on the agenda. Structurally. And you must constantly respond to a changing world; changing wishes, needs and trends. You have to work continuously on all the factors that ensure that talent feels connected and involved, because only then will you get everything out of what is your company’s most valuable asset now and in the future: your people.’