How to attract the best employees? A story about employee experience in Latvia. 2022

Apr 4, 2023
As the work environment and employee needs continue to evolve, the question of "How to attract the best talent?" becomes increasingly relevant. Luckily, ERDA business partner Krista Kraupša answered the question at Latvia’s HR week conference in 2022. Krista clarified the differences between employee engagement and employee experience, as well as provided practical and actionable advice on what employees actually appreciate.

HR Week Latvia conference insight

HR Week Latvia is the largest conference on human resources in Latvia. It is an essential event for HR professionals, that provides a wealth of knowledge and insights on better understanding job candidates and current employees. The annual conference features international and Latvian speakers and attracts over 1,000 attendees. It offers a unique opportunity to stay informed on the latest trends and developments in the field of human resources.

Employee engagement – is it still relevant?

Employee engagement as a concept emerged in the 1990s, when it was first mentioned in a study by Professor William Kahn of Boston University. Since then, employee engagement has served as a reliable indicator of employee loyalty and enthusiasm. However, in light of recent rapid changes in the work environment, some have started to question whether employee engagement is still sufficient.

Employee engagement vs employee experience.

In recent years, the term employee experience has gained increased attention among HR experts worldwide. But what is it, and how does it differ from employee engagement?

In his study, “The Definitive Guide: Employee Experience”, Josh Bersin argues that employee experience is more than employee engagement. Employee experience is defined as a set of beliefs that are formed when employees interact with the organization in various situations during their daily work.

The easiest way to compare these two ideas is to think about the solutions available to improve each of those two aspects. Employee experience solutions are designed with a long-term perspective, putting the employee at the center, and asking the question: "How can we help you to do your best job?". That usually entails changes in company processes and work approaches that directly impact the employee's daily work experience (for example, transitioning from a manual recruitment process with endless Excel files to an automated system).

Employee engagement solutions, on the other hand, are based on the company's understanding of what employees need and are well characterized by the phrase: "Look what we did! Are you happy?" Employee engagement solutions are often compared to adrenaline "shots" that have a quick but temporary effect, and to maintain the positive feeling, another dose is needed (for example, table tennis in the office).

What do the first employee experience studies in Latvia reveal?

As the topic of employee experience gains relevance and attention globally, ERDA has recognized the importance of developing a reliable tool for measuring employee experience in Latvian companies. After conducting extensive research, the employee experience survey - EX Index - was created. More information about the survey can be found at

To validate the methodology locally, a pilot project was conducted in the autumn of 2021. The project involved six Latvian companies from various industries and surveyed 574 respondents in various positions and age groups. The EX Index survey helped to identify the highest and lowest-rated employee experience factors, and the main differences in experience among different employee groups.

#1 The physical work environment and culture are the highest-rated factors by employees in Latvia. However, digital tools, flexibility along with professional growth are shown to be the main areas for improvement.

According to the EX Index survey results, among the Top 5 factors that employees rated the highest, two topics stood out: the physical work environment and the culture of the organization. Additionally, it is noteworthy that meaningful work and inclusion in the work environment are among the top highest-rated factors, given their growing importance in the workplace.

On the other hand, the factors that were rated the lowest include:

1) Digital tools - functionality of available tools and support when new tools are introduced
2) Flexibility - flexibility in working hours and location, as well as the availability of different workspaces in the office
3) Growth opportunities - investment in employee growth by direct managers

#2 Employee engagement significantly changes depending on the workplace

One of the most striking findings from the pilot project was that employee engagement varies greatly depending on the workplace. As seen in the chart above, there is a significantly lower level of organization and job engagement among employees who work, for example, on production lines, in warehouses, or in stores, also known as "blue-collar" jobs.

The data from the pilot project suggests that 20% of blue-collar workers have a particularly negative attitude towards both their job and the organization. This is particularly concerning given that

≈ 80% of the total workforce are blue-collar workers

Whether due to unrecognized needs or a lack of focus on this particular employee group, it is clear that blue-collar workers have been overlooked until now. As organizations continue to work on improving employee experience, special attention should be paid to the specific needs and concerns of blue-collar workers.

What can employers do? 

As previously mentioned, improvements in employee experience automatically have a positive effect on employee engagement. Consequently, ERDA conducted a more in-depth analysis to address this question and determine the areas of the employee experience where blue-collar workers are experiencing a disadvantage compared to other employees.

The following chart depicts the most significant disparities in the context of employee experience based on the type of workplace: office / home office / flexible work model or on-site. The data revealed four key areas for investment in order to improve the employee experience of blue-collar workers:

1) Physical work environment
2) Flexibility
3) Growth opportunities
4) Wellbeing

Global companies are taking a creative approach to improve the employee experience

Three practical examples. 

#1 Individually adjusted working hours for flexibility

Not all investments in employee experience require additional funds, and a great example of this is the retailer Hornbach. Due to the specifics of the job, blue-collar workers are limited in the context of the workplace, but Hornbach found a way to compensate for this by offering flexibility in the context of working hours. The company developed a new work model, which consists of 5 blocks, or 5 options, on how every employee can adjust their schedule:

1) Replace holiday and annual bonuses with additional days off
2) Temporarily or in the long term move from full-time to part-time
3) Replace the annual salary bonus with shorter working hours
4) Distribute full-time hours over four days, thus shortening the work week
5) Increase full-time working hours from 37.5h to 42.5h for three, six or nine months

#2 “Bite” size courses for growth

Due to the specifics of their job, blue-collar workers often face limitations in terms of when and how they can receive training. However, the food delivery company Foodpanda has found a solution to this problem by developing training courses that are easily accessible from any mobile device. These courses are designed to be completed in short, 15-minute lectures, allowing couriers to learn while waiting for their next delivery. This approach seamlessly integrates training into their work routine and provides a flexible and efficient way for blue-collar workers to study.

#3 Salary on demand for boosting wellbeing

Knowing how vital financial stability is to the wellbeing of blue-collar workers, food service provider Metz has introduced a tool that enables employees to access their wages before payday at no cost to the company. The fee for the service is borne by the employees themselves, however, the results of the company show that the employees are willing to use the opportunity anyway. Half of the company's employees have used this service, with many using it regularly. Although this solution comes with an additional administrative burden, Metz believes that the benefits to employee wellbeing and attracting talent outweigh the inconvenience.

In conclusion - so what is the most effective strategy for attracting top talent in the workforce?
The ultimate goal of employee experience is to improve workplaces and to empower employees to achieve their full potential.

So, in order to attract top talent, the focus should shift away from short-term employee engagement strategies comparable to adrenaline shots, toward long-term employee experience solutions. When developing new solutions, it is vital to keep the long-term perspective in mind, respect the diverse needs of employees across different departments, and bear in mind the question: “How can we help you to do your best job?”



1. Deloitte, From employee experience to human experience: Putting meaning back into work, 2019

2.  Josh Bersin, The definitive guide: Employee Experience, 2021

3. Forbes, Back To Basics: Employee Engagement Vs. Employee Experience, 2020

4. Josh Bersin, Deskless Employee Experience Operationalize Your Strategy, 2021

5. TrendWatching, Innovation of the Day, DIY retailer Hornbach offers its 11,000 employees tailormade working hours, 2022

6. Foodpanda, Interactive Rider Courses, n.d

7. Josh Bersin, On-Demand Pay, Real-Time Pay to Make Workers Happy, 2021

8. ERDA, EX Index pilot project, 2021

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