HR is faced with the challenge of finding innovative ways to craft a better employee experience.  Advent Health CHRO Olesea Azevedo says the best place to start is at the managerial level.  HR Exchange Network editor Mason Stevenson had an opportunity to sit down with Azevedo at the CHRO Exchange and have an in-depth discussion about the employee experience and the role of the manager.

Mason Stevenson: Thank you for joining us.  To start it off, if you could fix one challenge within employee experience, and you had unlimited resources, what would it be, and what would that solution look like? 

Olesea Azevedo: Mason, it’s great to be able to spend some time with you. Very recently, I had an opportunity to read about Gallup’s leaders research around employee engagement. It resonated with me, because it really focused on the fact that the manager is actually the most impactful aspect of changing the employee experience. While we focus on technology and tools, all those things are helpful and important, at the end of the day, the relationship that the employee has with their manager has a big impact on their experience. While we build cultures as an organization as a whole, at the end of the day, what resonates with that employee, and what keeps them within an organization, is their leader.

So if I had unlimited resources, especially in the healthcare environment, where managers, just like in other industries have so many responsibilities and are pulled, especially that middle management, when they are pulled in so many directions, I would want to figure out a way to really simplify the manager’s priorities to allow the time for them to be able to connect and build personal relationships with their direct report, in a way that provides them the ability to coach them, to talk about their priorities, to have meaningful conversations.

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I don’t believe that I have seen quite the perfect solution for that yet, because it’s so complex, and it has many different components that go along with it. So figuring that out, I think would be a great opportunity and something that we as an organizations are challenged with, and are doing research around figuring out.

Mason Stevenson: You mentioned some of the components that are involved. Can you notate what some of those are, and what the details around those components are? 

Olesea Azevedo: Sure. I think about the employee experience from beginning to end, ‘’How many times have you had a manager who has an employee starting that week, and they completely forgot that they were starting?’’ I’ve had those conversations, they’re aware, and I’m grateful for that. But at the same time, the impact that it has on that employee, who’s starting on their first week, and the manager perhaps forgot that they were coming or didn’t have their access or didn’t really make it a special event, and given them opportunity to really connect and create that connection with their team. So I think about all of the different touch points. So onboarding is a key aspect of that employee experience.

Then I think about the ongoing conversations around performance, and the way that we’ve traditionally done them has been very much focused around the manager, really, with the best intent, focused on (I’m going to use some harsh word) casting judgment, and how I see you as a person, and how I see you as a professional. I think that we have a huge opportunity to really shift the way that leaders coach team members and employees around, focusing on their strengths and figuring out what are they best at, and how do you leverage their strengths for their development to really support their growth.

I think about all the different opportunities that leaders have to be able to connect with team members around their experience, and I think that certainly technology is going to be helpful in that. But having that meaningful interaction in creating space and capacity for leaders to be able to do that work, I believe is very meaningful for the employee experience across multiple industries. 

Mason Stevenson: What are some of the technology pieces related to onboarding, and then just related to the employee experience across the board? I know that’s a very broad question, especially when you consider just the engagement between employees’ engagement with the employee to the company or the organization. So what are some of those, maybe one or two critical pieces of technology you that you think needs to kind of be there, or at least most companies need to look at, when they’re thinking about?

Olesea Azevedo: I’ll answer your questions in two ways. First, I’ll talk a little bit about an approach that we’re taking with employee experience, and then, I’ll get to the technology piece. So one of the things that we recognize is that we have an opportunity in healthcare to become closer to the consumer. As part of that work, our organization has built capabilities in creating a design center, that has expertise around design thinking empathy research for the consumer side of the business.

In human resources, as we looked at the opportunity we have with employees, and the fact that in many cases, they are consumer, they really are employees as well, we’ve partnered with the design center to really look at the entire life cycle and figure out where we have an opportunity to reshape that component of the employee experience.

One of the things that we have done, as we looked at the different components is we’ve created something we call, ‘’People promises.’’ We leverage that in identifying where we have an opportunity. I’ll give you an example. One of the people promises that we created was called, ‘’Family on day one.’’ It says, ‘’We will always do X, so that you never feel Y.’’

So we have completed ‘always’ and ‘never’ statements for these people promises. We’ve started with about 70 or so people promises that we want to make, at different points of the employee experience. One of the aspects of that work has been partnering with the design center, to then go into the different markets that we serve and talk to our employees, and do empathy research to really condense the 70 some promises to a key five or six, that will become part of the roadmap over the next several years.

For us, as we looked at redesigning the employee experience, we started with empathy research first, and then look at the technology to solve for that, versus, starting with a technology and say, ‘’How could that technology fit into a problem that we have?’’ I’m really excited about that work, because I think it will give us true information and really meaningful insights around what our team members think about the employee experience, what they value most, and which aspects of that team member experience we need to redesign.

Having said that, we didn’t want to wait so long to be able to get the feedback without making some of our own changes. So this past year, we have partnered with Glint to get more meaningful, timely feedback from our team members across the organization. Like many companies, we used to do a traditional once a year survey. 

Then, spent couple of months getting the feedback, we all know the routine and then going through robust action plans after that, that took months to be able to prepare, and then you really didn’t have time to execute on those plans, because you wanted to make them so robust. So we’re changing the approach to that aspect of the employee experience, where we are conducting onboarding survey with our team members at 45-day mark, at the 90-day mark, and then they go into a cycle of three times a year fall survey.

There are only 10 questions that our leaders get feedback from our team members on a regular basis. Then we take a very simple approach that say, ‘’You don’t have to create a robust action plan, take one thing to celebrate, one thing that you want to improve on, and really get the commitments from the team to be able to commit to that, and work together to be able to improve that aspect of the employee experience.’’

So we are finding with our own data for the first time, correlation between those engagement scores and retention, until it gives us that optimism that there is a true correlation. Because in the past, we have been able to read it from research and other case studies from different organizations, but we weren’t really able to see it with our own data.

Now that we’re able to see it with our own data, our leaders are energized around the possibilities of this new approach to engagement, and really being more nimble, and acting on feedback, and really looking at that time frame between surveys in the matter of weeks versus month. So that really makes you as a leader think about, okay, what is the one or two things that I can do to be able to impact the experience of my team, versus focusing on that long term approach? That’s one example.

One of the things that I’m also intrigued about is different aspects of predicting retention as part of the employee experience, and really looking at the different drivers and different aspects of the employee experience, everything from where you are within the pay range, and how long you drive in to and from work, or a vacancy that your leader has had on the team, so how those different drivers impact retention.

So we’ve been doing work and working towards that predictive capability. We’re not quite where we want to be yet, in terms of having that validity around the flight risk predictor. We’re getting really close. I think that will be another aspect of looking at the employee experience broadly, versus focusing on just one aspect of it, to figure out, okay, so what is our predictive tool telling us, that we need to focus on for that specific employee and making it very much personalized, which our employees are accustomed to, based on other consumer related experience that they were having outside of work.

Mason Stevenson: You mentioned something that really piqued my interest just a few seconds ago, when you talked about, the employees drive time, traditionally, you wouldn’t necessarily think about that as part of the employee’s experience, because you’re just thinking about what you’re doing within the walls of the company, not what is happening externally.

So I think that feels like it speaks to kind of where we are in terms of the future of work and the type of workforce that we have now, because the work-life balance… it’s not really work-life balance anymore, it’s just life. That seems to really play toward that, thinking about some of those external factors, and how you put that into the strategy of the employee experience. It’s really interesting to me.  Let’s end it there. Thank you so much for your time.

Olesea Azevedo: Absolutely, it was my pleasure. 

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