Four employee experience myths that must be tackled

Leah Johnson, vice president of advisory at Gartner, outlined the popular myths that HR should be aware of around employee experience

There are four common myths about employee experience that HR should be aware of, according to Johnson. Speaking at Gartner's ReimagineHR conference, she said that falling for these myths can be damaging to an organisation’s overall success.

“Myths matter. They can make us worry about things that we don’t need to worry about, and ignore the things that we do need to worry about, and spend money you shouldn’t spend,” she said.

Johnson pointed to Gartner research that found employee experience was consistently a top three concern for HR. Its survey found that only 15% of workers are largely satisfied with their experience at work, 63% are somewhat satisfied and 22% are largely dissatisfied.

With such a large proportion not fully satisfied its vital that HR understands what employees really want from their employers. Johnson went on to explain the truth behind each myth.

Myth one: What employees want from their employee experience has fundamentally changed

Johnson said that a consumer-driven culture means it can be easy to assume employees are motivated by perks, but actually this isn’t the case.

“Our research found that more than 90% of HR leaders say employees' experiences have changed because of their experiences as consumers. This makes sense because of companies like Amazon, which can predict what people want and get it to them in less than two days,” she said.

“We see companies offering all sorts of perks, like financial bonuses for taking vacation and 'fur-tenity leave', which offers staff time off if they get a new pet.”

But these perks aren't what workers really want, she said, pointing to research that showed that in 2013, 2016, and 2018 compensation, work/life balance and stability were the top three priorities for employees.

Myth two: It is the sole responsibility of managers to deliver on employee experience

Employees should be given more control and responsibility to deliver the experience that’s right for them, Johnson said.

“Many assume that if people want to enjoy a more personalised experience at work then that’s up to the managers. It turns out that this is also about the employees themselves,” she explained.

“Employees actually want to own and drive their own experience. Who could know more about what they want from the workplace than themselves? Only around a third of employees think that their managers understand their personal goals, so how could they know what’s right for them?"

Johnson urged HR to give people the chance to tailor their own experiences: “We also know that more than half of employees know they too are responsible for their own experiences, and this is great news. So in HR we need to make sure that we are giving employees the choices to do what’s right for them, feel empowered, and to create the experience that feels right for them.”

Myth three: Engagement tells us everything we need to know about the employee experience

Johnson said that it’s possible to be highly engaged but also have a poor experience at work. “When we’re looking at employee experience we use engagement as a way to see what’s working. But we might be disappointed. The relationship is not as strong as we might think it is. There are still a lot of highly-engaged employees who can still have a poor experience at work," she said.

HR needs to measure more than just engagement, she added: "The employee experience can feel like an overwhelming topic because it covers so much ground. We need to look at different measures, like productivity, and look at specific questions on employee experience in our surveys.”

Myth four: Responsiveness and speed are everything

Finally, Johnson warned against over-investing in tools that provide instant feedback because they often don’t offer a full picture of employee experience.

“It makes sense that employers think if there’s a problem with employee experience then they need to know about it quickly, and they need to fix it quickly. We think speed is key so we invest in HCM systems to give us real-time feedback, but faster isn’t always better,” she said.

The customer experience provides a good example of how employee experience is less instant than many think, Johnson added. “People tend to have instant reactions, but what really matters is how they feel around three to six months later in terms of their memories of a customer service experience. The same holds true with employees; you won’t always get the most important or meaningful feedback right away," she said.

"You want to capture the more salient relevant feedback that comes later on. So you don’t need to obsess over or overspend on real-time feedback, which can actually just focus on momentary feelings and ultimately lead you astray.”