Employee Experience Roundtable | January 2022 🌟

Employee Experience Roundtable | January 2022 🌟

👉 New Hires, Scaling Culture, and Micro-Experiences

TLDR: Onboarding new employees, introducing them to your company’s culture and helping them create connections can be a difficult task to accomplish. A great place to start is by leaning into your existing culture and leveraging your company's existing traditions and values. Companies have found success in delivering ‘mico-experiences’ and leveraging existing niche, community groups. This can be done through ‘Slack-tivities’ (i.e. post a photo of your thriving plant” in your #plant-enthusiasts-channel) or polling on Slack/Teams with fun weekly questions.

  • With new cohorts of employees onboarding at a rapid pace, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to host events that connect new employees and introduce them to your company’s culture. 
  • Companies have found success in using their existing culture and interest-area-communities to create opportunities for employees to feel more connected. 
  • For example, one company has found success in having numerous employee community groups via interest-based Slack channels. This organization regularly planned events that would spotlight these channels (i.e. to spotlight the #gardening Slack channel, the company hosted a virtual event where a professional gardener hosted a workshop to show employees how to grow herbs in an apartment). 
  • In addition, new hires were able to find smaller pockets of employee communities to join within the larger organization. 
  • Another company’s employee experience or onboarding team would share a list of their company’s most popular community/interest-based Slack channels to new hires to join (i.e. #pet-parents, plant-parents, #AAPI-group, #trail-runners).
  • A few more Slack-tivities are:
  • Using a larger Slack channel and posing a question such as; “how was your week in emojis?” and let employees guess what an employee means through their emoji’s. 
  • Another option within a busier Slack channel is a scavenger hunt. For example, give employees a prompt such as Take 30 mins to find a red shoe and send a picture in the channel to win a giftcard!
  • A great connection tool for coffee chats and impromptu random questions of the day is Donut.
  • Another low cost Slack-tivity to introduce new employees to your company culture and help them find their tribes are weekly “would you rather” questions. Posing these questions in a larger Slack channel and having employees vote is a small, simple idea that can yield incredible engagement. You can also use polling on Slack/Teams with fun weekly questions.
  • If budget is not an issue when it comes to new hire culture onboarding, consider pairing experiences with something tangible. Companies have found success in designing an event around a specific cuisine-themed experience and shipping employees ingredients to cook a meal together. Crafty (highly recommended by a few companies) can help with the coordination of some of these shippable experiences, especially if you are serving a global, distributed workforce! 
  • Lastly, lean into your company values and traditions. If your organization has fun traditions, introduce your new hires to them!

👉 Budget Allocation to Support Teams

TLDR: For a lot of employee experience teams, taking a ‘consultant approach’ to help other teams put on internal events has been great for budget-sharing or reallocation. For example, you can let your company know that their teams can turn to you for culture-building support. Then, the engineering or sales team would turn to you, and you would understand their budgets and help them select a vendor and organize the event. This will help save costs from the people team’s budget for culture building events. 

  • Budgeting looks different for every company. It is often dependent on employee headcount, people and culture team size, and company priorities. Regardless of small or large budgets, most mid-sized people and culture teams are re-framing how they think about budgets when it comes to remote and hybrid experiences. 
  • A portion of companies are dealing with budget cuts as remote-first events take charge. If you and your people teams are dealing with smaller budgets for employee experience programs, consider the team consultant approach.
  • The consultant approach does not require events to come out of the people team budget. Instead, events for specific teams (i.e. sales or engineering team wants support to put on an offsite or event) can get split across the different teams or 100% paid for by the team that is experiencing the event.
  • People and culture team members act as consultants offering to plan, coordinate and execute events on behalf of a smaller team that wants to host an event. Within this approach people and culture teams spend other team budgets while providing event ideas and resources to make smaller team events possible.
  • This approach is especially clever when smaller teams have a discretionary budget for team building events, but either don’t use it or are not sure how to go about planning a team event. 
  • In terms of spend per head, this differs from company to company. A few mid-sized companies work with about $50 -$100 per person per quarter to do a team event either in-office or in person. Additionally, to entice people to work in-office food incentives such as $20 lunch delivery services twice per week have been successful thus far. 
  • Investing in supporting and empowering ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) has been successful for both creating a stronger sense of belonging for employees, and is a strong and impactful use of budgets. The first half of the year (January to June) is super heavy events-wise for many ERG’s. Empowering ERGs and community/interest groups by equipping them with their own budgets and resources (i.e. playbooks) to roll out events is more impactful than putting on events top-down. 
  • Did you know many of your existing vendors might provide complimentary (free!) workshops, speakers and learning series for your employees?

