Five principles to begin designing a great employee experience at your NFP

Traditionally, not-for-profit organisations have focused their energies on the needs of their clients or issues, since they’re ultimately the reason for the organisation’s very existence.

But that focus can come at the expense of staff experience, which can increase staff turnover, be detrimental to productivity and otherwise reduce the organisation’s ability to fulfil its goals and mission.

In the past, HR professionals might have used a problem-solving model to approach staff challenges. But in order to attract and retain the very best staff, organisations are increasingly seeking to design a more overarching ’employee experience’, covering all elements – positive and negative – of a staff-member’s interactions at work.

‘Employee experience’ is a complex and evolving area of study, requiring a close examination of the intersection between physical, social and cultural work environments.

So where should you start?

The IBM Institute for Business Value, a US-based research organisation and an initiative of technology company IBM, recently conducted interviews with more than 30 people with expertise in various areas of employee experience.

In a report titled Designing employee experience: How a unifying approach can enhance engagement and productivity, the institute identifies five key practices you can use to begin to focus on ’employee experience’ in your organisation:

1. Personalisation

Once upon a time, workers may have been expected to mould themselves to the conditions set out by their employers.

But that one-size-fits-all approach is becoming a thing of the past. In fact, most organisations now recognise the value of balancing the needs of both the organisation itself and the individuals within it.

Tailoring the staff experience can be as simple as encouraging staff to configure their workspaces to reflect their own tastes and work requirements.

The report also suggests personalised learning that focuses on the staff member’s individual learning objectives based on their performance and career goals.

A personalised approach is something Youth and Education Development Manager Michelle Pereira advocates in her team at St Vincent de Paul Victoria. For example, she says that an easy win is around staff communication preferences. If she knows a staff member communicates better in person, she wouldn’t push them to communicate via email – and vice versa.

2. Transparency

Staff not only want to understand what’s going on in their organisation – they want a sense of how their individual efforts feed into the bigger picture, and how the organisation views them and their work.

Encouraging the use of a social platform is a great way to boost transparency. Platforms like Slack and Yammer can provide a forum to share concerns, contribute ideas, network and engage in a general dialogue.

An example of a not-for-profit recognising the importance of transparency is YWCA Queensland. Community Services Manager Melissa Volp says the organisation prioritises transparency in their performance review process in particular.

Staff see everything that’s written about them, leading to clear expectations for them and reduced stress on managers.

3. Simplicity

In many NFPs – particularly larger ones – years of mergers, restructures, acquisitions and technological changes have introduced layers of red tape into some work processes that can serve to thwart productivity and job satisfaction.

And in this hyper-connected era, the abundance of information thrown at your staff can be confusing and lacking the context needed to facilitate decision-making. For example, the simple act of holding a meeting can be encumbered by unreliable technologies.

So how can you create a simpler, more positive work environment? Create a plan that considers ways to remove any non-value-added process steps at all levels of your organisation – simplifying and streamlining the way staff access knowledge and information.

4. Authenticity

How well are your organisation’s values expressed in your office environment and culture?

Oftentimes, organisations only pay lip service to values that aren’t truly reflected in their culture or physical environment. This means staff might see the organisation as inauthentic, and that perception inevitably flows on to clients, and also to the organisation’s ability to attract new staff and volunteers.

Animals Australia is an animal protection organisation that focuses on being true to its values in its physical environment and culture. Staff are encouraged to bring their pets into the office, for example, and also have access to compassionate leave to care for companion animals.

5. Responsiveness

People expect instant feedback these days – and things are no different in the workplace, where staff are likely to want to provide input and receive a response to their ideas and concerns more than in an annual or biannual performance review.

And your organisation stands to gain valuable insights from the information your staff share, from innovative new ideas to warning signs that things are amiss. The report says organisations can then “turn those insights into action to improve organisational knowledge, productivity and performance, and to deepen employee engagement”.

Some organisations are already beginning to incorporate responsiveness into their ongoing performance management systems.

One such example is GE Australia, which, as HR leader David Arkell shared at this year’s NFP People Conference, encourages 360 degree, cross-hierarchical, real-time feedback given via an online platform. With participation incentivised via simple rewards, this process takes the place of the traditional – and oftentimes one-way – performance review.

Other organisations are also managing to create offline processes to bring real-time, two-directional feedback to their staff, without the expense of investing in online systems.

For example, YWCA Queensland holds regular feedback sessions with staff – addressing issues as they come up – that feed into the wider performance review process.

What do you think of these five principles? Could you implement them in your organisation? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Image: Jmabel/Flickr.

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