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How to create a journey map for your employees

“I wisely started with a map.”

That’s how J.R.R. Tolkien described the first step he took in writing his epic Lords of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien crafted a detailed map of his fictional Middle Earth. Once he could see the mystical land he was writing about, he let the story unfold from there.

While the journeys that employees take through your organization are surely far less fantastical and harrowing than those faced by the Hobbits, starting with a map is wise advice for those focused on making sure employees’ have rewarding and successful journeys during their tenure at your company.

Employee journey maps can help new employees to get off on the right foot and stay on course as their careers progress. These maps can be a key element of a successful overarching employee experience program that keeps your employees engaged, productive and enthusiastic about their work and your company. 

The employee journey encompasses the entire time an employee spends with your company. Technically, your employees’ journey starts the moment they apply to your company and continues up to the day they ultimately leave. To set the stage for a meaningful journey, focus on the early milestones, including:

  • The first interview: This is typically the initial opportunity for an employee to get an up-close view of what it’s like to work for your company. Make sure your approach to interviewing is thorough and consistent, but also welcoming and not excessive. If candidates sense red flags during the interview process, they could end up halting their journey before it even gets started.
  • First day on the job: The butterflies, the meet-and-greets, the paperwork…it’s all part of that first day on the job. Making sure new employees feel welcomed, supported, and respected helps reinforce that they made a great decision. A smooth first-day onboarding process is vital as well.
  • First performance review: By the time new employees have a performance review, they aren’t so new. Still, they haven’t been around long enough to gain a full understanding of your performance review process. Establishing best practices for conducting effective reviews can be a win-win for your company and employees.

The employee journey can be a key element of overall employee experience, defined as the sum of all the interactions an employee has with their employer during their time with an organization.

Employee experience differs from employee engagement in that it focuses on your employees’ feelings, emotions and perceptions that arise in the course of working for your company.

Part of fostering that great employee experience is ensuring your employee journeys are on track and providing employees with the direction and support they need to be successful.

One way to measure the journey is to identify key milestones along the way that provide an opportunity to connect with an employee, gain insight into how they are feeling about their experience, and how they see themselves advancing in the future.

Another great way to capture candid feedback associated with these milestones is to conduct employee satisfaction surveys.

The difference between a journey and a walk in the park is that the former typically takes place over a period of time, with key checkpoints along the way. In this context, an employee journey includes some common stages.

Prospective employees may or may not be familiar with your company. Either way, you want to make a good first impression. Make sure you have strong job descriptions that clearly define responsibilities and the experience and skills needed to succeed. Be as prompt with following up with candidates, and develop an interview process that is professional, thorough, and as efficient as possible.  

 The last thing you want is for recently hired employees to start feeling buyer’s remorse between the time they accept a job offer and their first day of work. Pre-onboarding can go a long way toward ensuring they won’t. Beyond getting the administrative stuff out of the way, pre-onboarding presents a unique opportunity for the employer to welcome new hires and introduce them to their future colleagues. It will help make their induction period easier and keep them motivated while working through their probation period.

We’ve all heard horror stories of people joining an organization and then largely being left to their own devices to figure out their role. Those situations rarely end well. Your onboarding process should be structured, consistent, and robust enough that new employees have the best chance to succeed for the long-term while feeling comfortable, welcomed, and confident in the short term.

Make sure that you stay true to offering the compensation and benefits spelled out in the job offer. Having a consistent program to promote your benefits internally helps remind all of your employees of the full value proposition for working at your organization.

Learning and growth shouldn’t end when the onboarding process does. Employees are putting increasing value on having professional development opportunities as well as ways to learn new skills in the course of their work. A strong learning and development program accompanied by engaged mentors can help ensure that employees don’t hit roadblocks or setbacks along their journey.

Focusing on employee engagement is key to motivating and retaining your best employees. Make sure you communicate consistently with your workforce about your organization’s mission and goals, and how their work directly supports them. Also, find ways to partner with employees to make a difference. More and more, employees are looking to work for companies committed to making their communities and the world a better place.

Employees want to know they are doing a good job. And they also want to be rewarded for their hard work or innovative ideas. Developing a formal rewards and recognition program can help prevent complacency and provide a consistent reminder to your employees that you recognize the value that they add to your organization.

Historically, performance reviews rank right up there with a trip to the dentist. Managers would hole up in their offices around annual review time, fill out the forms, and then call employees in one by one for meetings that ranged from a  routine checkup to a full-blown root canal.

