Find Your Dream Job, Episode 309:
Why Employee Experience Matters During Your Job Search, with Joni Roylance
Airdate: August 18, 2021
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.
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Successful companies invest in great customer experience.
Smart employers also pay attention to employee experience. Doing so helps attract and retain great talent.
A good employee experience can also make a huge difference in your career.
Joni Roylance is here to talk about why employee experience matters during your job search.
She’s an advisor, speaker, and writer in adaptive leadership and the future of work.
Joni joins us from Beaverton, Oregon.
Well, let’s jump right into it, Joni. What do you mean when you talk about employee experience?
You know, really, it’s all the things that surround the job. I think it’s very natural and normal to focus on the job role and the job description itself. But if you even just stop and think about your own past career and jobs, the things that made you stick around were really not just the job role; of course, that’s a central part, but it’s also all the things and the people surrounding you in the job role, and the total experience that you had that really made it work for you, or didn’t. As the case may be.
And it’s not just the experience of the job day-to-day, it’s also, employee experience also encompasses your entire tenure at a company, doesn’t it?
Absolutely, absolutely, and a huge part of employee experience is your ability to grow, both within a role, but also beyond that role. What is the ultimate journey that you can take with an organization to ultimately fulfill a lot of goals within your career? Not just a single job role fulfilled.
So it’s thinking not only about your entry into a company and the work you do there, but where that experience leads you after you leave the firm.
Absolutely, and I think it’s, especially in the job search, an important component of your evaluation needs to be understanding how much that organization even thinks about the employee experience. Because the more they’re thinking about it, the more you get to benefit from the efforts and the priorities that they put into play while you have your tenure with them.
I want to talk about employee experience in the job search. But two quick questions about the experience itself.
What does a good employee experience look like, Joni?
Yeah, I think that’s a very personal question. Personal, professional question. Because what might be a good experience for me at my stage in my career right now might look very different even from what would be a good experience for me ten years ago, and certainly looks very different from maybe a colleague at a former organization that I worked at.
So it’s I think it’s really on the candidates and those of you that are searching for work to really take the time to do some thinking about what it looks like for you At this stage in your career and in your life setup, and really articulate that employee experience vision that you’re looking for right now. And I think an important, really, really, important part of that also is being very clear about your non-negotiables within that desired experience.
So there’s sort of the magic wand- this is everything I want- but you also need to be very clear at what is the bare minimum components that have to be present that you just know, for you to have a good long tenure with that organization, that needs to be part of your day-to-day experience.
I want to dig into those non-negotiables and important elements. But I’m curious, while every employee’s experiences are individual, are there common elements to a bad employee experience, no matter where you might be in your career?
Absolutely, and you know what constitutes good, in terms of what’s trending, really does shift, I’d say, in five to ten-year increments. So a lot of the things that are really critical to good employee experience now, I think, certainly, many of those trends such as diversity and inclusion, have been trending for a while, but obviously, the last couple of years has really brought them to the forefront as selection criteria for a lot of candidates looking for work. And then, certainly, is on the agenda for HR departments and for organizations more broadly as a key priority.
Well, let’s talk about employee experience in a job search. How do you recommend people get started when they’re in a job search when they start thinking about employee experience?
Absolutely, beyond that sort of personal definition. So do take ten minutes just to think about, “What is good for me right now?” And I think a good place to start with that reflection, too, is, “What hasn’t worked for me?”
So even though you’re starting from a negative place, sometimes understanding what didn’t work or no longer works for you is a good way to then articulate the desired or perfect- air quotes “perfect”- experience, and I would say, beyond that work, do your research. If you have connections in your LinkedIn network or elsewhere that you can talk to, who either work there now or have worked there, obviously, that’s a really great resource of information to give you the real story, not the recruiting marketing story of the experience. And then, also, I am a big fan of reading reviews on places like GlassDoor or elsewhere that are employees talking about, or former employees talking about what it was really like to be there. And a lot of times, you’ll see a trend around leadership, compensation, work-life balance, or I like to call it work-life harmony; that could be, for better or worse, just really informational for you. To at least dig into the interview process.
