Employee Ethnography: Transforming Your Employee Experience


Maximizing “customer experience” has long been a cornerstone of successful organizations. We create customer personas and map each touchpoint of the customer journey, knowing that perfecting those touch points translates into customer loyalty. The methodology in its most advanced research form is considered “Customer Ethnography”

Enter “Employee Experience” and “Employee Ethnography” a relatively, recent talent and culture reference that extends beyond employee engagement to focusing on the creation of a holistic employee experience.  If done correctly, that experience translates into not only engaging but also keeping top talent.

The data on employee experience indicates that today’s organizations have an engagement and experience problem, exacerbated by the global pandemic.  The sudden transition to hybrid working has been both a blessing and a curse.  It is a blessing that it saves time and productivity, but a curse in that employees are feeling scattered, disconnected and isolated like never before. Employees complain of tool fatigue and digital exhaustion and express their desire to feel effective, appreciated, productive and human.  Here are just a few data points:

  • Gallup asserts that disengaged employees can cost companies between $450 and $550 billion dollars a year.
  • IBM found that only 21% of employees would leave a company with great employee experience as opposed to nearly 50% on average.
  • The American Psychological Association reports that very few employees will leave an organization with excellent employee experience, and fully 89% would recommend others to join the company.
  • It is estimated that up to 40% of employees may now be seeking new opportunities as we have transitioned to hybrid working and employees are seeking a new and flexible workplace to call home.

Just as organizations have invested heavily in elevating their customer experiences with a detailed and anthropological study of customer behavior, so are organizations investing in the study of and creation of a holistic employee experience where people and technology work together to empower a culture of success.

What does that mean in practical terms?  It’s about organizations having focused awareness on the employee experience, identifying all touch points in the new hybrid world of work and seeking to Humanize it.

Here are 7 Touch points to examine in Your Employee Experience:

  1. Entry and Exit Points: We remember beginnings and endings.  How employees both begin and end their workday offer critical bookends for the employee experience. Review how you are conveying positive message points at the beginning and end of the day, both in person and in virtual workspaces.
  2. The Speed of Trust: Too often we doubt that our people care enough are doing enough or that things will work out.  This can apply equally up, down or across the organization. Nothing accelerates productivity like the speed of trust.   The hybrid workplace makes greater demands on our willingness to take a leap of faith. Examine how you convey trust in your employee’s ethics and commitment to their role and responsibilities.
  3. Asking for Help: Everyone loves a challenge and it surprises some people to discover that the paycheck is not the prime motivator for the majority of workers.  What matters most to people is feeling fulfilled.  Permission to innovate around challenges even in small ways inspires organizational commitment.  Make innovation a part of everyone’s daily work and watch the magic happen.
  4. Build Communities Not Just Workflows: One of the complaints about remote work is zoom fatigue. And for good reason.  The answer isn’t holding more meetings.  Instead, be agile.  Have meetings that matter where true collaboration and yes, even fun happens.  Unpack your meetings to see if there is evidence that the meeting resulted in clear deliverables and that the meeting culture demonstrated compassion, kindness, consideration and mutual support.  In the hybrid workplace, virtual water coolers, wellness breaks and lunch and learn sessions can provide a space and place for connection and collaboration.
  5. Positive Negative Energy: Examination of exit interviews reveals that often employees leave not because of the work itself, but because of bad leaders.  The most frequent complaint: Lack of positive communication and reinforcement from their direct supervisor.  One best practice we use is that employees experience five positive touch points to every “Next Time” suggestion for performance improvement.  Recently one of our clients at a major creative studio noted that in the transition to remote work, she only hears from her supervisor when there’s a fire to put out or a problem to be solved.  Her employee experience “She loves her job but hates the negativity from her manager.  Accentuate the Positive!
  6. Tool Exhaustion and Multi-Tasking: Did you know that every time you switch from task to task you lose an estimated 45% efficiency?  As you walk through your employee experience, examine the wasted motion and brainpower required from multi-tasking and use of multiple tools in the course of your workflows.  This leading stressor detracts from a positive employee experience.
  7. Rewards and Recognition: Examine how you measure, reward and recognize employee contributions to projects, products and yes, new ideas and solutions.   Great leadership practices combined with advanced technology including AI and gamification make recognition a part of your organization’s culture of appreciation.

Awareness of your current employee experience in these 7 touchpoints review of the latest, enabling technologies and best leadership practices can transform your organization craft an employee roadmap to becoming a “Best Place to Work” and a holistic, positive, employee experience.

About the author: Bala Balasubramaniam is an author, an avid blogger, and frequently gives keynotes at summits & conferences focusing on Innovation, HR, Strategy, and Digital Transformation. He has championed Corporate Innovation programs and Employee Experience initiatives for eBay, PayPal, and LinkedIn. Bala founded InnovationMinds.com that provides the Ultimate Employee Experience Cloud Solution to help you make daily ENGAGEMENT your goal and practice, and INNOVATION as natural as breathing.

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