We’ve all heard the expression: “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” But do we really take to heart what that actually means? It speaks to the variability of the human experience and, in a business context, the variability of the employee experience. Everyone that you’ve ever employed, or will employ, is on their own personal journey through life and their career.
How will your portion of their road stack up against the other important aspects of their life? Will your company stand out as a memorable and valued experience, or will it be that dismal swampy part nobody is allowed to mention? To figure that out, we need to first ask: why does it matter?
Why the employee journey matters
Nobody wants to work in an unpleasant work environment. The only reason people remain in unhappy circumstances is because they haven’t yet found a suitable alternative – whatever that may mean for them. So, if your company is an unhappy environment, you will, eventually, lose talent to your competition, or other industries entirely.Of course, it’s not just the staff turnover that matters, it’s also their productivity. We cannot stress this enough: happy employees = productive employees. It’s an infallible equation. So, it’s genuinely worth your while to make sure your employees are happy. And part of that is going to the effort to make sure their journey is as smooth as possible – at least those parts that you can control. Here are the four most important milestones, that you as employer can ensure are pleasantly memorable.
Step 1: Onboarding
How ready you are for the new employee can set a definite tone for the rest of their journey. Let’s compare two people’s experiences on their first day at work.
When Felix arrives for his new call centre job, he is greeted at reception by his new team leader. Together, they go through the company’s onboarding process, including organising parking and access cards, and going through the job requirements. When they pause for lunch, Felix’s manager takes him to the canteen area. Here, he introduces him to his colleagues. After lunch, everyone heads back to work, and Felix spends the afternoon familiarising himself with the work.
Andrea, on the other hand, is starting a data entry job. She has been waiting for over an hour for her new manager to come and fetch her. By the time she is shown to her desk, with a cursory stop to point out the kitchen and toilets, everyone has gone to lunch. She is left alone, unable to log onto her computer and unsure what to do. Later, when the manager has a moment, she is shown what is required, then left alone to work.
The big difference between these two cases is that Felix’s employer had clear, definite onboarding procedures in place. There was a checklist of things that his direct supervisor needed to ensure were dealt with, and a timeframe within which to do them. The net result was a welcoming, productive first day for Felix, and a waste of time and resources, as well as a sense of abandonment, for Andrea.
Step 2: Acclimating
Every company’s culture is different, and new employees need to spend time getting used to it and fitting in. It’s important for managers and supervisors to recognise this and cultivate an atmosphere of inclusion and mutual support.
One-on-one engagement with new employees can help ensure they are coping with their work and integrating into their team. That said, remember that the rest of the team also needs to adjust. Make sure any issues or difficulties come to light in a productive, helpful way.
Team size and distribution can influence communication. You may want to consider anything from one-on-one meetings or video calls, to group surveys. It all depends on what you want to achieve.Just remember to always keep engaging with your people to ensure they are coping with their ever-changing work environment.
Step 3: Navigating
No matter how well you plan any journey, you cannot predict when and where speed bumps and potholes will appear. Nevertheless, you can be prepared for the results of these obstacles, like carrying a spare tyre.
The types of obstacles that can occur in an employee journey are many. They can vary from disciplinary hearings to parental leave or from dispute mediation to subsidised studies. Fortunately, in most cases, these obstacles can be navigated by having robust policies and procedures in place.
Thankfully, South Africa is a country with a very clear, inclusive and fair labour law. There are also very clear guidelines on what policies and procedures may or may not include. That takes care of many of these speed bumps. However, there are also plenty of grey areas, where an employer has leeway to customise company policies. For example, does the company provide paid parental leave, or just guarantee your job back? Does the company offer subsidised training, or only study leave?
Make sure all employees have access to all policies and procedures, and that these are written in plain language. By ensuring fair and equitable treatment, you again help smooth the employee journey.
Step 4: Disembarking
When and how your employees leave will, for the most part, be up to them. By the time you receive their resignation, there will be very little you can do to dissuade them. This is why we strongly encourage you to work on keeping employees happy. Happy employees are not just productive, they’re also more loyal and more inclined to innovate on your behalf.
That said, even if you’ve done everything right, at some point, your employees will leave. They may find a new job, enter a different phase of their lives, or they might be retiring. They may have health issues, or they might choose to start their own business. Whatever the reason, it behooves you to understand why they are going, and what their employee experience was like..
Always conduct a thorough exit interview with your soon-to-be-ex employees. Find out what you did right and wrong, if anything. Get suggestions on how to improve and then – this is the important part – implement those changes that work! Don’t just do a quick interview and call it quits, use it as a learning and growth opportunity.
These are just four of the most recognisable way stations in the employee journey. There are, of course, many more. The more you engage with your employees, the better you will be able to navigate that journey with them.
At Tenaka, we believe in positive employee experiences, right from their very first day. Talk to us about employee happiness and how to communicate with your team.