You mentioned work-life balance, employee compensation. Are there other elements of common work employee experiences that you recommend a job seeker consider during that reflection that you’re recommending?
Yeah, absolutely. I think definitely asking about leadership, and you know, what is the leadership’s role in upholding employee experience is important. Because a lot of times, you know, sometimes candidates can be disappointed when they go through the recruiting process, but then the day-to-day people that they interact with, you know, they don’t uphold sort of that vision that was sold in the recruiting process.
Or sometimes the HR department has a really strong EX mandate, but, you know, the managers, and the teammates, and the leaders that are in the day-to-day environment aren’t the ones that are really charged with upholding that, and ultimately, they do tend to influence your experience the most. There’s the old adage that people don’t quit their jobs; they quit their managers. So that’s definitely one thing to look out for.
I think also the career progression and trajectory. Making sure that how that is laid out and organized within a company or an organization matches the kind of trajectory and the career journey that you want to have. And so it doesn’t have to be that you get promoted every year. But are you really interested in becoming skilled in multiple areas? So do they have job-shadowing opportunities? You know, can you move across departments, not just up? Or if moving up is the priority for you, being able to understand how quickly people are able to do that. What are the programs that are in place that would support you as an employee for progressing your skills and getting you the experience you need to qualify for additional roles? Or even just what is the internal hiring and promotion policy for those kinds of positions? Do they source internally first as a policy? Or is it a mix of internal and external? Or do they generally seek external?
So those are some of the questions; again, once you’ve identified this is what’s really important to me, and these are my non-negotiables, that’s where you really want to dig in, in the interview process and in your research around how the company responds to questions you might have in that space.
In your work with your clients, how do you help them decide what’s negotiable and what is non-negotiable?
Yeah, we do tend to start with what hasn’t worked in the past, and/or why are you seeking a change now? Assuming that there is a change.
So you know again, just thinking of the life stages of a typical worker, oftentimes, what we are looking for, let’s say when we’re fresh out of college, are things like experience and the ability to gain skill, whereas maybe somewhere in the middle, if you’re following a very traditional life trajectory, if you become a parent or a caretaker, work-life balance may be more of a non-negotiable. Or if you have very specific needs that work needs to fit into maybe a more flexible arrangement, those are some of the key things. And then, even as you’re later in career, maybe if you’re much more experienced, so you’re not looking for skills, but you’re looking for what can retirement plans look like? How can you really further leverage your expertise that you’ve already established? So it’s more about mentoring and sharing your skills versus gaining them.
Well, I want to take a break, Joni, and when we come back, I want to talk about how to apply this list to your job search, and the kind of questions you might ask, and the steps you might take to make sure that you do get those non-negotiables.
So stay with us.
When we come back, Joni Roylance will continue to share her advice on why employee experience matters during your job search.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Joni Roylance.
She’s an advisor, speaker, and writer in adaptive leadership and the future of work.
And she joins us from Beaverton, Oregon.
Now, Joni, before the break, we were talking about employee experience during your job search, and you recommended getting clear about the experience you wanted, and what was negotiable, and what was non-negotiable.
Let’s talk about the search itself. How do you apply what you’ve decided you want to your search, and in particular, how do you ask questions about these things?
So let’s start with the application process and the search itself. How do you find the companies that might offer you the experience that you want?
Yeah, I always recommend, again, just doing a quick internet search. If you don’t already have a company in mind or haven’t heard of a specific company, and you’re looking for where to apply, look for some of the lists of best places to work in your area. And you can just do a simple search for that term, and you’ll get some, you’ll start to see some patterns and trends.
I think also, again, the GlassDoor reviews can be very helpful and something to pay attention to, i’s not that companies with great employee experience have zero negative reviews; it’s really how they handle those reviews or if they respond to them.