For example, Calm Meditation App provides free workshops that you can build an event around with your employees to watch together.

👉 Successful Ways to Communicate Programs and Events Globally

TLDR: There are three core things you can do to ensure your programs and internal communications are successful: 1) Have leaders get involved (by participating in your programs and announcing them on Slack and Email, 2) Work with local hubs and offices, and specific teams to understand their needs in terms of events or culture programs, and lastly 3) Meet your employees where they are.

  • Seamless and consistent Internal communications is crucial when it comes to shaping and growing company culture. Have leaders at your company set a strong example of how important culture is to your company. Partnering with different executives and relevant teams to get a message across is often most effective. 
  • This means ensuring leaders are ambassadors for your internal events and programs by either: 1) participating and/or 2) announcing that the event is coming up across email, Slack and/or Teams. 
  • Have templates and make it easy to copy and paste for your culture influencers! 
  • Understand where most employees communicate with each other, and consume communications and content. This is often on Slack, Teams, Email and Calendar. It is critical that your company’s internal communications flow is set-up to support this, and all communications are meeting employees where they already are. 
  • When it comes to approaching culture on a local to a global level, focus on seamless and consistent internal communications throughout different offices. 
  • Make sure to check with local hubs that events you’re suggesting are tailored to their needs. Certain local hubs and/or teams could be going through challenges, which makes it even more critical to check-in to ensure you are not rolling out something incredibly lively, when everyone is actually too stressed to engage. In that situation, those employees might just benefit from a program to encourage them to step out and take a walk, or have a half day off. 
  • Our way of work will never be the same after the past two years. Gone are the days of having your global company revolve around ‘HQ’. It is important to understand local cultures and take that into account for events. For example, some cities and countries celebrate certain holidays on different days. Here’s some more ideas to support global teams!
  • Make events non-HQ-centric. On a global scale, understand that each office abides by different cultural norms and a different calendar of events (for example, Black History month is in October in the UK, but in February in the USA). Acknowledging these differences and supporting employees on a global scale is an important step to shaping global culture. Lean onto those local teams to best understand their needs! 
  • Making sure communications are targeted, consistent across offices and relevant are components of an effective communications strategy. 
  • This could mean scheduling announcements (when you know those teams will be online) in specific Slack or Teams channels.
  • Using ‘drip campaigns’ to successfully outreach employees across different channels is found to be effective in getting employees to engage with content
  • You can do this by manually setting reminders to yourself on Calendar (or whichever medium for yourself) or using external apps to pre-schedule email campaigns and Slack’s send-later feature. Or check out Epoch
  • A great way to ensure both internal communications and events are being well received is by leveraging surveys. Poll employees before an event to gage what areas or types of programs yield the most interest (i.e. using Polly - you can ask “Do you enjoy: 1) Panel speakers 2) Cooking or interactive events (30 mins) or 3) Fun games with colleagues”)
  • Smaller team surveys can help culture teams pinpoint what a team needs event wise such that experiences aren’t tone deaf and are geared towards smaller groups of employees.
  • Survey data allows people leaders to keep a pulse check on how these micro teams and smaller events are engaging.

👉 The Onboarding Learning Curve

TLDR: Building connections on the first day of onboarding is a necessity when it comes to culture and engagement. However, balancing the basics of onboarding training with employee engagement can be too much to bake into a one-day, 8 hour crash course. To build small connections early, think small, short and meaningful, over a few days. Consider small activities like ice-breakers, short activities like speed meeting and meaningful activities like mentor selection amidst technical onboarding.

  • Connecting employees during the first day of onboarding doesn’t have to be an elaborate task. Here’s a few ideas for virtual onboarding. Another low lift idea is small icebreaker activities like these are great starts to get employees talking. Many companies found success in splitting new employees into onboarding cohorts. Splitting colleagues into smaller groups builds a sense of community early on, and you can even have them run through a few short icebreaker cards from the get-go. 
  • Another simple way to build connections for new hires is splitting onboarding groups into smaller breakout rooms of Zoom/MS Teams and playing short games. 
  • One option is the commonality game where new employees need to find 3 similarities between their group members then come back and share with everyone else. 
  • Another option is similar to speed dating where employees need to mix and mingle with 10 other new employees within 15 minutes (via Zoom breakout rooms or in-person). 
  • A more long-term, but meaningful way to build early employee connections is through a mentor/mentee program within your organization. Having current employees across all company domains sign up to be a mentor and randomly pair them with a new employee to mentor. Critically, mentors and mentees do not need to have the same job function.
  • A similar approach is assigning onboarding buddies to new employees. Here, employees and their buddy would need to share a similar job function. This is another option to build strong connections early within onboarding.

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