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The global tech company used Great Place To Work’s survey to improve the employee experience, driving higher retention and engagement.

When looking at its employee survey results in 2022, ECI Software Solutions saw it had a problem.

Employee exit surveys showed the company had a retention problem. “We saw we were losing people in the early stages within their first year,” says Andrew Pryor, CHRO at ECI Software Solutions.

Company leaders met with analysts from Great Place To Work®, the global authority on workplace culture, to understand why fewer employees were reporting a consistently positive experience at work. The company compared that exit survey data with scores on the Great Place To Work Trust Index™ survey, which they conduct once a year. In that analysis, ECI saw that fewer employees reported having the resources and equipment they needed to succeed.

After more surveys and listening, leaders discovered the problem: an inconsistent onboarding experience.

ECI Software Solutions, like many others, had shifted strategies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “We used to try to hire people in the city where we were located,” Pryor says. When the company started hiring remotely, it could access talent anywhere in the world.

“The vast majority of our employees are 100% remote,” Pryor says. Despite the benefits for employees, the increase in remote work created new challenges for employees joining the company.  

By surveying new hires about their experience, ECI leaders got a clear picture of what was going wrong: missing laptops, insufficient access to systems, a lack of communication from managers, and other missteps.

“The first surveys were brutal,” Pryor says. “Something like 60 to 70% of people said they didn’t have the necessary equipment, or their manager hadn’t checked in with them for regular one-to-one on their first day.”

Pryor reads these onboarding surveys every Friday, which are also shared with the chief technology officer and chief operations officer, and Pryor also shares them with the CEO. The results of ECI’s efforts to improve the onboarding experience have been unmistakable: More than 90% of the time, new hires have the equipment and access they need on their first day.

When something does go wrong, the survey results ensure leaders are immediately engaged on the issue. “I don't have to ask the question anymore,” Pryor says. IT teams are immediately sharing updates and investigating what went wrong to avoid future incidents.

The secret ingredient? Data.

“That which is measured gets attention,” Pryor says. A regular survey with results shared among key decision makers drives quick reactions and meaningful outcomes. When ECI Software Solutions participated in its Great Place to Work Trust Index survey the following year, they saw an 11-point increase on the number of employees who said they had the equipment and resources to do their job in 2023 compared to 2022.

Making connection a priority

With a large remote workforce, ECI Software Solutions has implemented a cadence of meetings to ensure new hires feel connected to their workplace and colleagues. 

All employees should have a one-on-one with their manager every two weeks. For new hires, the cadence is more frequent.

“We suggest managers have virtual lunch with the employees on the first day,” Pryor says. “That’s part of that template.” After that, ECI says new hires should have a one-on-one with their leader every day for the first couple of weeks, every other day for weeks three and four, and every week until their leader feels an employee is ready move to bi-weekly cadence.  

The impact of these policies shows up in the surveys, in comments from employees who notice when managers go the extra mile to make a connection. Pryor gives one example of a comment he saw in a survey: “It was 6 p.m. in the country where my boss lives, but I ate my lunch and my boss ate a sandwich, too, just so it would feel like we were together.”

Virtual meetings are a requisite part of ECI’s flexible workplace culture.

“We have a requirement that employees are on camera,” Pryor says. While some may abhor the fatigue created by Microsoft Teams video chat meetings, face-to-face video communication is vital for ECI employees. “You miss the nonverbal cues,” Pryor says about audio-only interactions. Employees are also more likely to stay engaged when they are on camera, ensuring meeting time is put to good use.

Even after onboarding, ECI tries to get employees to connect with colleagues around the world. A new program called Employee Connections gets employees to sign up for 30-minute conversations with a coworker over Teams. Employees are randomly matched in pairs and given some feeder questions to get the conversation going.

“We’re trying to launch this new way of just having people reach out to each other,” Pryor says. While the world can feel small when you work from home, ECI thinks it can expand the employee experience when colleagues can connect with each other from across the world.

Onboarding impacts turnover

Why should you make onboarding efforts a top priority? For ECI Software Solutions, the experience was showing up in employee retention data.

“You cannot recover from a bad first day,” Pryor says. “If you track turnover in the first six months, you can almost go straight back and say: Did the person have a bad first day or a bad onboarding?”

ECI also ties onboarding to productivity and financial performance. “The faster you can get an employee to productivity, the larger the impact that’s going to have on financial performance of the company,” Pryor says. “The sooner we can get someone up to productivity, the faster we can move, which is why everything needs to be there their first day.”

This clear connection to business performance is why Great Place To Work Trust Index survey scores are a key metric that the company tracks as part of its annual goals.

“Being Great Place To Work Certified™ is one of our corporate goals,” Pryor says. Each department is asked to focus on improving one or two statements where they have an opportunity to grow, based on the data for their individual team.

“It’s like drinking from a firehose,” Pryor says. “You can’t fix everything … it’s about incremental progress.” That focus has led to impressive results, with ECI Software Solutions becoming Great Place To Work Certified in every country where it operates and has the required minimum of 10 employees — currently the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

Lessons for others

Here’s Pryor’s advice for other companies looking to improve their employee experience:

1. Start with the data

“The first thing we did was we started looking at exit surveys,” Pryor says. Every exit survey is read by Pryor, the CEO, the president of the company, and the executive overseeing the division that the employee has left. Crucially, exit surveys are not made confidential.

When looking at their Trust Index Survey results, the leadership team at ECI set corporate goals by identifying the statements that were the highest impact and needed the most improvement. For the prior year, improving the number of employees who agreed that “I am given the resources and tools to do my job” was one of ECI Software Solution’s corporate goals.

From that goal, ECI built many activities. “There are tons of to-do’s,” Pryor says, from retraining leaders to evaluating processes for collecting employee feedback.

Additionally, every division leader identifies more of these statements that they want their teams to focus on improving.

2. Make your data visible

When you give leaders the data, they will respond, Pryor says. “You really have to be willing to make all of that very public.”

When sharing challenging data, he has a bit of advice: “Don’t share bad news over email.”

“Email is the place to share data — but if I have something that’s negative or going to be perceived that way, I schedule a meeting where we’re on camera,” Pryor says.

3. Bring in experts

One valuable piece of the experience for Pryor is his relationship with Great Place To Work’s culture coaches — analysts who can help assess survey data based on their deep experience working with companies on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® List.

“I love the fact that once a year, we sit down with the Great Place To Work consultants and they give us their 100% impartial feedback,” Pryor says.

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Discover what employees value about working at your company, and how you can boost retention rates and increase productivity and performance with Great Place To Work Certification™.