Lauren Winans – Paying Attention to Employee Experience

Small Business Canada

Chief Executive Officer and Principal of HR Consultant

CanadianSME Small Business Magazine interviewed Lauren Winans recently. She is a woman entrepreneur with a mission. Throughout Winans’ career, she has been deeply focused on improving culture and enhancing the total rewards offered at the organizations she has worked for and provided guidance to. She is strategically focused yet tactically proficient and brings a holistic perspective to each client project. She believes that organizations should pay more attention to employee experiences. Read on to know how she is magnificently leading the role of a CEO and the Principal HR Consultant of Next Level Benefits. This organization is a nationally certified woman-owned HR consulting firm staffed with former corporate HR professionals in all HR disciplines.  

Employee experience is now a focal point for many businesses. Can you describe what this encompasses? Why do you think employee experience has become so important? 

Employee experience is a collection of all the various experiences an employee goes through each day while working – for example, what the experience is like when logging on to the network, scheduling meetings, collaborating with employees, or getting decisions approved. A positive employee experience results in more productive employees who genuinely want to work towards an organizations’ common goals.  A negative employee experience results in less productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism, and higher turnover.

The talent shortage and intense competition within the labour market have put a spotlight on the employee experience, as many employees have reassessed both their professional and personal priorities.  Organizations looking to hire and retain the best and brightest talent are continuously evolving their employee experience in an effort to be known as the best place to work.

What are some of the biggest factors that contribute to a positive employee experience? Are there any negative aspects of a strong focus on employee experience?

Strong leadership, clear organizational goals, transparent communication, and a willingness to embrace change are the primary factors that make or break the employee experience.  There are no downsides to a strong focus on the employee experience, in my opinion.  Organizational culture and employee experience will determine how successful a company will be.  Employees need to thrive and be productive in order for a company to achieve its highest potential.  A positive employee experience and internal culture fuels success.

What are some of the most common mistakes companies make when it comes to the employee experience? 

Not having a clear understanding of the definition of employee experience.  Or assuming that employee experience is only inclusive of pay and benefits.  It goes well beyond that, and while focusing on pay and benefits will reap rewards, it will not fix the problems that arise when culture and employee experience are neglected.

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Do you think that the employee experience is something that can be measured? If so, how do you go about doing that?

It can be measured in a variety of ways.  Developing the right metrics for your organization is critical in determining if you’re moving the needle in a positive direction.  For example, looking at metrics such as turnover rate, tenure, amount of time to fill open roles, promotions, 360 scores, and employee survey results, among other metrics, will begin to show you where you are at versus where you want to be.  Regular review of those metrics should be done with the HR team and provided to executive leadership on a monthly or quarterly basis.  

Do you have any advice for CEOs who are just starting to think about their employee experience?

I encourage leaders to be strategic about evolving the employee experience.  Changing everything all at once will cause disruption.  It is important to map out what changes should occur immediately, in the short-term, and in the long-term, along with a solid execution plan of how to get there and metrics on which to measure success.  

Lauren Winans 

Lauren Winans is the Chief Executive Officer and Principal HR Consultant for Next Level Benefits, an HR consulting practice offering clients access to HR professionals for both short-term and long-term projects. With 20 years of human resources and employee benefits experience, Winans possesses a deep expertise of HR best practices and what resonates with employees. She founded Next Level Benefits in 2019, offering HR teams access to former corporate HR professionals on-demand when they need them most. 

Winans’ experiences at various global, multi-generational, geographically dispersed organizations have prepared her well for assisting clients of all sizes and from any industry.  Prior to becoming CEO of Next Level Benefits, Winans served as a senior HR leader and responsibly managed all aspects of health, welfare, absence management, and retirement at General Nutrition Centers, American Eagle Outfitters, and CONSOL Energy. While working for Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Winans acquired an extensive knowledge of the health insurance industry. 

Throughout her career, Winans has been focused on improving culture and enhancing the total rewards offered at the companies she has worked for and provided guidance to.  She is strategically focused yet tactically proficient, and brings a holistic perspective to each client project.   

Winans is a member of the Forbes Business Council, Business Journals Leadership Trust, and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).  She has been featured in several media outlets such as Forbes, USA Today, and Yahoo Finance. Winans is a non-profit board member and an active volunteer for patient advocacy. She is also a graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Management and Robert Morris University with a Master’s in Business Administration.  

Next Level Benefits

Next Level Benefits is a nationally certified women-owned HR consulting firm staffed with former corporate HR professionals in all disciplines of HR. Each team member has at least 20 years of corporate HR experience from such companies as American Eagle Outfitters, Ariba, Ascena, Citigroup, GNC, Hess, IBM, Levi Strauss, Netflix, TBC Corporation, and U.S. Airways. Led by Lauren Winans, Next Level Benefits is focused on helping HR teams to create best places to work, attract and retain talent, and build a successful, sustainable people strategy.

Our deep expertise allows us to act as an extension of your team, eliminating the need for additional headcount or replying on external consultants or brokers without HR experience. Our clients are located all over the U.S., ranging in size from 20 employees to 50,000+ employees.  We free up their time, fill in the gaps in expertise on their teams, and tackle their most daunting projects.

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