The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that six million Americans quit their jobs in April 2022, a trend now known collectively as the Great Resignation. This figure is an increase of 300,000 from the previous year, prompting a need for HR departments to stem this flood of departures. One obvious starting point? Reviewing their employee journey map.
The experiences an employee has at an organization can have immediate and sometimes drastic impacts on whether they stay or leave. Positive experiences and appreciation foster loyalty and commitment, increasing the chances that the employee will stay.
Leaders and People Ops professionals who truly see engagement as the important aspect of work that it is should begin by taking a broad view of each employee’s journey at a business to pinpoint the places along their path where they may need assistance, improvement, or appreciation.
Employee journey mapping is a tool used to enhance the work experience for both prospective and existing employees. It can be extremely complex because, depending upon the tenure of the employee in question, there can be many phases.
Use this guide as a jumping off point to employee journey mapping that provides engagement and encouragement, leading to great work experiences for both employees and the businesses that employ them.
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What is the employee experience journey?
Everything an employee learns, does, and feels during their tenure at a company, from onboarding to offboarding, is part of their experience. This journey can serve as a framework for People Ops to use to understand an individual’s mindset and motivations, and improve their experience.
Milestones in an employee’s progress provide opportunities to tune into that individual’s needs, regardless of the perceived size of those milestones. For example, a small promotion may not seem significant to others, but it could be a much-needed boost of self-esteem and enthusiasm for the long-term, hard-working recipient.
Another crucial aspect to the employee experience is inclusion and diversity. Reaching out is invaluable, but people also feel comfortable and included when they see themselves represented in others who work at a business. On a global scale, organizations are slowly coming to understand the importance of these values to business success.
Employee journey maps incorporate training and development plans for each worker, ensuring not only that all employees have chances to prosper, but also to close potential experience gaps that may exist internally. Mapping the path employees take through an organization is beneficial for everyone.
What is employee journey mapping?
An employee journey map is a visual representation of the stages of an employee’s journey within a company, including recruiting, onboarding, development and departure. It identifies critical points in this journey by associating steps with emotional states in the employee’s interactions with the company. These maps can be in the form of a list, a timeline, or a storyboard.
Employee journey mapping allows organizations to align the pathways workers take with their actual experiences, and vice-versa. It clarifies critical roles and identifies important events in an employee’s career that require focus and drive. Furthermore, these maps serve as a constant reminder for companies to focus on employees, especially when it comes to prioritizing resources.
Benefits of employee journey mapping for businesses
A structured approach to mapping employee progress establishes a process that keeps leadership accountable for ensuring that each employee has great experiences.
Tracking these experiences with surveys and other touchpoints helps ensure that they are consistent throughout the organization. Specific benefits of employee journey mapping include the following:
- Engaged employees
- Faster onboarding
- Precise job descriptions
Engaged employees are enthusiastic about their work, which is something most companies want. It just makes sense that people are driven to do well when they hold positions that utilize their skills and interests. In a 2022 Harvard Business review study, 81% of executives reported the belief that engaged employees perform better in the workplace by improving the chances of positive outcomes.
No one wants a manager that doesn’t have their back. In 2023, Gallup reported that 70% of staff engagement depends upon team managers. Employee journey maps encourage frequent manager-employee communication to form productive professional relationships, and identify areas where management can proactively develop employee engagement, leading to higher retention rates.
Onboarding is an essential part of any new employee’s first days, and often sets the tone for their entire tenure at a business. When onboarding lags, it sends new hires the message that they aren’t a priority; they can grow disillusioned before they even join their team.
By ensuring an onboarding game plan long before a new hire starts, employee journey mapping brings them into the fold sooner and shows them an enthusiastic welcome.
A key aspect of employee journey mapping is surveying after the experience. These surveys tell companies what worked well and/or poorly for new hires, and how they felt about their first few days. Subsequent onboarding sessions can (and should) be altered according to that feedback.
Whatever the phase, employee journey surveys should use open-ended questions to solicit detailed responses and take place in anonymous settings. This approach can identify new or emerging pain points, such as the need for additional training, or an onboarding instructor’s confusing verbiage.
Precise job descriptions
Over time, employee journey maps have a tendency to reveal the ideal employees’ skills and experience for a position. As a result, companies acquire the ability to post far more accurate job descriptions.
“Why is this important?” you may wonder. Think about your most recent employment search. You may recall that many posted positions, even very specific ones, didn’t reflect the duties involved in the actual job.
If you interviewed, these were wasted hours on your part and the hiring business’, and may have been a big disappointment. Giving candidates a clear picture of the duties they’ll be responsible for is one of the best things a company can do to retain employees.
Stages of employee journeys
The journey each employee takes from the day they apply for a job to the day they leave consists of a series of stages. The primary stages in this journey include the following:
With respect to journey mapping, major considerations in hiring an employee include the length of time required, the cost, candidate quality, and the probability that the candidate will accept the offer. After providing clear and detailed information to motivate the right candidates to apply, the interviews must also engage strong candidates and promptly address their concerns so that, should they choose, they can quickly accept a possible offer.
