Roundtable: What drives employee experience?

Last Thursday, 16th November, we gathered for another exciting instalment of our monthly virtual roundtable events. Everyone had received their free lunches, and we were ready to start the roundtable discussion.

First, an explanation of how these roundtables came to pass. Mintago is committed to simplifying the world of employee financial fitness. 

We want to help build a world where employees are as supported and motivated as possible; this includes promoting all aspects of their wellbeing, including mental and physical. 

We are also committed to building communities of HR thought leaders, with stimulating and valuable discussions that promote actionable insights.

We recently commissioned a writer to interview HR professionals like you. This person is a skilled writer and researcher who has ghostwritten leading articles for HR leaders and is an HR and financial services expert.

We want to understand what’s critical for you as an HR leader, so we talked to you to find out! This is a sneak peek of what you told us:

  • How do I persuade my senior management to accept flexible working arrangements so that our company can retain high performers who are mothers/parents or older workers?
  • How can we adapt our organisation to generational demands? – Gen Z has very different needs from those in their sixties.
  • How can I best convey the importance of crucial HR programmes to the ‘C’ suite in a language that best persuades them?

As our team dug deeper into these problems, we uncovered significant, meaningful themes that will be the focus of our campaigns over the next year. Now on to our roundtable …

Tom Catnach, our Head of Product, was an excellent moderator, keeping us loosely in line with our three core questions (allowing approximately 20 minutes each). Here are the questions, with a few insightful quotes that we dug out to give you a feel for how the discussions progressed:

1. Do Human Resource departments have the information they need to make informed decisions?

“It’s quite rare to have a perfect set of foundational data against which you can then do exactly what you’re saying, which is segmenting and thinking about benefits for different parts of the organisation, or where needs are greatest and understanding what those needs are.”

Georgie Mack, CEO of Peopleful

2. How do you gather information and knowledge about your employees, and what insights does this provide you with?

“We transparently introduced Net Promoter Score to the organisation. So my role was relatively new for the hospital, and they knew they needed to shift and focus on experience. And so part of that programme was about visibility and clarity of what I do, and that came alongside launching the Net Promoter Score for employees, specifically to ask, ‘we wonder if our initiatives support you correctly?’ So we need your feedback, and we will use this as a quantitative metric to understand each department’s grouping.”

Josephine Baker, Beneden Hospitals Trust

3. What drives employee experience, engagement and retention in your organisation?

“There’s a statistic that I saw many, many, many years ago which said that the reason that people leave is 80% about their managers. Engagement is about belonging and participating. If you have a very remote workforce, you have a workforce that is pretty independent of the organisation in a psychological sense.”

Sam Bedford, Oxford Biotherapeutics

As you can tell, this entire roundtable revolved (pun intended) around the topic of data. Several attendees attested to the importance of collecting and mining data and deriving actionable insights from it; that could drive better employee engagement, experience and retention. As Georgie Mack, CEO of Peopleful, said:

”You have to collect the dots to connect the dots.”

Sam Bedford, Head of HR at pharma company, Oxford Biotherapeutics, noted that when building an HR team:

“The first thing I do is get somebody to sort out our HR analytics”.

Sam said that companies are run on metrics, usually financial numbers, whereas many HR executives are more inspired by words. So, as she put it, HR ”needs to bridge that gap”.

One of Mintago’s customers, Tatsem Chiang, CEO of Ride Tandem, echoed this sentiment, and said that typically HR is viewed as ”more qualitative, more wordsy”. He added that he was a proponent of the Net Promoter Score approach to employee engagement. Every quarter, they send out ten questions, including the classic Net Promoter Score: ”Would you recommend your employer as an excellent place to work?”.

Josephine Baker, Learning and Experience Manager at Benenden Hospitals Trust, whom I first met at Employee Benefits Live, talked about how she built experience metrics within the organisation to support organisational development.

She said,

”My foundation lies in metrics, but my passion is for employee experience”.

Josephine explained how she derived satisfaction from demonstrating and testing the success of their development programmes with metrics. She also mentioned an app called Blink, which provides her team with a dashboard of ‘frontline intelligence’. This tool has had a phenomenal impact on experience across the hospital.

Another of our customers on the roundtable was Alicia Nagar, Head of People, Wellbeing & Equity, at Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England.

Though they do tremendous work, being a social enterprise means that they can’t compete with other sectors on salary, and she said,

”So we have to think about how to keep people engaged using other means. We offer very flexible working as part of our EVP, for example, but also try to be creative and think about what else might keep people engaged in the more holistic sense ”.

One group member talked about how difficult the end of the year would be for her company. The company had decided to forego bonuses this year. She speculated that this would be a blow to her employees.

On top of that, with the cost-of-living crisis raging, she was concerned about losing employees. Therefore, any ways she could hope to improve engagement and employee experience would be critical to her. Other attendees echoed the dilemma of high turnover and limited budgets. When you have few options to retain staff, where do you turn?

Meera Vyas Sparks, Head of HR at Flash Pack, also needed help with engagement. However, that was more about the issue of managing remote teams across several continents and time zones, especially in the US.

Financial wellbeing support and a deep understanding of the qualitative and quantitative factors that drive employee experience are critical to Alicia’s role there.

Manver Kahlon, head of HR at Zutec, a software company, had several challenges, including working at a company looking to hit profitability within the next three years.

Several other members of the roundtable needed help with retention. They had employees at the lower salary band, who, in the words of one, ”had no mortgages” and had ”little tying them to the company in terms of loyalty”.

Often, they described the issues of the cost-of-living crisis, which is weighing upon many of their employees. The cost-of-living crisis is one driver of ‘the great resignation’, ‘quiet quitting’ and other trends in accelerating employee turnover. Mintago has programmes to alleviate this turnover trend’s adverse effects, such as our grocery salary sacrifice scheme.

Employee retention and attraction are usually top of mind for any HR leader, particularly during these tough economic times. Many attendees discussed established ways to support employees, such as compensation and benefits packages.

But also, our HR leaders wanted to go beyond these basic requirements to areas like building a diverse, inclusive and transparent company culture, or even finding ways to support employees’ mental health in the workplace.

Morgana Aiyer, Head of People at Ascential plc, talked about the importance of messaging. She used marketing to assess the data to understand how best to position changes to the business.

”How do we ensure that we’re messaging in the right way?”, as she put it, if you do not have a good hold on the message, ”rumour mills” can develop, and you can see colossal attrition.

Tom did a great job summarising some of the themes that had come out of this discussion:

1. Having a solid and effective HR communication strategy informed by qualitative and quantitative insights that convey accurately what your employee’s working experience is like.

2. Having the right technology, platforms and expertise to analyse and act on HR data. And finally, once you have that information, acting on it, and not be seen as ‘wellbeing washing’.

 If the HR team does not publicise and use those insights to improve, organisational cynicism will set in. People will ask, “Why did I waste my precious time sharing personal information when it’s accomplished nothing?”

As Georgie Mack eloquently put it (using the Desmond Tutu quote):

“There comes a point when we need to stop pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in”.