These days, a formal performance review shouldn’t be the first time an employee gets feedback on how they are doing. Look for ongoing opportunities to recognize employees for great work and identify teachable moments to help them improve. When it is time for more formal performance reviews, make sure that both you and your employee have clear expectations and are well prepared to have a meaningful conversation. Framing the performance review as more of a strategy session in which you brainstorm ways to course correct can be an effective way to address challenging issues and come up with innovative ideas for improvement.

The point of a journey is to make progress toward a goal or destination. When it comes to the employee journey, the vast majority of your team views getting hired as the first step toward new opportunities that include greater responsibility, and of course, the benefits that come with professional growth. Yet many employees lose steam when there isn’t a clear and defined path to success. Creating clear pathways to advancement, and providing details on what is required to get there, can help employees focus on advancing their careers.

Ultimately every employee journey must come to an end. With the exception of an employee who is fired for cause, you want to make the final leg of an employee’s journey as seamless as possible. If an employee is retiring, providing a celebratory send-off is meaningful to that employee. It sends a message to the rest of your team that your company values its employees. If an employee is resigning to take a new direction in life or work for another company, resist any urge to be resentful or angry. You never know when a good employee might want to come back to your organization.

Once you have a clear overview of what an employee journey entails, you can start developing employee journey maps that offer employees clear direction and help ensure they stay on track toward achieving their goals.

An employee journey map identifies the most important parts of the employee journey, such as those detailed previously in this article. The goal of this process is to identify and chronologically list the moments that matter for the employee.

As an employee's career at your organization evolves, your employees may want to go in directions they didn't anticipate during their early tenure with your organization. Employee journey maps should always be viewed as ongoing work in progress and always open to change. 

The best way to develop meaningful employee journey maps is to ask some key questions—both at the start of an employee’s journey and revisiting those questions over time. Some key questions to consider include:

  • What is the employee trying to do?
  • How is the employee feeling?
  • What are the barriers to engagement and success?
  • What are the supports available to assure a positive and productive journey? (These should include both human interaction as well as digital and tech tools.)

Without clear direction, many people tend to flounder. They know they want to advance in their careers but have difficulty seeing the clear path to getting there. Employee journey mapping clarifies the steps to a promising future, helping to motivate and focus employees and assisting managers in guiding them.

Employee journey maps can help you better identify and understand areas for improvement and create strategies based on data from employee feedback surveys to help optimize the employee experience. Specifically, the employee journey mapping can help you:

  • Identify shortcomings in employee experience 
  • Learn how to cater to different parts of the employee experience to different employees
  • Create a solid foundation and build the story of your employee experience (something that is increasingly vital with remote work on the rise)
  • Through stronger employee engagement and role clarity, journey mapping can lead to an increase in customer satisfaction, better Net Promoter Score®(NPS) score while reducing customer churn

Once a map has been created it not only provides direction for employees but also helps managers and leaders focus on making sure they are fully leveraging key milestones on the journey.  Journey mapping helps you better connect and inspire employees by:

  • Streamlining and celebrating the moments that matter 
  • Measuring the impact of a better employee experience 
  • Tracking how employee experience at these moments that matter correlates with things like absence, productivity, engagement, and intention to leave the company.

You don’t need to be J.R.R Tolkien or a cartographer to create an employee journey map for your organization or team. Here are some key steps in the process.

Understand your why:Your daily work is what you do. Yet, the employee journey puts greater emphasis on the why. Your why focuses on the motivations and aspirations of your work, which are keys to greater engagement and commitment. 

Decide on personas to map: While each employee ultimately is on their own journey, there are some similar characteristics that certain groups or types of employees share. Creating a few personas that offer a composite of those employee groups can streamline the process moving forward.

Identify touchpoints: Periodic check-ins are key to successful employee journeys. Some good touchpoints include work anniversaries, completion of major projects, benefit re-enrollment season, and performance reviews.

Gather feedback: Employee feedback surveys can help make sure that you are tracking well on your Mention employee feedback surveys and discuss their benefits. 

  • Keep the map up to date: Think GPS, not an old road map buried in a glove compartment. To be effective, key maps up to date, with updates correlating to any significant shifts or changes on your team or within your organization.
  • Do: Look at each phase from different angles. Every employee is unique
  • Do: Know the end game
  • Do: Be intentional
  • Do: Focus on key groups within the organization
  • Don’t: Take a “one size fits all” approach
  • Don’t: Allow your journey map to stagnate

They say every journey begins with a single step. When it comes to an employee starting a new job, the steps that follow on that journey are equally important. By creating clear and actionable employee journey maps, your employees and your company can stay headed in a positive and profitable direction. Start your journey by checking out SurveyMonkey Enterprise.

Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score, and NPS are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc., and Fred Reichheld. 

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