Your Employee Experience is Probably Missing This One Thing

Apr 19
Today, Employee Experience or “EX” matters more than ever. Too often, efforts to optimize the employee experience fail to consider neurodiversity. But by embracing how we all think differently, EX can be transformed – for everybody.

EX and Why It Matters

Employee Experience or “EX” refers to the concert of factors that determine an employee’s comfort, happiness and satisfaction at work. Notably, people who enjoy a positive EX have 16x the engagement level of employees with a negative experience. They are also 8x more likely to want to stay at their current employer.


Over the past 5 years, HR priorities have increasingly become CEO priorities. Indeed, CEOs’ Number One Priority in the mid 2020s – with 60% of respondents rating this as vital – is “Retaining and engaging employees”. Leaders recognize that to drive performance they must not only attract great talent but provide that talent a platform to achieve optimal output – and that’s where EX plays such a vital role.


However, EX remains such a major priority significantly because it is so often sub-optimal – something today’s proliferation of employee surveys and platforms continue to make very clear. The majority of the world’s employees (59%) are not engaged, according to Gallup research, while 18% are actively disengaged. Meanwhile, research from BetterUp has found that 25% of employees believe they don’t truly belong in their workplace, leading to productivity issues and the desire to seek new opportunities.


Given such realities, it is increasingly recognized that EX plays an absolutely vital role both in sourcing and keeping talent, and in achieving more effective teams.


How EX Impact the Bottom Line


EX is so important because it demonstrably impacts retention, productivity, innovation and more.


Greater attention to EX means removing many of the friction points that can drive employees to seek alternative opportunities. An improved employee experience drives greater well-being and comfort at work. No surprise, then, that engaged organizations see 59% less employee turnover.


It’s easy to draw the link between EX and productivity, as EX is proven to drive engagement and this in turn proven to make employees more effective contributors. Simply put, happier employees are more able and more motivated to do their best work – while similar forces drive a reduction in absenteeism, too; another quantifiable HR benefit with impact on the bottom line.


In the context of the rapid change of the 21st century, and the plummeting lifespan of companies, innovation is at the forefront of CEOs minds. But how, in practice, to foster creativity and achieve this? MIT researchers have traced a direct correlation between EX and innovation, with companies with superior EX both achieving greater innovations and deriving more value from them.


Meanwhile, EX also impacts other key areas, from talent acquisition to customer experiences. Today’s employees are vocal about sharing their experiences with the world – and the more positive their experience, the greater the magnet for future talent they will provide.  Customers too can of course pick up on something of the culture and happiness of an organization they engage with: consulting giant PwC has even found that companies that invest in superior EX are able to charge a premium for their solutions.


Embracing Neurodiversity is Vital

Recognizing the importance of EX, companies continue to explore multiple strategies to improve it. But most, as we’ll see, remain flawed, as they fail to consider one of the most fundamental realities of People at work: the fact that we all think differently.


The fact of human neurodiversity means every organization is neurodiverse – because every team is by definition made up of people with different brains.


But, because the topic of neurodiversity at work is fairly new, most workplaces have generally created and relied on “norms” – for example, a reliance on verbal interviews, or a preference for open-plan office spaces. Neurodivergent people (perhaps 20% of the population at large) – such as autistic people, dyslexic people and ADHDers – can find themselves particularly disadvantaged when such norms only suit those with more common neurotypes.


What’s now known as “neuroinclusion” is essential for EX given that someone’s sensory and social communication preferences, executive functions and information processing is so fundamental to how they experience their workplace and perform their work. Key aspects of an effective EX as a result include inclusive work environments, with consideration for sensory sensitivity, as well as a constructive social environment in which all colleagues recognize and appreciate the different ways people may present to others and prefer to communicate.


Neuroinclusion is also vital for areas such as onboarding: is your process truly accessible, and are all new hires made aware of key expectations and conventions or simply expected to “pick these up” (which some may find much harder to do than others)?


Neuroinclusion also impacts and improves employee-manager relationships as well as team collaboration as a whole – as team members able to surface and appreciate key preferences and needs are able to ensure everybody can contribute and perform to their best.


Why Typical EX Strategies Don’t Work

As mentioned, though, while organizations are deploying multiple strategies to improve their EX, these typically fail to consider neurodiversity, hampering their effectiveness.


Such strategies, for example, include efforts to improve internal communications: perhaps the introduction of new communication tools, or more frequent “All Hands” type meetings. However, such efforts often fail to recognize the differences in how employees prefer to communicate – and contribute – meaning, as has so long been the case, that such strategies work for some but do not work for others.


Another common strategy is to focus on Wellness – with a view to introducing solutions and benefits to help employees improve their physical and mental health. However, there may of course be major reasons why employees do not feel a sense of well-being at work that initiatives such as health risk assessments, yoga or meditation classes, or gym memberships fail to address. As a result it’s just as important or perhaps even more so, in practice, to ensure everybody can contribute to a more welcoming and inclusive culture, to build understanding of the relationship between neurodiversity and mental health, and to ensure that adaptations are readily available to support any employees that may need them.


How to Improve Your EX Right Now

Improving your EX is possible – but only if how we all think and experience the world is truly considered.


Given neurodiversity is a relatively new term at work, awareness of neurodiversity and its importance remains low – indeed, a recent study by Uptimize and the CIPD in the UK found that only 33% of “neurotypical” employees (those that do not identify as neurodivergent) know what neurodiversity really is. Such a reality cannot continue given the size of the neurodivergent demographic, and rightly growing employee expectations around culture, progression and support. Neurodiversity training helps to address this swiftly – helping everybody to realize how fundamental neurodiversity is to their daily work, whatever their role, and as a reminder that their way of doing things may not suit everybody.


Leveraging this awareness, organizations can work to build more flexible and inclusive work environments, and equip key roles such as managers, recruiters and HR staff to practice neuroinclusion every day. This can swiftly lead to more accessible and effective learning and development offerings, onboarding processes, career development paths and more, with benefits for every individual and team.