How to Support a Diverse Workforce
Employees are no longer just another cog in the machine; the “workplace as an experience” movement is seeing companies focus on creating a positive employee experience, from recruitment to retirement, just as they would focus on creating a positive customer experience.
But while 83% of HR leaders believe employee experience is either important or very important to their organization’s success, many don’t know where to begin. This is often the case with a diverse workforce with vastly different needs and expectations.
For example, the construction and manufacturing industries commonly struggle with issues related to age gaps. As up to five generations may be present in any one workplace, deciding on the best initiatives to implement becomes very difficult. As a result, employee experience can end up being designed around the majority demographic, which overlooks staff members who don’t fit that description and negatively impacts the working experience.
Read on to understand why cultivating employee experience is so important, and to discover how to craft your own – no matter how diverse your workforce is.
The Importance of Cultivating the Right Employee Experience
Cultivating a positive employee experience leads to more engaged employees, and there are many, many reasons that’s good for your company. Here are a few:
- There’s a correlation between happy employees and happy customers. In a 2016 study, Temekin Group found that companies with great customer service had one-and-a-half times as many engaged employees as companies with poor customer service.
- Happy and engaged employees are more productive than disengaged employees. A 2017 study by Gallup showed that companies with low employee engagement suffered 18% less productivity and 16% less profitability over time.
- Engaged employees tend to perform better in the workplace. The same Gallup study found that disengaged employees have 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and make 60% more mistakes than engaged employees.
- Disengaged employees cost money. A lot of it. Disengaged employees are estimated to cost American companies between $450-$550 billion a year in lost productivity.
Despite all these benefits, employee disengagement is a problem few companies have managed to solve; only 33% of US workers are engaged at their jobs and 87% of employees are disengaged globally.
This is why employee experience matters so much. Employees who have a positive experience in their organizations are much more likely to believe their place in the organization has value, which is a driving factor behind employee engagement.
Fostering a Positive Employee Experience
Creating the ideal employee experience for a diverse workforce starts with embracing diversity. You need to build it into each facet of your staff’s working lives, instead of tacking it on later as an afterthought to cover all bases.
To do this, you can break down the employee experience to get a feel for the kind of initiatives you could offer in each area. Some examples might include:
Day-to-Day Work: Give your employees opportunities to take on special projects. Have teams work together rather than in silos, which can create a feeling of separateness. Ideally, your management team is diverse, so they understand the needs of diverse employees and can effectively lead, motivate, and support their teams.
Work Environment: Ensure your physical and virtual environments are enjoyable and accommodating of any special needs your employees may have. Try to adapt to changing employee needs and welcome different perspectives and backgrounds. In fact, when hiring, actively seek diverse candidates – after all, more diverse companies are likely to be more financially successful.
Training and Development: Clearly communicate to your employees how their work fits into your organization’s vision and goals. Give all employees opportunities to continue learning and developing new skills. Training on cultural/generational differences and communication styles can help diverse employees understand each other better.
Compensation and Benefits: Design benefits with consideration to various employee needs and desires. You can offer flexible hours, health programs, and family benefits, as well as perks, such as corporate tickets to sports games or concerts, that appeal to employee interests.
Now that you have an idea of the types of inclusive initiatives you can offer at your organization, it’s time to refine them into a full, personalized employee experience.
Tailoring the Employee Experience
You may already be familiar with customer journey mapping, which is used to tailor the customer experience in the world of marketing. What you might not know is that this framework is also very effective for customizing your employee’s experience. If you’re still struggling to decide which initiatives to implement in your organization, this is a simple yet thorough way to work it out.Create two or three employee personas with the characteristics, desires, and needs of two or three types of employees you have. For example, if you’re a construction company with employees in multiple age groups, you may want to create personas for a Millennial, a Gen X, and a Baby Boomer.Then outline each of the stages the typical employee will go through at your organization. This is the employee journey, and it will look something like this:
- Ongoing engagement and involvement in the organization
- Rewards and recognition
- Retirement, termination or resignation
Consider how well each stage cultivates the desired employee experience and meets the needs of your personas. For instance, if job postings are advertised in trade magazines without a peep on social media, your recruitment stage may not be aligning with how millennials find jobs. The ways in which a Baby Boomer and a millennial want to be recognized could be extremely different.
Take the time to deeply reflect on your employee journey and ask yourself the following questions:
- Does each stage meet all employee needs?
- Where are you falling short when it comes to addressing employee needs or cultivating the desired culture?
- Is your employee journey designed for a certain type of employee, risking alienation of other employees?
This process should be research-heavy, relying on employee data and interviews. Current employees have valuable insight, clearly, but don’t neglect exit interviews with former employees to see which parts of the employee experience they said did and didn’t work for them.
Crafting the employee experience for a diverse workforce is a big job, but it’s a worthwhile one. Take the time to do it well and you’ll see employee engagement deepen among all employees, regardless of age, gender, or race.
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Chris Lennon is Vice President of Product Management at BirdDogHR. He is responsible for ensuring the BirdDogHR Talent Management System meets the needs and exceeds the expectations of our customers. He does this by working directly with customers and partners, identifying key market opportunities, developing product strategies and bringing...