Throughout our assessments and consulting projects, a term we often use early on is Experience Now. This is the current picture of sentiment within your organisation. In other words, it's how employees feel about you now. In many cases, organisations have some idea of this already. Csat surveys, a recognised way of measuring satisfaction after a transaction, can be used to gain insight into the wants, needs and general sentiment of employees and customer. However, as we've covered before, csats don't, and aren't necessarily designed to, provide a regular and current picture of experience. Experience is the result of many transactions and interactions over time rather than a snapshot.
When it comes to XLAs, understanding the Experience Now is crucial if you want to accurately design ambitions for the improvement of experience. If you do not understand how employees are feeling, you can't effectively fix the source of their poor sentiment. Even worse, you may end up spending resources on fixing issues that turn out not to be a problem, all due to a lack of current and regular sentiment data.
So we know what sentiment is and we know what Experience Now, but what happens if you don't have any sentiment data with which to draw that picture of experience? There may be rumblings of poor sentiment but not the recorded means to know. In this case, we need to look outwards, as well as possibly conduct our own internal investigation. Here are 3 strategies to gain organisational sentiment where internal resources are sparse.
Look to External Sources
Social media and aggregate sites can be an excellent source of sentiment data. They can provide an archive of sentiment from past employees as well as current employees, granting you possible access to current sentiment. Contrary to what you might think, research points to people being more honest online than in reality. Whilst this applies usually to email and text, the same principles can be applied to aggregate review sites and social media like LinkedIn. The portrayal of our lives on these site may be inaccurate, but the lack of a time limit given to provide feedback on something means we can provide the kind of articulated responses we may not be able to give at a moment's notice in reality. There is also the fact that comments written online can be used as proof of lying, hence our inclination not to do it on the web.
Therefore, lacking any internal sentiment, explore sites like Glassdoor to see if there exists an online consensus around particular subjects such as recommending the organisation to friends as a place to work or general keywords to be found in reviews of the company. Understanding this might provide you with the means to understand where sentiment might be poorest. In the same vein, doing a company search on LinkedIn may also provide insights. People on LinkedIn tend to portray the brighter side of work, but seeing the kind of posts that employees are liking, for example, may provide some insight into the kind of things they want or need more of in your organisation. The main disadvantage with this approach is that you may find poor sentiment recorded months or years ago. If this is the case, you could use any identified themes as a theoretical basis and try out the next strategy.
MBWA - Management by Wandering Around
If the sentiment isn't coming to you, go to the sentiment. A style of management we explored in our article on Rust Out, MBWA is exactly what it sounds like - where management wanders around the organisation to get an understanding of how employees they aren't typically surrounded by, but are ultimately responsible for, feel. How you might gain sentiment here is simply by talking to employees as they work, preferably in a variety of tasks, in order to understand sentiment as people interact with those components that contribute to their experience. In other words, speak to employees whilst they are using a work-critical piece of technology to gain sentiment while it's fresh in their mind. Ask how they feel about things and why they feel this way.
Now, it's possible employees may not be entirely honest in this situation. Not many people feel comfortable expressing poor sentiment about their job directly to their managers, especially if it implies a lack of productivity. Therefore, the person conducting this style of sentiment gathering should first preface it by explaining how this won't reflect negatively on employees. In fact you may want to mention that the sentiment you gather will go towards trying to improve the employees' experience in the long term.
Design the Means to Measure Experience Now
It's possible the first two methods may be unreliable. There is still the chance that people do not give accurate information online behind their, in some cases, anonymity. In the same vein, employees may be less likely to raise concerns about their experience to management due to a perceived power dynamic. This may be even more likely for an organisation not currently gathering sentiment. If the precedent, or culture, for gathering and acting upon experience doesn't fully exist, employees may not consider this attempt to be genuine.
Therefore, do not rule out the possibility that you may need to create your own organisational survey first. This does not need to be perfect, and there exist many tools that can assist in creating them. From highly customisable premium tools to free-to-use tools like Google Forms, there exist many option for designing your own Experience Now survey. The difficulty here arises if you aren't aware of what people are unhappy of. It is through measures like MBWA and trawling aggregate site that you can discover the kinds of subjects you may want to ask about, hence why this option is our final one.
If there is no reliable information to be found from the first two options, basing your survey on the murmurs that led you to want to understand your Experience Now is still appropriate. It may be the important first step in improving employee experience. We won't cover all the survey best practices here, but for a first-time survey about current sentiment, base your questions around the services that your employees interact with. These may be essential tools they use or equipment they're provided with. Design the survey with closed-questions and use one open-ended question to receive the why behind the sentiment. This enables you to generate the quantitative data that is easy to categorise as well as the thoughts and feelings behind them. These categories and the thoughts behind them enable you to really consider what seems to be the most important concerns around experience, and therefore, what you may centre your XLA on.
As with all forms of investigation, using a variety of these strategies is best if possible. The more context you can build in understanding your Experience Now, the higher the chance of designing experience ambitions that relate to the actual wants and needs of your employees. If you are finding it a challenge to implement experience management in your organisation, Bright Horse can help. From understanding Experience Now up to designing XLAs and beyond, we have it covered. You can see our consultancy options for more information or get in touch to chat about all things experience.