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How to cook up an enviable employee experience

(Story by Henry Albrecht, Limeade CEO, originally appeared in HR.com)

Changing the future of work requires changing how we think about work. I strongly believe this means CEOs and leaders must invest boldly and authentically in their people. And have the courage to evolve how we serve our employees to achieve greatness.

At Limeade, my employee experience is built by the thousands of interactions I have every week with my company, my work and the people around me. It’s freeing to know I don’t have to be perfect — but it’s critical that 90 percent of these interactions are real and positive. As leaders, the more intentional we are about turning a random employee experience into one curated by a thousand little moments that cares for people, the better our company, our culture and our business will be.

And our leaders look a little more like heroes than hypocrites.

Unfortunately, today most companies don’t think this way. Not that they don’t try — but instead of bold and authentic, they often settle for what we have always done here. How often has your employee been invited to a team activity only to find that it conflicts with a company-sponsored event? How many different groups are rolling out new technologies with similar capabilities? How many times do you deliver a new profit-enhancing strategy without a connection to the purpose of that strategy? How bad is your remote employee experience? These are just small symptoms of a fragmented employee experience.

This fragmentation is often the result of a rigidly siloed HR organization, with separate goals and budgets that inherently divide the employee experience. A siloed approach breeds internal riffs as leaders compete for employee attention, technology support, financial resources and more, while the employee experience becomes an afterthought.

Instead of a company-centric structure that optimizes entrenched budgets, everything we as HR leaders do should put the employee and their experience at the center. (This is a revolution that happened in ‘customer experience’ over the last 20 years — with crystal clear winners and losers. Anyone hungry for an Apple?)

It’s no secret that today’s employees expect relevant, consumer-grade experiences at work. Building an amazing employee experience takes leadership support, an intentional culture, defined roles, a clear sense of common purpose, coordinated technology and much more. Oh, and very careful employee listening.

But most importantly, to create an amazing experience for employees, leaders need to be intentional every step along the way — from the first interview and onboarding, to performance management, to all of the ups and downs of careers, market shifts and life changes, to the exit interview. Even the pre- and post-employment phases — think recruiting and the alumni network experience — matter to your employer brand. Building this intentional employee experience isn’t easy. How do you create a fully integrated, supportive and consistent employee experience that’s truly relevant for employees?

The answer, HR leader, is you.

After all, you’re in charge of your company’s most valuable asset: your people. You can elevate discussions, break down silos and get people working together. You can evolve your employee programs to create one awesome employee experience that your people and your business will love.

Here’s four tips on how to break down HR silos to build an enviable employee experience:

Map it out
Take a look at your day-today employee experience and the larger vision. Lay out the programs that support your vision and the different roles managers, leaders and others play.

What does each program ask employees to do? Are they connected to the larger company vision? Do employees see them as a benefit or a burden? Where are you overloading people with info about multiple disparate programs or mixed messages about the important topics? What’s under-communicated?

Answer these questions to highlight gaps and potential opportunities to coordinate efforts. Having a visual map, a system and process audit — and some color-coding of green zones and red flare-ups — is a great way to share a starting point with your team and the C-suite. Then simply prioritize the opportunities — pay attention to the low hanging fruit for some quick wins that could help both people and profits. This helps you get buy-in to your process.

Get to know your neighbors
With your audit underway, you’ll quickly realize you can’t do this alone. It’s truly a team effort. And it’s better that way. Who are the other HR leaders who bring the employee experience to life? Have you met them, broken bread, shared a coffee?

Consider hosting a lunch to discuss potential connection points between well-being, engagement, diversity and inclusion, recognition, communications, learning, compliance, benefits and more. Ask their vision and their goals — and then listen. How can you help each other? Are there opportunities to align efforts? What large company-wide initiatives can be woven across all the programs? How can these programs integrate to support each other and the larger employee experience? When you work together, the results will follow.

Tip: Do the first summit with your HR colleagues. Then, once you’re all on the same page, do a second one with your line-of-business leader colleagues.

Plan Together
While it’s great to start looking for ways to connect programs and make them feel coordinated, it’s lightyears better to plan for the future alongside other HR leaders. And instead of focusing on each program, focus on the employee first. How can you co-create strategies that elevate the employee experience? How can siloed programs come together and strengthen each other? This is the riskiest of all the suggestions to your career: it requires you to optimize for the whole company over your silo. But with no career risk comes no career gain.

With more focus on supporting your people, you must look beyond your department to create relevant experiences. Look for ways to optimize logins, common business insights, seamless UX experiences, privacy and security, too.

Coordinate communications
Before you launch new coordinated programs or experience initiatives, you’ll want a cohesive roll out strategy to reinforce consistency and demonstrate the importance of the program for the company. The real purpose.

Recruit leaders and managers to not only help rally employees, but to demonstrate their authentic support to make a positive, purposeful, caring employee experience a natural part of the company culture. (If you’ve followed the other steps listed above, your CEO should want to help.) Overtime, it will become less about the program elements and more about, “How we do things around here.” Or how I like to say it, “How we win around here.”

Organizations that invest in an intentional employee experience are industry leaders and outperform their peers in key people and business objectives. They’re also widely acknowledged as great places to work — the ultimate goal.

What have you done to boost your employee experience? Let me know in the comments below.