The difference between company culture and employment experience — and why many companies get it wrong
Austin Business Journal Leadership Trust
We’ve all heard about companies that go above and beyond in building their corporate culture. Today, companies are competing for the best talent in a limited (and frankly more selective) labor pool. Companies are doing everything they can to attract that talent. Job postings often showcase their “great culture” with offerings such as:
• Robust 401K and health plans, generous amounts of family leave and paid time off, competitive salaries, performance bonuses
• Wellness perks like gym memberships or an onsite fitness center, healthy food offerings, free or subsidized meals
• Amenities that make the office an enjoyable place to be such as game rooms, coffee bars, nap pods, or entertainment areas
• Employee discounts, Appreciation Programs, and tuition reimbursement
• Work from home flexibility
• Charitable donation matching and/or corporate programs that support the community, the environment or other causes
• An uplifting and positive corporate mission or philosophy
So, if you’ve checked off all the above, you should have plenty of applicants and happy employees who plan to stay, right? Not necessarily.
Company culture versus the total employee experience
Don’t get me wrong — all the above are wonderful. Applicants look for companies with these outstanding benefits and perks, and employees enjoy them. However, many companies make the mistake of only focusing on developing their culture, which is only the beginning. They forget about the total employee experience, which is ongoing. While there are cultural elements to the total employee experience, it’s not the same as the company culture.
The employment experience begins with an applicant’s first interactions with your company. Is it a pleasant process? Are company representatives responsive, answering questions fully? How does someone feel as they are brought in to interview? What impressions do they come away with?
After an offer is accepted and your shiny new employee begins their journey, it’s important to examine the following:
• What is your onboarding process like? What expectations have been set (and perhaps not met) within the first few weeks or first few months?
• Who are the touchpoints for the employee through their experience? How involved is ownership and management?
• How is that employee consistently treated by their peers, subordinates, bosses and leadership?
• Take a look at how your company handles conflict and interpersonal issues. Are there clear processes in place (and are these processes enforced)? Does leadership address issues or look the other way?
• Are people frustrated? Do employees feel comfortable expressing concerns, or do they have to search for a “safe” way to express those concerns?
• How are you soliciting feedback from your workers? Do you employ surveys or other easy-to-use tools? Is there grumbling behind the scenes?
• Have you noticed a slow leak of people leaving the company? What’s the common denominator? It might point to a problem in the employment experience.
• Are you hiring based on your company’s core values? Are they meaningful or a waste of time?
Taking the time to evaluate the true employee experience is time well spent — whether you spend internal resources on it or outsource this aspect of your HR function. When you work to create a better total employment experience, retention goes up.
The employment experience is dynamic. Getting it right means paying attention to the experience you create for your employees from their first interaction with the company through their employment, and continually adjusting. So don’t stop at establishing a great culture. Keep going to create a wonderful total employment experience