As a talent leader, I’ve spent decades recruiting skilled people, managing their experience and helping to guide their career growth.
My own career is about keeping employees empowered and engaged. And if there’s one thing my experience has taught me, it’s that every employee deserves a journey map. By taking the time to map out individualized employee trajectories, companies can demonstrate a commitment to their workers that will pay dividends from a culture, morale and retention perspective.
Mapping the journey
Every successful company creates a customer journey map. These maps are carefully designed to determine how customers interact with a brand and how the company can drive a better experience.
Mapping the employee journey takes that same principle and applies it to the people working for you.
At West Monroe, we define the employee experience as the sum of every interaction an employee has with the organization. For us, the employee journey provides a framework for viewing the employee experience through a long-term lens. Instead of thinking about an individual employee’s experience as a 12-month sprint from one annual review to the next, the employee journey reframes it as a continuous journey.
Here are the steps we take to create successful, individualized employee journey maps.
Use a “three-year letter” as a blueprint
At West Monroe, we ask all employees to draft a “three-year letter” as a way to map the employee journey. This document describes the professional and personal goals the employee hopes to achieve over the next three years, and often includes long-term goals beyond the organization. For example, the employee may want to acquire a new skill or make a vertical or lateral move to a new position in the organization. Or maybe the employee wants to leave the organization to pursue an advanced degree. It’s all fair game in the three-year letter, and that’s the guiding document that both employees and their managers will return to — and revise — throughout their career.
Create an environment of trust and transparency
Not every one of your employee’s journey maps is going to end at your company. Maybe your new accounting hire has aspirations to attend law school in two years. Or perhaps your operations manager wants to start her own consulting firm before she’s 40. Creating successful journey maps begins by establishing an environment where people are comfortable sharing goals like these. At West Monroe, we’ve built a very intentional environment where people know they’ll never be penalized for being honest about their goals. We accomplish this by celebrating employees when they leave and emphasizing the next phase in their journey. And we make it clear from the very beginning of the hiring process that having goals beyond our company will never impede career growth within the company.
Prioritize career advising training
Intentionally or not, a manager can end up undermining a companywide spirit of career transparency. Therefore, a big part of our employee journey mapping involves training people managers to effectively facilitate the process. At West Monroe, we have all Career Advisors take a course called “Introduction to Career Advising,” which outlines the mutuality of the relationship and steps to help employees achieve their career vision. For example, if an employee shares that she plans to leave the organization in two years, the Career Advisor must be respectful and talk about how they might tailor the employee experience to better prepare the employee for the next step in her career. We also instruct employees that three year letters are written in pencil, not ink — and that they can and should be revised to accommodate an employee’s evolving interests and goals.
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How employers benefit from journey mapping
From an employer standpoint, the benefits of employee journey mapping couldn’t be clearer.
First, there’s the profitability angle. According to a 2017 industry study, firms that invest in the employee experience outperform other firms four-fold in profitability. As Gallup found, this statistic reflects the simple fact that engaged employees are more productive. Therefore, an engaged employee brings in more money than a disengaged one.
But beyond profitability, the greatest advantage of mapping the employee journey is that it encourages your workers to consider their current and future goals — and by doing this, drives retention and builds a better internal culture.
By empowering employees to shape their experience and make the most out of their time with your organization, you’ll create an environment where employees want to grow. And you’ll likely find — as we have at West Monroe — that employees participate more deeply with the mapping process over time.
It’s incredibly rewarding for employees to watch the conversations they share with Career Advisors turn into satisfying outcomes. When that happens, employees become more productive, more committed to the organization and more engaged in their work.
With unemployment at an all-time low, your organization needs to improve the employee experience to attract and retain talent. But a better employee experience doesn’t just happen – it requires an intentional strategy that encourages employees to participate in mapping their own journey.