So definitely don’t rule out a company because someone said something negative. Just that’s a numbers game, and so especially the bigger the organization, the more likely they are to have reviews. But, you know, does the HR team or recruiting team respond to those? Is that a trending comment, or was it kind of a one-off? Those are some of the things to notice, or you know, if they’re not responded to at all. That can tell you a little bit.
And then, once you’ve narrowed it down to a specific organization you think you want to join, do your due diligence on their website. And their LinkedIn pages. How do they talk about employee experience? Do they talk about it at all? What does their career page really highlight as the narrative of what it feels like and what it’s like to work for them, not just what is the job? And that will start to give you a sense of how they view the world in regards to your experience as an employee there.
What red flags should you look for when you’re looking at a company’s website about employee experience?
You know I’ll stick with the topic of diversity and inclusion just because I know that that’s something that is a high priority both from the employee and the employer’s perspectives. I, certainly, if that’s something that is very important to you in your work experience, then you want to make sure they even talk about it. Obviously, that’s a bare minimum. But then there’s another layer of that which is, you know, really showing some of the data behind it, and talking pretty openly about- the best employers are talking openly about where they know there are gaps and what they’re doing to close the gaps.
So it’s not just enough to say, I think, these days, that you have a program in place for that; it’s really demonstrating to prospective employees the actions that are being taken, how a topic like that shows up in the day-to-day, of both the job experience, but also back to manager training and employee training on inclusion.
So things like that on the website can be helpful, and if you see nothing about your non-negotiable topic, or if it’s work-life balance, and you see a lot about being always-on or 24/7 availability.
You know it’s really looking at, is there anything here that seems like it’s in conflict with my non-negotiable? And again, looking for, making sure that there is a presence of that topic of the non-negotiable. So if they say nothing about it at all, that’s definitely a question to add to your interview question list so that you can get specific. Because it is also likely, maybe it’s just not on their website, and that’s fine, but you want to make sure you’ve done your detective work in the interview process to understand where they stand on that topic, especially if it’s a non-negotiable.
What about job postings, Joni? What clues can a job posting tell you about a company’s employee experience?
If they mention it, that is important. You know, I always recommend when I’m working with folks in the recruiting department that they really talk about, what does a day in the life look like? They’re really, they’re doing their job postings from your, as the candidate’s, perspective. So what is it like to work there? What does a typical day, week, month, even year look like? What can you expect that is different from other organizations that might also offer similar jobs? So not just what do they have and what is the reality of being there? But how do they differentiate from maybe other companies that would be worth considering but sets them apart from their own competition, too?
What about talking to either current or former employees at an organization? Can that be helpful?
Absolutely, one hundred percent recommend that! That’s, you know, hands down if you can just buy someone coffee that’s already worked there, or, you know, an existing employee, and be careful because you can’t always buy people coffee based on corporate policies. But just connect with a human. Ask them, what’s the real story here? These are the things that are important to me. You know, what’s been your experience in those areas with this organization? That’s going to give you a lot of great information. And again, where there are areas that seem fuzzy, or the person you’re chatting with doesn’t know, that becomes your sort of check-in list. For your process and as you go through, and I do recommend, especially in the interview process, maybe, you know, one of my go-to questions on this topic area is, how would current employees describe your experience? And that’s a question I like to ask every person I interview with. So not just one time, because it allows you to see how consistent the messaging is, and how consistent the experience is across, maybe, multiple people that you might interview with.
Do you think employers consider that a common question now, or are they often surprised to get that?
Oh, man. I like to think that they expect it. I wouldn’t say it’s never surprising, and that is definitely a red flag in your process. If you, in your research, in your conversations, don’t see anything about it, and you’re asking questions in the interview process, and they really either can’t answer or are somewhat uncomfortable answering, that, to me, is a huge red flag. That’s if you think of recruiting, that’s really showing your best hand as an organization to lock in top talent, and if they can’t even speak to the employee experience, and that’s, you know, the honeymoon phase of employment, it’s a big red flag.
