As a new trend sweeps through workplaces around the globe, HR leaders and executives alike have been turning their attention and focus towards the Employee Experience. Over the past few years we have been watching this particular topic gain popularity due to the changing landscape of today’s job market, with a skilled labor deficit, or a “Skills Gap” leaving many positions unfilled. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the number of open positions for which employers have not found “qualified” applicants has increased by two million since 2009. And in 2013 the World Economic Forum found “chronic labor market imbalances” to be an increasingly likely and disruptive force in global business”. 1
In this highly competitive climate, we have begun to see a gradual power shift away from employers, and into the hands of employees. As skilled workers become a hot commodity, companies have begun to concentrate on developing new and innovative ways of attracting and retaining top talent. As a result many HR leaders have moved away from a focus on service delivery and cost reduction, turning instead toward building great employee experiences. 2 What many leaders have found is that by taking this approach “they are able to objectively yet critically view their business practices, policies and procedures from the employee’s perspective, thus making the employee experience a driver for transformational change by both enhancing engagement and eliminating the causes of disengagement”. 3 According to a 2013 survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review, “they found that while most leaders understood the importance of employee engagement, three-quarters of those surveyed said that most employees in their organizations were not highly engaged. With this, a significant gap also showed up in the views of executive managers and middle managers. Top executives seemed much more optimistic about the levels of employee engagement in their company, making them seem out of touch with middle management’s sense of their frontline workers’ engagement.” 4
Through our research and work over the past 19 years as strategic consultants, we have watched things change and evolve. What we have realized over this time is that it really comes down to asking ourselves; “how do we leverage people’s strengths and keep them engaged and motivated while at the same time really valuing who they are?” This has led us to come up with a four- part approach that really goes hand in hand with issues like employee engagement and the employee experience. It involves developing your knowledge of Cultural Intelligence, Unconscious Bias, D&I, and Talent Development, to create a holistic vision for business in the future.
Below is a brief example of how developing knowledge in each of these four areas can give you the tools necessary to develop more effective initiatives in the workplace:
It is essential that leaders and management have Cultural Intelligence in order to engage employees from diverse cultural backgrounds. According to David Livermore president of the Cultural Intelligence Center, “ a diverse workforce, whose members have developed their cultural intelligence, is a more productive workforce and a diverse team with high cultural intelligence is guaranteed to outperform homogeneous teams. He defines cultural intelligence as “the gift of effectively interacting and working with people from diverse cultures.”5 With Cultural Intelligence we are able design and plan effective work- place initiatives that allow us to interact with employees and coworkers in a culturally conscious manner, helping us to effectively navigate new and existing cross cultural relationships. This can be particularly important during the recruiting process for example. Cultural Intelligence allows recruiters the ability to have a more in-depth knowledge and understanding when interviewing someone from a different cultural background so that they don’t miss out on hiring valuable talent.
Based on research done by leading psychologists Mahzarin R. Banaji from Harvard University, and Anthony G. Greenwald from the University of Washington, and there development of the Implicit Association Test (IAT), we now know that we all have hidden “biases that we carry with us based on our experiences with social groups, such as our age, gender, race, social class, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, disability status or nationality”. In business these hidden biases that can surface as “tendencies to harbor unconscious negative or positive prejudices about job applicants and workers, has become an emerging focus for HR departments, many of which are turning to training and consultants to educate managers about how this bias can affect hiring, promoting, mentoring, and firing”. 6
Diversity and Inclusion
When “organizations effectively capitalize on the strengths of all employees, and leverage their differences and unique values, they usually have the most engaged employees”. 7 Furthermore “when managers are attuned to the specific skills and practices required for guiding a diverse team, and when all employees understand the workplace’s culture and values and their role within it, a better ‘fit’ is achieved and employee engagement increases. In addition organizations that take diversity seriously and implement effective integration strategies have greater success in achieving optimal employee performance, and retention of staff.” 8
Is essential for “helping employees shape the future direction of their careers. Companies tend to pay a high price when they don’t take the time to focus on development, often resulting in the loss of top young talent. That is why it is so important that “managers take the person to person time to understand their employees, recognizing their skills and needs”, while helping them to grow within the company by giving them the tools that they need through training, mentoring and coaching. “This action intimately leads to long-term loyalty, engaged employees and an ability to create a workforce made up of long-term talent”. 9
We finish off this blog with a few words from Elaine Newman, Founder and CEO of Global Learning about why she feels that employee engagement and the employee experience is particularly relevant at this time……….
“Organizations that have gone through significant changes over the past number of years and become stronger, more innovative and competitive as a result realize that their greatest assets are their employees. While valuing the diversity of their people continues to be a priority, leading companies are now focused on furthering learning and experience for their employees in the areas of unconscious bias and cultural intelligence to create a truly inclusive organizational culture. These two areas are critical to the employee experience to take companies to the next level of excellence by ensuring that employees are not only aware of the various dimensions of diversity, but know how to apply that knowledge to strategy and action in the workplace, as well as the marketplace.”
To learn more about Global Learning’s expertise and programs related to the employee experience, contact us.