Onboarding is the stage where new hires learn to be productive, which includes training with the processes, systems and tools they’ll need. In addition, they must understand the expectations of the role before this stage is complete. Effective onboarding requires an organization to translate a new hire’s initial enthusiasm for their role into a longer-lasting connection that will inspire them to perform their best.
Development is usually the longest stage in an employee’s journey, as it’s an ongoing process. It’s also highly individualized, since employees develop at different rates and with different skill sets. Employers need to quantify changes in productivity as employees develop, including their aspirations for advancement and ability to work with others.
Expanding the employee’s skill set is becoming an increasingly important part of development as a means of differentiating the advancement potential of employees. In contrast to the traditional model of specializing in a small number of skills, many employers now favor employees with a broad portfolio that includes many skills.
The development stage includes more milestones than other phases of the employee journey, such as role changes and promotions. Performance evaluations are also a regular part of development, which include discussions of career aspirations and training opportunities.
Employees enter the retention phase of their journey once they complete their initial training and have been fully integrated into the organization.
The next challenge is to keep them contributing to the company’s success by performing well, while ensuring they remain motivated to stay with the company. In addition to competitive compensation, retention also involves inspiring employees and keeping them connected to the organization’s vision.
Many strategies exist for retaining talent within an organization. It’s important to begin by establishing a culture of diversity and communication (including frequent constructive feedback) to keep great employees and encourage their success.
As some businesses cut back on benefits after losses from the pandemic era, including perks like extended sabbaticals and parental leave beyond can go far in instilling loyalty in a workforce.
Offboarding includes sending off employees who are leaving the company, including the list of tasks that make it possible. This is true whether that departure is voluntary or not. In addition to termination, employees have a variety of reasons for leaving, such as retirement, a move, or career advancement.
Organizations benefit from learning why an employee is departing, especially if that reason includes dissatisfaction regarding an aspect of their work experience. Exiting employees often feel they have nothing to lose from complete honesty, making their interviews and survey findings among the best ways to improve the experiences of existing employees going forward.
5 steps for mapping the employee experience journey
Employee journey maps are unique because no two roles within an organization are exactly alike. There are sufficient similarities to create templates that can provide the basis for those maps, however.
Such a template should include objectives for success and a great experience, and methods and strategies to achieve those goals. It should also provide a way for employees to rate the quality of their experience.
The five basic steps of employee experience journey mapping are:
- Identify the key stages
- Understand objectives
- Gather data
- Visualize the map
- Refine the map
1. Identify the key stages of the employee journey
The first step in creating an employee journey map is to identify its key stages and describe the desired outcome for each stage (see Stages of the Employee’s Journey above).
Within each of those stages, however, it’s important to outline specific ways to obtain those outcomes, giving both the employee and management goals to work for to ensure a great work experience. Some of these include compensation and other benefits, staying engaged, volunteer opportunities, training objectives, and advancement requirements.
2. Understand objectives and desired impacts
Driving the mapping process requires HR leaders to know where they want to go before they can determine the type of journey map they’ll need. This requirement means that the mapping team should include managers from multiple departments to ensure they can accomplish their goals.
Thus, team members can begin this step by outlining a map by hand, allowing them to easily make adjustments. They can then add details like touchpoints and pain points, including possible strategies for dealing with them.
Some maps will cover every touchpoint in the employee’s journey, while others will only address the most important ones. As a result, the complexity of the final map may vary greatly.
3. Gather data and feedback from employees
It’s imperative that HR leaders get feedback from employees to identify the most important touch points and milestones, thereby providing a better understanding of that individual’s journey. Each objective will have pain points, so employee and supervisor interviews are an important part of this process.
Groups most likely to provide honest answers in these cases typically include high-performing employees and those who quit shortly after getting hired.
4. Visualize and design the ideal employee journey map
Visualize the journey from the employees’ point of view to obtain useful insights into their goals and expectations. Employee surveys and exit interviews are, of course, invaluable, but look at metrics like turnover rates, as well.
How many employees stay for the long haul? Do those who quickly depart share a common denominator, like a manager or company vertical? Use these insights to develop an outline of touchpoints and processes for each stage in the employee journey.
Problems like unhelpful performance reviews, inefficient onboarding and limited opportunities for advancement will present journey mapping setbacks from the start.
Pay attention to employees who fall into these categories and work one-on-one with them if necessary to develop a robust customer journey map for them. Examine the journey’s transition from one stage to another in order to identify areas in which employees feel lost or disengaged.
5. Refine the journey experience map based on employee feedback
Creating an employee journey map isn’t a one-time process — paths are subject to frequent changes. For example, communicating with employees about coronavirus wasn’t critical to their work experience until 2020, when the pandemic spread globally and began disrupting touchpoints like hiring and onboarding.
It’s safe to assume that many employee journeys were profoundly affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. It is necessary, therefore, to conduct employee surveys at regular intervals to gather feedback on their experiences during normal times and disruptive events.
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