Employee experience journey mapping: A step-by-step guide
Transform your employee experience with employee experience journey mapping, a process that helps you understand what team members need to do their best work.
By Peter Alig, Contributing Writer
Last updated August 4, 2022
In April 2022, a staggering 6 million American workers quit their jobs as part of the Great Resignation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s up from 5.7 million in April 2021.
To stem this tide of exits, human resources departments are digging deeper into employee experiences to find problems they may have missed. In an Isolved study, 92 percent of HR professionals said that employee experience is a top priority for them.
To revamp your employee experience, you need a high-level view of team members’ entire tenure—from the moment they’re hired to when they leave—that allows you to pinpoint what phases need improvement.
That’s where employee experience journey mapping comes into play.
What is the employee experience journey?
The employee experience journey describes the process a staff member goes through during their time at a company, from hiring to exit. It includes everything a worker learns, does, and feels over the course of their employment.
What is an employee experience journey map?
An employee experience journey map is a visual representation of the various stages employees go through during their tenure. Similar to customer journey mapping, this process helps the company assess its ability to meet employee expectations.
Benefits of employee experience journey mapping
Employee journey mapping helps you identify moments in the employee lifecycle where staff members feel engaged and disengaged from their work.
Disengagement is indicative of a negative employee experience. It’s one cause of the Great Resignation, and it’s getting worse. According to Gallup, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged workers in the U.S. is 1.9 to 1. That’s down from 2.1 to 1 in 2021 and 2.6 to 1 in 2020.
With journey maps, you learn what might be contributing to disengagement and what you’re doing well. Besides increasing employee engagement, journey mapping also helps you hire and budget for roles at your company.
Accurate job descriptions
Over time, employee journey maps illustrate what an ideal employee experience looks like for different positions. Use this information to create job descriptions that give candidates a clear idea of what the role is like on a day-to-day basis.
For instance, mapping can reveal that entry-level call center agents receive weekly or monthly feedback on their performance. The job description should include “comfortable receiving regular feedback” as a key marker of cultural fit.
Employee journey maps also show the types of support or recognition employees want and need, so you can ensure you’re spending money on the right things.
Say you map out journeys for remote and in-office employees. You notice that team members in the office progress more quickly and build more skills than remote workers in the six months after onboarding. As a result, you invest in more on-demand video onboarding resources to level the playing field.
Every company wants engaged employees who are enthusiastic about their work. A Harvard Business Review study shows that 81 percent of business executives believe that engaged employees perform better. Engagement boosts the success of their teams and the outcomes of their organizations.
According to Gallup, managers account for 70 percent of the variance in team engagement. An employee experience journey map can reveal areas where a leader can be more proactive in employee development, leading to higher engagement and retention.
Say you compare the journeys of your top-performing sales agents to those with the lowest monthly sales. It turns out the best agents check in with their managers once per week, while the lowest-performing agents feel intimidated by their managers and only meet with them when it’s required. This insight leads you to ask all managers to take their agents out to lunch or coffee once per month to increase comfort with communication.
Stages of the employee journey
Employee experience journey maps assume that the employee lifecycle consists of different phases. At each journey stage, you need to know what workers expect. But you also have to balance their expectations with yours. Here are the key stages to consider:
Stage #1: Hiring
The employee experience journey begins before the first day of work. The hiring process gives candidates a glimpse into the company culture and lays the groundwork for the experience they’re likely to have as an employee.
At this stage, candidates want a clear job description with salary expectations and timely communications about the status of their applications.
Employers want to minimize hiring costs but also attract top talent. The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that hiring a single employee typically costs 1.25 to 1.4 times the salary. But employers can’t cut corners and improve the employee experience at this stage.
Say you refuse to upgrade application software that requires candidates to add in resume details. This inconvenience will turn off top talent quickly.
Stage #2: Onboarding
A successful onboarding process gives employees the knowledge they need to complete their primary tasks and enables them to build camaraderie with their team and manager.
Gallup finds that employees who have good onboarding experiences are 2.6 times as likely to be extremely satisfied with their new job than those who have negative experiences. They’re also more likely to stay at the company.
Employers expect onboarding to get new hires up to speed on the role as quickly as possible. Onboarding also covers benefit enrollment, team building, and gradual immersion in business tools.
Stage #3: Development
The development stage includes everything an employer does to evaluate and promote employees once they’re past onboarding—like creating performance evaluations, compensation structures, and promotion roadmaps.
Annual performance evaluations are common, but they may not be enough to foster employee engagement. According to Gallup, when a manager provides daily feedback, employees are 3.6 times more likely to want to do great work.
Besides regular feedback, the development stage also entails continuing education opportunities, mentoring expectations, and recognition when employees hit performance goals.
Stage #4: Offboarding
Every employee will eventually leave the company. Employers who manage this stage well may see former employees return or recommend the organization to people in their network.
According to Gallup, employees who have a positive offboarding experience are 2.9 times more likely to recommend the business to others than those who have neutral or negative experiences.
Many employees want to leave with some sense of appreciation from the company and to candidly share details about their work environment. Use this feedback to map a better experience for their replacement.
Say the employee’s expectations for the role didn’t match up with the day-to-day responsibilities. This information can lead to a more precise job description.
5 steps to create an employee journey map
The employee experience depends on job roles, so craft journey maps for each position at your company with these steps.
Step #1: Determine the map’s scope
Companies benefit from mapping the employee journeys of all roles in the organization. But if you have hundreds of positions in dozens of departments, it’s best to focus your efforts.
