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Improving the Employee Experience: Beware Squeaky Wheel Syndrome

Improving the Employee Experience: Beware Squeaky Wheel Syndrome
Posted on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 by Rae Shanahan

You’ve probably heard the saying that the squeaky wheel gets the oil.


Every HR pro knows a squeaky wheel or two—those employees who are quick to share some aspect of their experience with your organization. And there’s no time of year more rife for employee feedback than Annual Enrollment.

Benefits play a role in both recruitment and retention, and how people choose their coverage is an integral part of the total experience. Having intuitive, easy-to-use benefits delivery can help you capitalize on your significant benefits investment. That’s why it’s important to really understand whether employees’ experience with your benefits technology is a positive one.

The employee experience is more than just a buzzword. 

The employee experience during Annual Enrollment is highly visible, and it’s vital to get the voice of the employee to understand what’s going well and what might need improvement.

Employees who provide their feedback—positive or negative—are invaluable. They offer useful insights into how at least some employees may be feeling. However, it’s important not to hang your hat only on what that subset of employees needs or says they need. If you look at it through the eyes of the outspoken few, you could get an incomplete and potentially wrong impression.

The employee experience is multifaceted.

The thing is, HR leaders need to look at the employee experience holistically, and from a different perspective than you might be used to. You can’t rely on your own perspective as an HR or benefits pro, and you can’t put all your confidence in the feedback of just a few people. The key is to objectively consider the end-to-end experience from the vantage point of the entire employee population.

Don’t expect kudos, even if things are going really well. 

Generally, employees aren’t stopping by your office to say, “Hey, great job with Annual Enrollment. I chose my benefits like a champ!” If they’re giving feedback, it’s typically because there was something employees didn’t like or that they felt could be improved.

But, and this is a big but, just because they’re not knocking down your door to offer kudos and high-fives, it doesn’t mean people aren’t happy. Because people expect a good experience, they’re much less likely to reward you with accolades for meeting, or even exceeding, their expectations.

So, if you’re not feeling any unsolicited love, that’s okay. It’s nice if it happens, but don’t count on it.

Instead, count on some negative blowback, but don’t blow it out of proportion. If you have some squeaky wheels, don’t extrapolate that if these 5, 10 or even 20 people complain it means there’s widespread dissatisfaction. Absolutely listen to your squeaky wheels—you can learn a lot from them. Just don’t jump to any conclusions or make any changes based uniquely on just these few data points.

Instead, when the dust settles on Annual Enrollment, take those data points and use them to inform an objective audit of the employee benefits experience, which is directly tied to your employees’ engagement.

Questions to consider include:

  • What does this look like for an employee?
  • Is everything consistent?
  • Are resources easy to find and use?
  • Does it enable employee decision-making?
  • Is the experience supportive of the employee and our brand?

Answering these questions honestly and objectively will help you connect the dots in a meaningful way, pushing you toward a more positive employee benefits experience.

And, if it turns out that your squeaky wheel employees are onto something, it may be time to look for a better, more engaging benefits solution.

Need help assessing benefits technology that doesn’t rely on the feedback of a few employees? Check out our guide.