Elevating Employee Experience [Psst…It Benefits The Company, Too]

Elevating Employee Experience [Psst…It Benefits The Company, Too]

In the first 10-14 days of working with a new organization I put together a comprehensive framework assessment of the key areas that need to be addressed for maximizing effectiveness  and productivity around the vital areas of leadership development and culture improvements inside an organization. I have been consulting, primarily,  for slightly longer than two years and though I go into each new role hoping to find something wildly different and unusual to work on…the fact is, that the issues across most organizations are the similar in the areas of leadership development & culture.

When I enter a new business and I start to authentically build relationships with the team members in the company – I see a high level [generally] of disengagement and apathy or complacency among the senior, mid, and junior level team members – however, there are some individuals that are pathologically self-motivating but most demand the organization provide them with all of their motivation and seek recognition for producing the bare minimum requirements. Something that the executive team is often strangely unaware of and – in some cases – happily oblivious to.

The team at SagePeople recently published a study surveying 3500 employees across the US, Canada, and the UK. Here were some of the most compelling statistics from this study:

  • More then one third of full-time employees admit to being productive less than 30 hours per week;
  • 78% of employees are more productive when their work experiences are positive [this increases to 92% for millennials];
  • Almost 50% of employees have never been asked how their workplace experience can be improved [Only 12% are asked this on a regular basis];
  • Over 66% of those surveyed, see being valued & recognized as the most important aspect of their day-to-day employment.

With all the information available to us, it’s – literally – impossible to ignore the evidence of the tremendous value to the bottom line [and direct correlation] that comes from placing importance on employee happiness/engagement. For example, the Harvard Business Review a while back included an analysis of hundreds of studies showing an average of 31% higher productivity, 37% higher sales, with creativity three times higher when employees actually enjoyed and found contentment with their workplace environment.

51% of the workforce is not engaged – Gallup

Discretionary Effort

90% of leaders think an engagement strategy has an impact on business success. But barely 25% of them have a strategy in place. [Source: Accor]

Discretionary Effort is defined as the elevated level of effort people could give if they wanted to, above and beyond the minimum required. You don’t have to be a leader for very long to recognize that there is huge disparity in how individuals behave, perform, and/or contribute in the workplace. Organizations that truly succeed at being great [however they define that for themselves], do so by achieving high standards and holding the individuals on their team accountable for behavior, performance, and contribution. This starts directly with hiring the right fit for the organization’s mission and values and placing people in the right roles to find success. Then, supporting their career journey with coaching and challenges that grow and drive their development and conveyable marketability.

37% of engaged employees are looking for jobs or watching for opportunities, as are 56% of not engaged and 73% of actively disengaged employeesGallup

Performing above a mediocre level occurs when an employee feels they are doing work that has meaning and purpose that is directly aligned with the team’s or organization’s goals and objectives. It happens – organically – when the team members feel inspired and motivated by their direct leader and the executive leadership team.  To meet or exceed high standards, and to deliver or not deliver discretionary effort, is a personal choice. This choice is made several times throughout a single day and in the moment for most employees. In my experience there are usually certain individuals in each workplace that consistently hold themselves to a very high standard, and often go above and beyond them simply because they demand it of themselves. These amazing people naturally behave, perform, and contribute in ways that make you appreciate them and value them. It is just who they are and how they operate. We cannot take this employee’s performance for granted and they need to be appreciated every day for their performance.

That is not, unfortunately, the norm in most workplaces so we need to have an engagement vision and strategy in place that makes it worthwhile for the average employee to deliver results and contribution that are over and above the minimum level of performance and productivity.

Maximizing Your Efforts To Create A Happy Workplace

Only 10% of employees rate their employee experience a 10 out of 10 – YouEarnedIt

According To Psychologist Ron Friedman, author of “The Best Place To Work” – here are some of the important factors for executive leaders to be aware of when it comes to creating a culture of employee engagement:

  • Reward Frequency Is More Important Than Size: Business feedback indicates that smaller but frequent positive feedback, encouragement, and rewards will keep people happy and engaged longer than a single large but infrequent happy event. Even the biggest awards or raises “wear out” in less than a year, with most employees responding better to small doses every few days. Quantity over quality and keeping it consistent and fun is what the team members respond best to.
  • Positive Event Variety Prevents Complacency: People tend to discount and become bored around events that happen repeatedly, no matter how positive they are. An analogy to this is — the value and excitement about going away on vacation is that it breaks the routine of everyday life, as well as making you recognize the pleasures of being back home. At work, variety could mean unique events or awards each month that break the monotony and bourgeois of each day and that bring fun and excitement to the week or month to keep people engaged and delighted.
  • Unexpected Positive Experiences Deliver A Greater Impact: When something surprising happens in our pedestrian day, our brains automatically pay closer attention, bringing to these events a larger emotional weight. That being the case, it behooves leader to make positive surprises more frequent to override the occasional and largely unavoidable chaotic or confused moments that we experience on a frequent basis.
  • New Life Experiences Have A Larger Impact Than Material Rewards: Employee feedback indicates that providing new, unique, and positive life experiences [a hot-air balloon ride or family-focused gifts (such as, tickets to Disneyland or gift cards for dinner & movies for the employee and their family] tends to provide a greater happiness boost than spending a comparable amount on simply material objects [i.e. tablets or laptops, etc.].
  • Happiness Can Be Triggered Outside Conscious Awareness: Music can lift employee moods unconsciously, as can scent [I love working with with AromaTech]. Smart retail stores, luxury resorts, and theme parks frequently use “scent marketing” to put customers in positive moods and to increase their optimism and willingness to spend. This same philosophy can be applied to the workplace through the use of scent and music to bring a higher level of happiness and productivity to the team members.
  • Recognition Of Job Accomplishments Leads To Higher Job Appreciation: Businesses need to spend more effort actively soliciting feedback.  paying attention, and taking action around employee suggestions and achievements, rather than a continuous focus on what’s not done or things that don’t bring value to the results. Asking about achievements in a group setting encourages colleague-to-colleague recognition and gratitude expression, which catches on and can by a huge catalyst for productivity, collaboration, and innovation.

Believe it or not, it is absolutely possible for employees of all levels to be both happy and productive. As business leaders certainly know…happy employees lead to higher productivity, which leads to greater success, and greater success leads to strong results. Research also shows that when team members are happy at work, they are better collaborators, communicators, and work more diligently to achieve common objectives and values alignment. That means it pays to elevate people’s mood at the start of each team effort by using good news, recognition, subconscious awareness, positive and energizing communication and/or an interactive activity to create excitement, camaraderie, and drive results.

As leaders we are responsible for the environment our team functions within each day. We must be extremely thankful for the highly productive, self-motivated go-getters on our team and we must inspire and drive results [and create accountability] from both our high-potential and average team members so that everyone is contributing at the same level. We need to – consistently – create a culture of recognition and appreciation to drive results and galvanize productivity and happiness as it benefits the organization’s growth and sustainability in the long term when people feel connected to – and appreciated by the organization’s leaders.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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