All the Feels: Setting the Stage for Employee Experience

June 7, 2018 Jason Lauritsen

Check out our interview with Jason in the WorkHuman Radio episode embedded above.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

For decades we’ve known that employee engagement is largely a result of how employees feel about work. Feeling valued, appreciated, cared for, trusted, and respected have all been shown to have a dramatic effect on engagement.

It’s pretty simple really. When we aren’t “feeling it” at work, we don’t do great work. That’s why engagement matters.

This isn’t news. But, it does hint at why we haven’t made more progress toward creating consistently engaging workplaces. We aren’t very good with feelings at work (or anyplace else, if we are honest). We have trouble understanding feelings (our own and others). We have trouble talking about feelings. You’re probably getting uncomfortable just reading this paragraph about feelings.

Don’t worry, we aren’t going to hold hands and sing Kumbaya together.

But, if we acknowledge the importance of feelings to employee engagement, then we must also acknowledge that as leaders and HR practitioners, we are in the feelings business. If that’s true, then it’s our job to try to impact and shape how our employees feel about work. 

And, like I said before, we aren’t very good at this feeling stuff. 

Your first thought might be, “We can’t make people feel a certain way.” And, while that’s true, we can certainly try to create circumstances and interactions that are more likely to result in positive versus negative emotions. We can dramatically impact what kind of feeling is most likely to occur in any given moment if we are intentional about it.  

In our personal relationships, we are more likely to think about how we want others to feel. A long time ago, someone introduced me to the phrase, “happy wife, happy life.” The advice implies I should do whatever is in my power to make my wife happy because when she’s happy, she is more likely to reciprocate and our marriage will be healthy. When that’s the case, things will just be better overall. It’s a reminder that the only thing I control is my own decisions and actions, so I should choose them wisely.

To live this mantra, I had to study and learn from my wife about the things that are most important to her. For example, she hates cleaning – hates it. When cleaning needs to be done, I always try to take on a bigger share of that work because I know how much she truly despises it. I don’t love cleaning, but I consider this an investment in her happiness. And, I know that she appreciates it. 

By identifying these key “moments of truth” in our relationship, I can make very intentional decisions about how I show up and the actions I take. Each time I make a decision like this, I increase the likelihood of keeping my wife happy. We all win.

At work, we have the same opportunity daily to make decisions that impact our employee’s “moments of truth” at work. In order to make these decisions, we must be clear about our intentions and what matters most to employees. 

How do you want your employees to feel every day at work? 

If you haven’t thought about this, it’s likely you aren’t doing a very good job of creating a consistent experience for your people. Do you want them to feel energized, appreciated, trusted, and comfortable? If you aren’t sure, have some conversations with your people about when they feel their most productive and motivated and listen closely. You will likely hear what they need.

The concept of “employee experience” has nearly achieved buzzword status over the past few years. But much of what’s been written about it is fluffy and hard to convert to action. Employee experience is foundationally about intentionally shaping the day to day work experience for employees to create positive emotions that support their performance. 

It doesn’t have to be complicated. It starts with getting clear on what kind of experience you intend to create, then following that with decisions and actions that align with that intention. If you want employees to feel respected, how can you take action to show them respect? Then circle back to check in with employees to see if you are succeeding or if changes are needed. Rinse and repeat. It can be that simple. 

The employee’s day to day experience of work is where the feelings that drive employee engagement begin. For far too long, we’ve left those feelings to chance by not shaping the employee’s experience with intention. Let’s not make that mistake in the future. 

About the Author

Jason Lauritsen

Jason Lauritsen is a global speaker, consultant, and advisor on employee engagement, workplace culture, and performance management.

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