Case Study About an Administrative Assistant

A talented administrative assistant (let’s call her Amber) worked in the Exceptional Student Services department of a small charter school for two years. The department wasn’t particularly busy, and she didn’t find her job all that challenging or mentally stimulating. 

However, Amber’s office was attractive and comfortable, her supervisor was warm and understanding, and her coworkers were supportive and fun. The school implemented many enjoyable activities, trainings, and team building exercises, as well as provided her with recognition, rewards, and appreciation for her good work. Because of the exceptional organizational alignment between the school and its people, Amber loved her job and was loyal to the organization.

After working at the school for two years, Amber relocated to another city where she found a job which, on paper, looked much better. It better suited her education level, was more challenging, had a fancier title, and paid her more. By all indications, Amber’s employee experience should have been satisfying.

It wasn’t. Despite her interesting responsibilities, Amber’s workplace experience was entirely the opposite of what she had enjoyed in her previous job. In her new job, she was relegated to a tiny workspace, her coworkers were negative about the company, and her supervisor was a controlling micromanager. Work felt like a prison. After 10 months, and before she had even found a different job, Amber resigned.

Clearly, workplace experience matters more than anything when it comes to talent retention.

What Is Workplace Experience?

Workplace experience is the sum of all the experiences that a person has in his or her place of employment. It incorporates the following elements:

  • Leadership style
  • Work environment
  • Policies and procedures
  • Relationships 

Leadership Style

People want to be led, not managed. They’ll happily follow a manager who leads the way by example with compassion, good humor, clear direction, and positive reinforcement. When leaders align themselves with an individual’s need to feel valued and trusted, they contribute to a positive employee experience.

At the same time, a successful manager is one who’s approachable and available to everyone. To keep communication channels clear, people need to feel comfortable enough to approach leaders, speak with them, and know that they’re listening. 

The Global Engagement Study reported that available leadership rouses greater confidence and has a bigger impact on performance recognition. What’s more, leaders who are approachable and open their doors to conversation encourage people to be more engaged.

Work Environment

Work environment refers to not only the physical environment, but the “climate” of the office. Both elements are equally important. Is the office well-lit? Is it clean? Does everyone have enough space for both independent work and collaboration? Is it welcoming and comfortable? Is it warm enough or cool enough?

As far as the other kind of climate goes, does the employee feel supported and valued? Is the predominant tone in the office one of positivity and optimism, or negativity and suspicion?

A winning workplace experience and environment is shaped by the atmosphere and mood of the work climate, the way people interact with each other, and the approach that executives take to implementing policies and procedures. To foster a positive work environment, ensure that your culture aligns with the mission. People who feel excited and challenged by their company culture are more likely to be innovative and committed to upholding the company's vision, goals, and strategy.

What kind of environment would attract top talent in your industry? Think of something that candidates wouldn’t be able to resist.

Policies and Procedures

Policies and procedures are in place to ensure optimum performance, integrity, and safety. When successful, they support employee retention. If they don’t contribute to any of these outcomes, decision-makers should reevaluate them. Policies shouldn’t feel oppressive or pointless to people, because when they do, they contribute directly to employee turnover. 

To determine whether your organizational procedures are effective, consider gathering employee feedback by asking questions like:

  • Do you feel that our company’s policies and procedures empower you to effectively fulfill your responsibilities?
  • If you could create one new policy or procedure at our company, what would it be?
  • In what ways does your manager enforce organizational policies and procedures? 

Once you’ve had conversations with your people regarding your organization’ policies and procedures, make appropriate corresponding changes to maximize their value. This helps ensure that the procedures people are held accountable to can be easily explained and tied directly to the staff, increasing everyone’s ownership and accountability while also showing that leadership takes feedback seriously. Furthermore, it may be useful to provide interactive, hands-on training about procedural changes. Managers should regularly review and revise a training agenda to evolve as the company adopts new systems and technology.

Relationships

Every person needs to feel emotionally connected in the workplace. People are better brand ambassadors when they feel they’re part of a strong team working toward a common goal. All workplace relationships contribute to the workplace experience, whether they’re between an executive and an entry-level person, between managers, or between departments. Positive relationships lead to positive experiences, which lead to positive outcomes. 

Team-building activities, games, and celebrations are excellent ways for people to form personal bonds with each other and their managers. The more frequently that people engage with each other and become familiar with each other's skills, the more they’ll develop a healthy relationship. 

Furthermore, managers should regularly provide their people with constructive feedback and praise, encouraging them to do the same for each other, supporting a cohesive environment with opportunities for growth and success.

Why Does Workplace Experience Matter?

A wise leader recognizes that organizational alignment between the company and its people regarding the above mentioned elements is key to attracting and retaining talent. To that end, many forward-thinking companies have created Workplace Experience Manager or Chief Employee Experience Officer positions to oversee such organizational alignment and prioritize the employee experience.

The workplace is undergoing a tremendous shift in professional relationships. In the past, people focused on what they could do to please their managers and retain their jobs. Now, with Millennials comprising most of the workforce, expectations are changing. Millennials can be a notoriously difficult group to please and are known for their tendency to job-hop. They recognize that their skills are in demand, and so the company that gives their people a positive workplace experience will be the one to earn their loyalty.

In today’s competitive and global marketplace, attracting talented people is becoming difficult, and retaining them can be even more challenging. According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, if businesses fail to meet employee expectations, “They’ll not attract or retain talent, nor will they be able to unleash the potential of the workforce.”

How Do You Gauge the Workplace Experience?

The best way to understand your people is to understand how they feel about their jobs. How can you know how to align your organization with their needs if you don’t understand their needs? And how can you understand their needs if you don’t ask them?

You can conduct surveys on any number of topics, perhaps starting with topics such as leadership style, work environment, policies and procedures, and relationships. Learning how your people feel about these elements of the workplace experience will tell you what changes you need to make to earn their loyalty and best work.

At Olumo, we provide short weekly employee surveys of 1-2 questions each via text message. As an employer, you may choose from over 400 questions regarding 10 workplace experience topics. See how it works!

The Harvard Business Review reported how International Truck and Engine Corporation changed the way they do employee surveys. They doubled their response rate from 33% to 66% when making a change to ask questions which focus on content, format, language, measurement, and administration. By asking great questions, you have the potential to see similar results.


By conducting regular, short, focused surveys, you can keep your finger on the pulse of the employee experience. It’s crucial to take their pulse regularly – after all, people are the lifeblood of your organization.

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