An employee journey maps the route to improved employee experiences

Working mother at dining room table with children

Considerable time is spent on the customer journey, but what do we know of our employee journey?

A fascinating thing about the #greatresignation is watching it unfold in real-time on our social media feeds. Sure my LinkedIn feed was filled with connections graciously announcing their big moves, but on channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit, there’s been much more candour about the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I read how one woman in my network’s decision to leave her tech job was contributed to by her (now previous) company’s switch from Slack to Microsoft Teams. That’s right – in part, she would rather quit her job than use Teams. 

Resigning over a tool may strike you as melodramatic. And this is not an article to debate the pros and cons of Slack or Teams. But underneath the disdain for a piece of software lies a much more significant issue at the heart of the #greatresignation. And that’s that too many companies have not evolved their employee experience to align with the times. 

Studies show that, above all, what employees today want is the flexibility to do their work on their terms. Not swag. Not lunches. Not cocktail hours. They’re willing to put in the hours, to blur the lines between home life and work-life as they have for the last three years, in exchange for respect for that personal time.

This woman knew that having to work in Teams would make her already very full days more difficult.

Management probably assumed that it wouldn’t make much difference whether folks were working in Slack or Teams. And if this woman had the opportunity to share her concerns with management, it was likely too late or they switched anyway because it would look better on the company’s balance sheet.  

Now, of course, no single tool is a panacea for all a company’s employee experience problems. But the decision to switch a loved tool – or keep a hated one – hints at a larger lack of understanding about how to make the employee’s job easier, so they can get their life back.  

When you have a tool or process that makes their job harder, it’s going to spark anger. It says that your employees don’t matter. That resentment is what contributes to resignation. The reverse is also true – a ham-fisted toolset can make your roles unappealing to potential recruits. 

What makes this all the more interesting is that leadership teams spend considerable resources studying, mapping, and improving the customer journey. Think about how you go about picking your customer support tool – something your customers will see and interact with. So you’re going to put a lot more consideration into which tool you choose, rather than simply whether it has a good service contract and price point. 

But thinking about the employee journey is equally important. 

  • How much do you know about the interactions an employee makes during a given day? 
  • How well do you understand what frustrates them? 
  • How do you know what makes their day a good or bad one? 
  • Do you know what tools they’d quit their job over?

I’d argue that we haven’t talked much about the employee journey because we assume we know what it’s like to be in their seat. We probably did their job at one point in our career. And if we haven’t, HR’s done enough surveys for us to know that they’re doing “fine.”

But the flaw in that strategy is that the last three years have dramatically changed how employees do their jobs. So even if you did do the job at one point, odds are, the experience is not the same. And we all know that internal surveys will only tell a portion of the story, especially if that survey is done by HR or a reporting manager. Too many employees do not want to rock the boat.  

Mapping the employee journey requires similar methods and approaches that you take to understand your customer base – user research studies, generative and design thinking workshops to understand the process and solutions approach. 

Taking the time to validate the employee journey demonstrates that you actually care.  It’s not about being right or wrong – it’s just demonstrating that you care by simply asking the question: “How could I make your day easier?”

Much like a customer journey, once you mapped all of the processes and tools that support the employee journey, you can more thoughtfully consider what’s working and what could be a point of friction. That may not be the cheapest tool. Slack is expensive when you’ve got other Microsoft programs running. But while being fiscally responsible makes sense, if it’s at the cost of your retention and productivity, you have to ask yourself if that million dollars on the balance sheet really adds up.    

In our experience, it’s also not the number of tools that frustrate employees, either. It’s how those tools integrate together. In other words, an employee is generally happy to have an extra tool or step in the process if it saves them time overall. 

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