Employee experience encompasses an employee’s time—or “lifecycle”—with a company from beginning to end. From the pre-recruitment process to exiting the organization, each stage of the employee lifecycle can have positive or negative experiences attached to it. The idea behind employee experience is to proactively make each encounter and experience the employee has as positive as possible.
Employee experience is the HR equivalent of customer experience in marketing teams. Many organizations are doing away with traditional human resources teams and using employee experience terminology to redefine HR roles. You may see job titles in this arena such as Employee Experience Officer replacing the HR/People Officer role, or newly implemented roles to lead the People function, such as VP, Employee Experience. Some of the roles may include ‘culture’ or ‘engagement’ in their titles, but the term ‘employee experience’ encompasses more than just these areas.
How Does Employee Experience Differ From Employee Engagement?
It is understandable that some may use the terms ‘employee experience’ and ‘employee engagement’ interchangeably, as they both evoke similar outcomes. However, they are not the same thing.
According to Forbes, engagement relates to the level of an employee’s commitment and connection to an organization. It is the strength of the connection between the employee and the company, and the level of enthusiasm and investment they put into their work and workplace.
Employee experience encompasses the entire experience a worker has with a company and should be viewed and handled holistically. Engagement is simply a by-product of a positive employee experience. The better the employee experience, the more engaged an employee will be.
What Are the Benefits of a Positive Employee Experience?
Organizations that prioritize employee experience can expect to see a multitude of benefits. A positive employee experience can contribute towards a great working environment overall, however, we have listed some of the most rewarding benefits you can expect to see below.
1. Higher levels of retention
When employees are enjoying a positive experience at work, they are more likely to stay with the company. While there may be unpreventable circumstances that cause employees to move on, by providing a positive employee experience you can reduce the risk of employees leaving due to negative reasons. By ensuring that employees feel valued and that they have good career prospects with your company, you can boost both employee experience and retention.
2. Increased productivity
Productivity equals profitability, so it is in a company’s best interests to maintain and increase productivity levels. Employees who are having positive experiences are more likely to give their all and go above and beyond for the company. When your employees are feeling at their best, their work—and your results—greatly improve.
3. Better employer brand
Happy, engaged, and motivated employees will sing your praises. Your internal survey results will be more positive, your company reviews on public sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed will be glowing, and the external perception of your company will improve. Your company’s profile will be boosted, and you will attract quality talent as a result.
Improving Employee Experience
In seeking to improve employee experience, organizations must take a holistic view and examine all the elements that make up an employee’s work. Below are three key areas to consider.
The physical environment
The physical space or spaces in which work is carried out can greatly impact how employees feel, their productivity, and the quality of their work. You must consider whether the working environment you provide is welcoming and friendly—whether your offices are clean, bright, and secure, or dull and dreary. By providing a positive environment, you will boost employee morale and performance.
If you have remote workers, as is increasingly commonplace following the Covid-19 pandemic, you must still consider the spaces your employees will be working in. While employees working from home will control certain environmental factors that may improve their employee experience, you as an employer must ensure that your workers have all the necessary tools to perform efficiently from a remote location. Otherwise, this can lead to a negative experience and viewpoint of the company. As such, you must ensure that all remote workers have the correct equipment, technology, and information needed to carry out their tasks remotely.
Wherever your employees work—be it in an office, across multiple sites, or remotely—you should consider how you can improve their experience and make it as positive as possible.
Company culture refers to the values and behaviors that guide your workplace’s interactions and employee relationships. Essentially, this relates to the emotional and professional environment in which your employees work. If you do not strive to develop a positive company culture alongside key facets of your company such as clear communication, professional management, and a commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), you may find that employees have a negative experience. They may even label your company with the dreaded term ‘toxic workplace.’
To avoid this, you must assess multiple areas of your workplace experience. Is there any tension? Any areas where management could be improved? Have there been any instances of poor behavior, or even malpractice? Even if your workplace hasn’t experienced any of these more drastic scenarios, developing a positive company culture is still critical for ensuring that your employees have a good experience. You should make the values and behaviors that your company expects and upholds clear, and monitor your progression following any culture initiatives by seeking employee feedback and input. When employees all share similar, positive values and commit to honoring them, your employees will experience a harmonious working environment.
The job itself
You must ensure that all job descriptions accurately reflect the role so that when a new employee begins work, their expectations match their responsibilities, and they do not feel that their role was misadvertised.
Job satisfaction is a key topic of discussion during exit interviews, so you want to make sure that you do everything you can to address this throughout your employee’s lifecycle. When employees feel valued, can see that they are making a positive impact, and see that there is room to develop and grow within their role, this will make their day-to-day experience of work more positive. You can encourage this by developing and implementing training programs and appropriately recognizing and rewarding employees to boost morale.
