Employee Experience. How’s yours these days? I don’t mean your company’s. I mean YOURS.

I effectively asked this question in a survey I launched a few days ago. It’s still open, btw. So please don’t be shy in adding your thoughts to the growing pile of gold.

More specifically, I asked people to tell me: (1) what are the primary drivers of YOUR employee experience, (2) what is the biggest mistake companies are making in this area, and (3) what’s the one change you wish you could see implemented tomorrow?

While I don’t claim statistical validity in my sampling, the results, anecdotally, have been illuminating. And I sum them up for leaders in these four critical words:

Look Down. Not Up.

What I mean by this is simple: by and large, respondents are saying – no they are nearly yelling – that employee experience is influenced more than anything by their direct leader – and the biggest mistake companies are making is focusing on the highest level things – things like policy, “culture,” technology, compensation…

employee experience is influenced more than anything by their direct leader

And as a result, leaders are continuing to look up for solutions – look up for culture change, technology upgrades, and a change in pay philosophy.

But instead they should be looking down; Looking at the individuals on their teams who’ve said things (verbatim) like:

  • I want greater clarity in my role and contribution
  • I want to feel like leader understands how I want to be developed / recognized
  • I want to feel like his door is truly open so I can participate in decisions pertaining to my role and goals
  • I want to be equipped and supported
  • I want to participate in problem solving
  • I want meaningful work (to me) on my plate

And the biggest mistakes being cited?

  • Tying [employee experience] solely to company benefits
  • Relying on policies
  • Focusing on compensation which is important – but not driving my experience (in full disclosure one respondent did indeed cite pay as a key driver… but the majority cited it as a mistaken area of focus)
  • That [employee experience] is driven by perks or social activities

So what does all of this mean, practically speaking?

  1. It means enterprise leaders need to start reframing the conversation around employee experience, pushing accountability to the leaders of teams. This doesn’t mean letting go of culture change. But it means focusing on the ground in parallel with longer-term plans.
  2. It means leaders of teams need to take ownership of the crafting of employee experiences. Don’t assume one size fits all. Have meaningful dialog with individuals and teams.
  3. It means employees themselves need to take a stand. Don’t wait for a 3-year culture transformation to play out. Know what you want. Advocate for yourselves. Make it happen.
  4. It means we all need to be sharing ideas, successes, failures, best and worst practices. There is limitless potential in a shared experience. Let’s craft it together.