3 Ways to Increase Employee Satisfaction and Drive Business Results

For the most impact, orient employee experience strategies to focus on shaping employees’ expectations, day-to-day work lives and memories. 

Organizations are increasingly focused on improving the employee experience, which helps to drive employee engagement and feeds a host of other organizational benefits. But rather than just investing in tactics to make employees more satisfied with their experience, organizations should work to shape how employees really feel about those tactics, Gartner research shows. 

The traditional “investment approach” to employee experience focuses on investing to improve the “consumer-like” quality of the delivered experience and to increase the breadth of offerings and support available within the experience. Common examples run the gamut from employee-facing technology upgrades to onboarding updates, and more flexible work hours to expanded parental leave. 

Read more: Gartner Top 3 Priorities for HR Leaders in 2020

Despite widespread attempts to improve employee experience, 46% of surveyed employees report that they are largely dissatisfied with the experience

“Instead of taking on an investment-focused approach to drive an experience that satisfies employees, leaders need to push the needle further and consider a shaping approach that focuses on how the employee experience feels,” said Leah Johnson, Vice President, Advisory, Gartner, at the Gartner ReimagineHR Conference in Orlando, FL. 

Employee experience, following the example of customer experience, refers to the way in which employees internalize and interpret the interactions they have with and within their organization and the contexts that influence those interactions.

Despite widespread attempts to improve employee experience, 46% of surveyed employees report that they are largely dissatisfied with the experience.

Shaping employee feelings pays dividends

Gartner research finds that employee experience investments become less scalable over time, while employee expectations increase. As a result, the return on these investments declines and it costs more to achieve the same results. 

On average, organizations using an investment approach will have fully satisfied 6% more of their workforce over a two-year period, but they would then have to spend 82% more to achieve the same level of improvement in the ensuing two years. 

It is more impactful, the research shows, to focus instead on influencing and improving employees’ feelings about their overall experience using psychological, motivational and social principles. 

Today, only 24% of organizations are incorporating this type of “shaping” approach into their overall employee experience strategy, but Gartner research shows that when done the right way, shaping leads to 32% more employees being fully satisfied with their experience at 32% lower cost relative to the investment approach. Furthermore, employees are:  

  • 38% more likely to report high intent to stay
  • 33% more likely to report high discretionary effort 
  • 44% more likely to be high performers

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Shape 3 facets of experience

Here’s how organizations can shape three key facets of experience:  

  1. Employee expectations: Moving ahead, organizations should not only collect information on employees’ experiences, but also calibrate employees’ expectations. Team up with employees to create a framework that enables them to determine the expectations that they find most relevant and important. Create a vision for the organization that describes the experience the organization intends to provide. The vision should include employees’ top priorities like growth opportunities, work-life balance and stability, and include specific examples of how the intended experience will make them feel in their day-to-day job. Managing expectations isn’t only about appealing to employees, but also calibrating them to what the organization can deliver.
  2. Day-to-day experience: Instead of engaging managers, progressive leaders motivate employees to take a more active role in tailoring their day-to-day experience, based on their preferences. Ensure that employees feel comfortable using available information to personalize their experience without the concern of any risk or downside. Offer clear guidelines that direct them toward the appropriate next steps required to use the information to personalize their day-to-day experience. Help employees seek out proper support from their networks, often from their peers, to help them clarify how others have used information to better personalize their experiences.
  3. Memory: A quick response to an employee’s experience does not always guarantee a positive impact. To successfully manage the memory of the experience, HR leaders must reinforce employees’ memories of positive experiences and reframe their memories of negative ones. Produce an organizationwide progress report that reminds employees of the investments the organization has made to improve their experiences and how these improvements have impacted them personally.

This article is based on insights that are part of an in-depth collection of research, tools, templates and advice available to Gartner clients.


Gartner for HR clients can read more in Moments That Matter: An Emerging Approach to Understanding Employees, and watch a webinar on Designing Employee Personas and Journey Maps.

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