What are- you’ve mentioned a number of positive signs that an organization might offer. Great employee experience, talking about it on the website, you know, positive GlassDoor reviews. What are some other positive signs that job seekers should keep an eye out for?
You know, this is a question that I do like to get into in the interview process, as well. Which is, you know, what’s the primary reason employees leave? And also, if you want to put a more positive spin on that question, why do they stay? And again, that’s another question that’s good to ask multiple people in your process. But it will tell you, you know, how much are they paying attention to that, both of those things? Are they doing things as an organization, like exit interviews and really trying to understand the employee experience so that you can improve on it?
So digging into that you know allows them to also speak to what’s hard about being there. And it’s not that- people leave organizations, and there are always reasons- so you just want to know what is the main one? It’s not that it’s bad to talk about. It’s just you want to make sure, you know, people might leave because there’s just a broad range of constant change that occurs in the job. But if you’re someone who loves constant change, and you consider yourself to be very adaptable, that’s probably not going to be an issue for you.
So again, it’s a good way to validate and confirm your potential fit with them. If they say people leave because of work-life balance, but that’s one of your non-negotiables, that’s also important for you to dig into. You don’t- on both sides, you’re doing each other a favor if you really check yourself for fit, and the desired experience you want versus the reality of the job they’re offering, and it’s much better both for you and for the organization, to realize it’s not a fit early versus after you’ve been hired, and maybe ninety days in. That’s very costly to the company, and then, you’ve got this resume moment that you’ve got to explain or not, and you’ve got to re-enter the job search.
So, you know, I think there’s a little bit of hesitation into digging into some of that at the beginning because you know people fear the risk of confrontation or just seeming, you know, very picky. But really, you’re doing yourself and the organization a favor by making sure it’s in line with your goals and your visions.
What kind of difference do you think taking employee experience into consideration can make in your job search and in the long term in your career?
Absolutely, I think it really is just being very thorough. So as I said at the beginning, I think the job itself and the job role is, obviously, a major component of your employee experience. But it’s not the only component, and understanding the environment, understanding how the organization that you’re entering values employee experience, what they’re doing, how they’re trying to stay on top of what their employees want and need, that’s going to help you find a longer-term home, and that’s going to find you, you know, help you find a place where you feel like you can be your authentic self, and not be a compartmentalized human while at your job. And all the research shows that employees that are able to show up and find a place where they not only do their jobs, but they belong, they connect, that they outperform places that don’t have that, and customer satisfaction is better.
So, to me, it’s, you know, there’s, that conversation around the triple bottom line employee experience is another instance where that’s the case. You know, obviously, all employees want to have a good experience and they want to not have to change jobs every so often. They want a career home where they can grow, but that also honors who they are, and where they are in their life stage, and what’s important to them while doing a good job.
Well, it’s been a great conversation, Joni.
Now, tell us, what’s next for you?
Well, you know the future of work, even though we’re kind of in it post-pandemic. But the future of work continues to be a hot topic for me, both helping organizations with their recruiting and onboarding and employee experience, but then also, I do work with individuals who are trying to sort of reimagine their career vision, and develop themselves as leaders and skilled workers. So I feel like that’s a topic that, yes it’s very front and center but will keep me busy for at least a few more years to come.
Well, I know people can learn more about you and your services by visiting your LinkedIn page, and I hope they will reach out to you on LinkedIn and mention that they heard you on the show.
Now, Joni, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why employee experience matters during your job search?
Yeah, I think the main question and why this is so important is, you know, your job and your career is not just about what you want to do but who you want to be? And how do you want to experience this component of your life that takes up the majority of your waking hours in most cases?
So take the time, even if it’s just an extra twenty minutes to an hour, to fully explore all the dimensions that are going to contribute to your experience at an organization. Not just the job and the skills that you’ll get to deliver there. But really, how can you thrive? And how will you be treated in your day-to-day, in such an important container of your life?
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