To start, create maps for departments where there are problems, such as rising attrition or low scores on a company-wide satisfaction survey.
Say you want to address high turnover among call center agents. You’ll want to focus your mapping process on that role and the call center manager position.
The attrition might be due to agents not getting the feedback they need from the manager. But it’s also possible that something is preventing the manager from giving helpful feedback. Mapping both roles will provide that clarity.
Step #2: Conduct employee research
The next step is to gather information about and from employees in the targeted department.
Learn about your current employee experience by reviewing managers’ performance reviews and team members’ satisfaction survey responses. If you have an internal help desk, those tickets can also be a source of insights.
Oftentimes, you’ll need to go directly to the employees to fill gaps in the data. Set up one-on-one interviews or send anonymous employee engagement surveys to get unbiased feedback. The questions can focus on goals, emotions, and friction at different journey stages:
- How can we better set you up for success during onboarding?
- Which skills would you most like to develop to prepare for your next role at the company?
- Which career milestones have meant the most to you?
You can also gauge past employees’ experiences by reviewing exit interview notes and analyzing churn rate trends. Use this information to learn when and why employees leave.
Step #3: Craft a journey map for the roles in question
Use your employee research to build experience journey maps.
Generally, an employee experience journey map is a grid. Each column represents a stage in the journey.
The first row lists HR’s existing processes at every stage, and the second row covers employee expectations.
Include as much detail as possible in your map. The example below lists all employee journey stages and leaves space for the HR team to add initial thoughts on how to address any pain points.
Consider investing in a digital tool that creates easy-to-read maps you can share with department heads for feedback. A call center manager is closer to the daily experience of an agent, for example, so they may have insights that you don’t.
UXPressia lets you build a map from scratch or use one of its templates.
The company offers a free plan, but you can only make a single journey map. For unlimited maps and premium support, pricing starts at $36 per user per month.
Gliffy is another option. It’s more of a diagramming tool though, so it doesn’t offer the visual richness of UXPressia. But it’s a good option for teams on a budget who need to get their ideas “on paper.”
Gliffy offers a free trial. For teams with up to nine users, pricing is $8 per user per month.
Whatever way you craft your map, make sure the visualization shows what HR and employees need to do at each stage.
Step #4: Make improvements to the employee experience
Journey maps help reveal mismatches between what the employee expects and what their experience is truly like.
Say your call center agent map shows little friction in hiring and onboarding, but stress levels rise significantly among those who get promoted to senior call center agent. It turns out most resignations in the department occur within two years following the promotion.
You realize that the development stage for senior agents leaves no room for mentorship. New agents get monthly mentorship meetings, but those end after six months. When you analyze the call center manager’s journey map, you find they’re too busy hiring new agents to provide the necessary mentorship to senior agents.
Thanks to the maps, you create the new position of call center supervisor to mentor agents at all levels.
Step #5: Refine the journey map based on employee feedback
Once you adjust the employee experience based on journey map findings, measure the impact of those changes with satisfaction surveys and metrics. Ideally, your maps will help you and department leaders reduce employee attrition and improve performance according to team KPIs.
Employee satisfaction surveys function much the same way as customer satisfaction surveys. They start with a question—“How would you rate your overall satisfaction with your new employee onboarding?”—that prompts the employee to rate their satisfaction on a scale of 1 (very unsatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied). It’s also a good idea to include an open-ended question like, “What could we do to improve the onboarding experience?” to get even more granular feedback.
To determine your employee satisfaction percentage, divide the total number of high scores (4s and 5s) by the total number of responses, then multiply the result by 100.
Zendesk’s internal help desk can send satisfaction surveys automatically after key stages and calculate the results, saving you time and resources.
Best practices for employee journey mapping
If you’re new to employee experience journey mapping, it’s easy to get lost in the process. There are numerous tasks to complete, like identifying what happens at employee stages and using design tools to visualize those phases.
Here are a few tips to help you and department leaders get out of your heads and keep the focus on what matters: employee satisfaction.
Acknowledge employees’ unique differences
In a perfect world, every employee experience journey map would accurately capture what working at your organization is like for every team member.
In reality? That’s unlikely, if not impossible.
Journey maps are an invaluable resource for understanding trends across your company’s roles, but they can’t account for the unique differences among employees that shape their tenure. A new parent might not be able to take on extra projects. A recent grad may require additional training during their first year on the job.
You don’t need maps for every possible scenario, but you and department managers should remember that everyone’s journey isn’t linear or identical. Don’t expect the same path of progression from each staff member. Understand employees’ lifestyles to help them do their best work and lead happy, healthy lives outside of work.
Collect employee feedback from multiple channels
Successful employee journey maps depend on detailed employee feedback. Encourage team members to provide input by requesting feedback on multiple channels.
Multichannel communication is more convenient for employees. They can share responses on the channels they’re already using frequently and enjoy. According to ServiceNow’s Generation Z and the Future of Work survey, 45 percent of Gen Z employees prefer texting with their managers.
With internal help desk software, HR teams can send surveys to staff and receive internal support requests via employees’ preferred communication channels. Zendesk, for example, enables companies to handle requests by email, phone, live chat, chatbot, and even text.
Boost engagement with employee experience journey mapping
Employee journey mapping will always be a work in progress, as employee expectations and company initiatives continue to evolve. Update maps over time to increase employee engagement and productivity gradually. Invest in the right tools to improve performance management and the employee experience, and see success as a result.
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