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Employee Experience: the emotional connection with employees is essential

Emotions – the employees’ feelings when interacting with the organisation – largely define the employee experience. Feelings? In organisations, we prefer to keep things rational and functional, yet, if we truly want to offer a better employee experience, taking a more conscious approach to imparting good feelings is a must.

In 2020, the ‘Year of Corona’, organizations devoted much more attention to employees’ emotions, which was logical, as dealing with negative emotions was a priority – we felt insecure, overwhelmed or even lonely. This year, try to manage feelings a bit more proactively. How would you like the employees in your organisation to feel?

 How ‘happy’ are employees?

 Positive emotions are oft-forgotten elements in most HR visions, HR ambitions and employer value propositions, which usually focus on how to deploy and develop talents within the organisation, how to contribute to the organizational mission, and how challenging the work is. Very few organisations refer to emotions as ‘fun’ or ‘happy’.

Essential to emotionally connect with employees

If you overlook emotions, you miss, as an organisation, a crucial element, because it’s positive emotions that make employees feel attracted to an organisation, feel genuinely at home and eager to commit to the organisation. When employees experience positive emotions their connections to the organisation deepen, thus strengthening the bond between employee and organisation. What emotional connection do you want to provide as an organisation? A change in thinking may be required, but you can indeed consciously choose the emotional connection.

Distinct emotions

 The first step in using emotions in the employee experience is to determine which overall experience to offer as an organisation, and which positive emotions are appropriate. Start by considering how employees already feel in the organisation, and which positive emotions to keep and what negative ones to dash.

Avoid one-size-fits-all

 The chosen emotion must fit the employees you want to be an attractive employer for, while also aligning with the organization’s mission. Moreover, you must be willing and able to make the emotion materialize! The emotions that belong to your organisation can be unique: avoid one-size-fits-all and be a bit more specific than simply ‘happy’ or ’satisfied’, because what do those words actually mean? Wouldn’t you prefer that the employees feel inspired, loved or respected, for example?

If you cannot manage with just one general emotion, opt for two or three at most. If you choose too many, you’ll lose focus, because ultimately a chosen emotion must be translated into actions and you must still be able to see the forest for the trees.

Best practices

A healthcare organisation opted for ‘feeling appreciated’, which involved starting appreciation campaigns using compliment cards; valuation rounds as the start of work consultations; and giving appreciative signals when healthcare reports were completed digitally. Elsewhere, an HR-Tech startup chose ’challenging’, posing various challenges during onboarding, like giving presentations to all colleagues, paragliding as a team outing and good-natured ‘roasts’ of offboarding employees.

 Positive emotions during the  employee journey

Employee journeys consist of various stages in which other emotions will also arise.  You want newcomers to be curious about the organisation during the onboarding stage, to feel secure and be pleasantly surprised by the onboarding program. You want employees to be open and feel respected during performance reviews, and you want offboarders to feel appreciated. The approach then is to think about the emotions you want to invoke per stage and then add them to the ‘general’ emotion(s) in your plan.

From emotion to action

To feel the desired emotions, they must be put into practice, through actions and appreciation, in communications or by intervention when desired emotions are threatened. Consequently, use the chosen emotions as a checklist before putting an action into practice. Let employees brainstorm about what actions to take, because ultimately it’s about their experiences.

What one person experiences as an entirely appropriate action may constitute a bridge too far for another, likely producing a negative emotion. Make sure you periodically measure whether the employees are actually experiencing the emotion. Use feedback to sharpen emotions or adjust actions accordingly. The organisation develops a better employee experience by consciously choosing, acting on, evaluating and sharpening positive emotions.


Author: Heleen Mes