For almost 15 years, I’ve been helping employers do the best they can to make the workplace a better place to be. Helping organisations to deliver the best possible experience for their employees is something I’m passionate about, so I was delighted to get the opportunity to judge at this year’s UK Employee Experience Awards.

Ahead of the award ceremony, I was asked to judge two categories; Financial Services, and Internal Employee Recognition. The latter is something I’ve been really interested in, and is a fast-growing area. According to a 2014 HBR report, the most impactful driver of employee engagement is employee recognition.

Organisations that invest in employee recognition and ‘Years of Service’ programmes experience better results, a 2015 study by Globoforce found. Recognition schemes lead to higher retention rates, improved productivity and of course, employee engagement. Seeing so many organisations committing to showing their employees how valued they are, and encouraging this recognition to be driven by their peers was really great.

The first thing that stood out when I looked at the finalists was the widespread nature of the entries. Typically, people expect those employers who really value their employees to be like Google and Facebook, but this wasn’t the case.

From universities, to small health companies, to large financial institutions, there was a diverse range of organisations, all as passionate as I am about doing the right thing for their employees. This reflects a growing trend for employees that are no longer motivated by money, but by feeling appreciated and valued.

The second thing that stood out in the entries was the financial commitment that some organisations made to recognising their employees’ achievements.

Quite a few entries had, rather than buy an off-the-shelf products, commissioned their own bespoke platforms. The time and money committed to creating such large, tailored projects is to be commended. These organisations saw this project as an investment rather than a cost.

For those that didn’t have large budgets, it was encouraging to see so many companies working within the confines of limited resources to do whatever they could to improve the employee experience. Some came up with really simple, but engaging ideas; like a button to send an email to the CEO; hand written notes from the business owner; or, lunch with a leader. These were all things that cost little or nothing to implement, but had a big impact on those who benefitted from them.

Trust in the CEO is critical to good employee engagement. One of the reasons employees rate CEOs highly on Glassdoor is their personality and visibility within the organisation. Quoted by Glassdoor, Paul Winum, senior partner and global practice leader at RHR International, says, “The really great CEOs that develop stickiness for the workforce have some degree of personal visibility and accessibility.”

Of all the entries I judged, one thing was clear – these organisations weren’t improving the employee experience because it improved customer service or increased profits (these were by-products). They were improving it because it was the right thing to do.

These people felt passionate about what they were doing and passionate about making their employees feel valued. During the live presentations, the passion and enjoyment the teams had for their jobs and the schemes they’ve implemented was infectious. Many made the long trip to London from the North of England just to be able to tell the world what they had achieved.

The Future

Despite the widespread adoption of improving the employee experience, what was surprising was how many organisations still rely on old technology – or no technology at all – to deliver their employee experience or recognition schemes. In a world where the average person spends around 90 minutes a day on their mobile phone, organisations should start to consider how mobile technology could help them improve the employee experience. Enabling employees to nominate colleagues anytime of the day, whether they work at a desk or not, is the key to ensuring everyone can give and receive recognition easily.

The employee experience is one of the fastest growing global HR trends. Just like customer experience replaced customer service, employers are focussing on whatever they can to make sure they are an employer of choice.

As the war for talent continues and employees’ motivations change, employers need to be conscious that, if they are to attract and retain the best talent, they need to start making the whole experience of being an employee worthwhile and enjoyable.

“You customer experience will only be great if your employee experience is greater” – Carol Wain

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About The Author

Director of Ecosystems at Benefex

Gethin has assisted some of the world’s largest brands in their Employee Benefits and Employee Engagement strategies. With more than 15 years’ experience, Gethin is a frequent speaker and writer on the subject of global employee engagement, employee benefits and financial wellbeing, and has been published in The Financial Times, The Huffington Post and The Guardian.