You should provide opportunities to review and feedback on the job description as well as the role itself, ensuring that employee expectations and realities are aligned and that the postholder has input in their development and future with your company.
You should break these three areas down into smaller components and actively seek opportunities to improve them. For example, if a specific area of the office is experiencing wear and tear, a refurbishment can help to lift the physical environment and the mood of your workforce. Equally, if you hear reports of bullying amongst a particular division of the workforce, concentrated efforts to stamp it out can restore faith in your organization and remove any negative feelings about the company culture.
How Can Leaders Drive Employee Experience?
While HR will be responsible for your People Strategy and employee experience initiatives, they will need to seek buy-in from senior leadership to give their plans weight.
Senior leaders may be unaware of the typical experience that employees have, as their own experience may be enhanced by various privileges that come with their status. For example, a C-level executive is unlikely to have a lengthy wait for IT access or job-related tools, whereas a junior employee may report not having everything they needed set up for their first day. Senior managers may also experience additional benefits and have administrative support to help them navigate company processes which might be more complex for lower-level employees. Being removed from the regular experiences of employees can make leaders believe things are better than they are.
To drive employee experience, leaders, alongside HR, must accurately evaluate the current experience by taking the following steps. They should then make adjustments as required.
- Map out the employee journey: You need to understand the employees’ journey in detail, from when they first hear about the company to when they leave it and beyond. This will help you see the stages through the employees’ eyes and understand how they become joiners and potential re-joiners, clients, or referrers.
- Breakdown the touchpoints: There are many points of contact during the employee lifecycle, e.g., interview, first day, lunch breaks, performance reviews, etc. Each is an opportunity to create an experience that will leave a lasting impression.
- Magnify moments of truth: These are critical touchpoints with high emotional value, where it is vital that the employee experience is positive. Moments of truth can include interviews, performance management, parental leave, and illness. If you manage these effectively, you will see positive outcomes, such as a higher level of employee engagement and a stronger sense of belonging.
- Manage friction points: Touchpoints that lead to inefficiencies and impact productivity such as unnecessary meetings, poor IT systems, and laborious processes can cause friction. When unmanaged, these friction points can manifest into negative outcomes like high turnover and low satisfaction scores.
- Listen continuously: Gather regular insights throughout the employee journey, particularly at key touchpoints to gain data about the employee experience at relevant intervals.
- Personalize: By examining the composition of your workforce using analytics, you can create employee profiles, where different types of employees are grouped and represented by personas. You can do this in many ways, based on factors such as location, type of work, or their approach to work. These personas will allow you to home in on the expectations and needs of specific groups in the workforce during each touchpoint and create optimal and personalized experiences for them.
- Ideate and design solutions: Once you have your data, you should use a design thinking methodology to produce solutions. The process involves empathizing with the end-user, defining the core issues, ideating proposed solutions, then prototyping and testing the propositions to determine whether they are viable solutions to the problems.
Measuring the Impact of Employee Experience
The world of work is constantly changing and evolving, as are the needs and expectations of the workforce. Employee experience is never static—it needs to be constantly evaluated and improved to continue to be fit for purpose. Gathering feedback in a variety of ways can provide valuable insights.
Skip level meetings: In ordinary circumstances, when an employee has an issue, they are encouraged to raise it with their line manager. This can be a problem, however, if the line manager is the issue, or if the employee is not comfortable or confident in raising their concern with their manager. Skip level meetings allow employees to discuss issues with their manager’s manager, without their own line manager present.
Pulse surveys: Frequent engagement surveys to check the pulse of your organization provide valuable insights into quick ways to boost morale, as well as how to rectify deeper issues.
Employee forums: A long-standing feature in unionized and non-unionized organizations alike, the employee forum is a mechanism through which organizations can gather ideas on how to improve working conditions. Representatives from different areas of the workforce can collate feedback from their peers and present them at the forum.
Stay Interviews: Stay interviews are relatively new and increasing in popularity. They allow you to ask employees what might make them leave and what you can do to make them stay. It is a simple but effective concept, as you’d be surprised by how many people consider leaving for reasons that can be easily remedied.
Exit Interviews: Interviewing employees who have chosen to leave can provide you with valuable feedback, which can then be used to help prevent other employees from making the same decision. The main question to be answered here is the reason for leaving. These interviews should always be face-to-face so that you can have an open and honest discussion about the departing employees’ experience.
Employee experience is one of the most important investments an organization can make to stay relevant in the future of work. By having a strategic, people-centered approach driven by data and design thinking, you can create experiences employees will value and appreciate. Bigger than just company culture and engagement levels, employee experience encompasses the entirety of an employee’s time with your company. Organizations should define what they want their employee experience to look like, continuously communicate with the workforce, and act on the insights collected in order to develop and improve it.