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5 tips for better employee experience journey mapping

Building a better employee experience is not an easy process. Use these journey mapping strategies to get your HR team started on the path toward higher retention rates.

With a greater focus on understanding the employee experience, more business and HR leaders are turning to journey maps. The key, however, is to use them well.

Employee experience journey mapping borrows directly from customer journey maps -- only, in the former case, employees are the "customers" and their touchpoints include everything from prehire and onboarding through to their exit from the company. As in the customer realm, HR should segment employees and build personas to understand important touchpoints and how well those touchpoints are meeting needs or if they need improvement.

Unfortunately, many companies don't seem to be using employee mapping well.

According to APQC research, fewer than half of employers are reporting being very or extremely effective at using employee experience journey mapping to engage employees, said Elissa Tucker, principal research lead for human capital management at the nonprofit, independent research organization.

Most of these employers and their HR teams are in the early stages of identifying touchpoints or moments that matter to their employees, she said. Fewer employers are piloting improved or redesigned touchpoints. Given the potential gains in retaining talent and maximizing human capital investment, the quest to perfect the employee experience journey map isn't likely to lose steam anytime soon.

Here are some guidelines HR teams can follow to create an employee experience journey map designed to boost morale, bridge silos and improve employee retention rates.

1. Use empathy to understand touchpoints

One of the primary purposes of a journey map is discovering how well a company is meeting employees' needs and wants.

Correctly identifying touchpoints that matter to employees is an essential step, Tucker said. It entails looking at the employee experience through the eyes of employees.

Adopting employees' varying viewpoints can be challenging, however, and HR teams may fall into the trap of old habits, yesterday's methods or confusion over the purpose of an employee experience map, too, she said.

It's easy to fall into the trap of valuing employee experience journey mapping as a useful business process rather than valuing the people the process illuminates. However, keeping the focus on individuals is the only way HR teams can ensure the process succeeds.

"A people-centric approach helps tailor experiences to the unique characteristics of an individual throughout their employment journey, from hiring to exiting, encouraging employee engagement and retention as a result," said Justin Black, head of people science at Glint Inc., an employee engagement platform.

"For each part of the journey, ask yourself two questions: What's the employee trying to achieve, and what potential roadblocks [are] they most likely to face?" said Pete Sosnowski, head of HR and co-founder at Zety, an online resume builder.

In other words, use a journey map to understand what employees experienced during important touchpoints. Was a touchpoint successful, or did it leave the employee unsatisfied -- and, if so, why? These are the types of questions HR should be asking.

2. Understand when to gather feedback

While personalizing the experience means understanding what matters to each individual employee, HR teams must be careful about how much involvement from the employee they need in order to do the mapping.

"The crucial thing is not to ask for any information [about the journey] during the application process because you don't want to overwhelm the candidates as they are applying," said Dmytro Okunyev, founder of Chanty, an AI-powered team chat. "Only ask for the crucial information which is necessary to get the candidate to apply."

Once candidates have accepted the job offer, that's when HR teams can start gathering feedback.

"Ask them to fill out a brief survey once per month, detailing their most important highlights in their role during the month," he said. "You will be able to identify those crucial moments for each department, role and employee so that you can create better employee experiences when you hire again."

3. Take a holistic view of the employee journey

To create an accurate employee experience journey map, HR should see the journey from a holistic perspective.

"The goal in creating an employee journey map is to break down the silos that might be standing in the way of an integrated experience," said Kelly Ann Doherty, chief people and communications officer at Mr. Cooper Group, an online home mortgage company. "Your employees don't think about every interaction they have with the company in those silos, so it's critical to think about the entire journey and how each group plays a role in the overall experience."

For example, IT can have a big impact on a new employee's first day, and the onboarding and training experience HR offers can influence someone's sense of belonging. From employees' perspective, their workplace journeys are not only their specific jobs. Instead, companies need to include programs and initiatives, such as benefits programs, workplace technology, corporate communications, development and recognition programs, and team celebrations.

"Each individual piece feeds a greater singular experience," Doherty said.

As part of this, it's important to look for the moments that matter most.

"As you build your journey map, look for opportunities to create peak moments," Doherty said. "It could be a program, perk, giveaway or experience that's memorable and unique to your company, and those peak moments differentiate you as an employer and delight your teams."

4. Reevaluate touchpoints over time

An effective employee experience journey map flows from employees' first encounter with a job opening through to their alumni status.

"For us, the employee journey provides a framework for viewing the employee experience through a long-term lens," said Julie Meyer, director of talent management at West Monroe Partners, a management consulting firm. "Instead of thinking about an individual employee's experience as a 12-month sprint from one annual review to the next, the employee journey reframes it as a continuous journey."

Touchpoints will change, rise and wane in importance throughout the span of the journey. They can rarely be captured in a frozen snapshot.

"To create an effective experience map, business owners and entrepreneurs should realize that an annual or biannual engagement survey is nowhere near effective, and they should transition into a by experience- or lifecycle-style instead," said Liz Brown, founder of Sleeping Lucid, a sleeping product review and testing service.

Focusing on moments that matter helps ensure that results are accurate, up to date and personalized according to roles, she said.

"Simply put, an employee journey mapping can only be effective if it's specific, personalized and up to date," Brown said.

5. Understand the employee experience extends beyond work hours

Today's employees see their work experiences as part of their overall life experience. By viewing the totality of a seamless experience, HR teams can gain important insights into what employees truly want and what might motivate them to stay with the company.

"In today's tight labor market, employees, especially millennials, want a workplace with a strong culture, one that values and supports them and is an extension of their social lives," said Jagoda Wieczorek, HR manager at ResumeLab, an online resume creation tool. "Experience is what matters to them most, while compensation and benefits are just table stakes in attracting and retaining the best employees."

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