What is employee experience?
It’s more than just where an employee sits or what their desk looks like.
Employee experience is the culmination of all of the interactions and experiences that workers have during their entire tenure with an organization—from their initial interactions with the organization to their exit, and beyond.
Employee experience, and all of its components, span multiple areas and can be viewed from a number of angles—it’s the culture of an organization, the technology used, and the physical work environment. It’s also the employee’s impressions and perception—gathered through their thoughts, observations, and feelings about their time with the organization. Lastly, it includes a personalized journey between the employee and organization to shape the experience—making employee experience a comprehensive way for employers to leave a positive impact on their workers through a number of touchpoints.
Employee experience isn’t just a good idea to keep your employees happy. In fact, it’s a critical factor for business leaders to consider.
Employee experience impacts every stakeholder in an organization
Research from MIT suggests organizations that prioritize employee experience achieve:
- 2x customer satisfaction
- 2x innovation
- 25% greater profitability
This isn’t a surprise, when you consider that happy employees are more productive and engaged. Temkin Group’s 2016 Employment Engagement Benchmark Study shows that companies that excel at customer experience have 1.5 times as many engaged employees than companies with less-than-stellar customer service, proving that employee experience and customer experience are intrinsically linked.
A positive employee experience is also becoming a key differentiator in the search for talent, as a growing section of the workforce is seeking meaningful work, flexibility, autonomy, connection, and mentoring. With only 1 out of 10 employees reporting that their overall experience at work significantly exceeds their expectations, the organizations that are prioritizing employee experience are much more attractive to high-quality talent.
Part of attracting high-quality talent requires not only providing incentives and experiences, but discovering which incentives are the most meaningful to a particular group of employees. For example, workers are increasingly looking for flexible scheduling—in fact, work flexibility has been cited as the number one incentive that employees are looking for, even trumping higher pay and more vacation time. In this case, flexibility—or lack thereof—has the potential to significantly impact someone’s employee experience.
Is employee experience the same concept as employee engagement?
Employee experience has evolved over time. As Jacob Morgan describes in The Employee Experience Advantage what started as a focus on utility (what do employees need to work?) then shifted to productivity (what do employees need to work better and faster?) eventually turning into an interest in engagement (how can we make employees happy so they perform better?) bringing us to the broader employee experience (how can we create a company where people want to show up vs. need to show up?).
Although employee experiences touches on factors like engagement and recognition, those factors, although critical, are just pieces of it. Employee experience requires a broader lens and the effort of the entire organization.
Employee engagement is more employee-centered and personal in nature—focusing on the emotional and social needs of the worker and is top-down, hoping that employees engage with the company’s culture, ideas and work.
When it’s done well, employee experience also provides information about the effectiveness of organizational systems and processes like recruiting, onboarding, learning, development, and performance management.
Part of an impactful employee experience is frequently evaluating its effectiveness, in order to ensure that an employee’s thoughts and perceptions are always being shared and understood through the employee lifecycle—not just during an annual review or exit interview.
How leadership can begin thinking about employee experience
To start, leaders can use pulse surveys to get a baseline understanding of the employee perception of the organization in its current state—starting with not only their present engagement levels, but their thoughts about several of the key factors in the employee experience landscape, like culture, technological resources, and their workspace.
To shift toward an experience-centered approach, there are a few areas that business leaders can explore to begin the transition.
Address multiple milestones
We’re all familiar with the exit interview—during which we share our feedback about our experience at the organization before departing. Experience is so much broader than the exit and can change over time. There should be initiatives, feedback opportunities, and measurement at every single milestone, including: recruitment, hiring, onboarding, performance, learning, and departure.
Adjust the workplace to fit modern needs
Though trendy, “modern” doesn’t have to mean kombucha kegs and ping pong tables.
Or it does. Depends on your company. 😏
However you want to look at it, you should be ensuring that your workplace is periodically refreshed and that everybody has what they need to be successful. Here are a few ideas:
- Change your lightbulbs, lampshades, or other aesthetic features
- Update old software
- Allow dogs in the office
- Invest in new tools to make the workday more efficient
- Evaluate seating arrangements or desk configurations
- Arrange for snacks to be delivered
- Start offering more flexible schedules
In addition to helping your employees be more engaged and productive, these small workplace perks are also great for recruiting new talent.
Treat employees like customers
Beginning an organizational revamp is a massive undertaking, but at its core, it’s about making employees feel comfortable and valued. To start: try simply treating employees as if they’re customers. This means asking what you can do to help, making them a priority, and addressing their feedback.
Treating employees like customers actually has a positive impact on an unexpected group of people—your actual customers! Employees are typically the ones directly interacting with customers, so if they’re happy, motivated, and engaged with their work, their customer service is better, too.
While a thoughtful and strategic plan is always a good idea, employee experience doesn’t need a long, drawn-out process. In fact, you can start shifting towards a better employee experience right away with 9 Simple Employee Experience Upgrades You Can Implement Anytime.
Examples of organizations with great employee experience
Employee experience requires that employers go beyond checking off the boxes. It requires taking steps to customize their efforts by understanding what makes them different as an employer and how their specific experience should reflect that—after all, two retail stores or food chains can have comprehensive but completely different employee experiences. Here are a few organizations that we can look to who are doing employee experience in a way that’s aligned to their specific mission, values, and employee needs.
In their effort to improve employee experience, Hilton Hotels committed to upgrading their physical staff spaces for hourly service workers—including new lighting, fresh paint, renovated cafeterias and locker rooms. These are just the cosmetic changes—they also introduced recent policy and benefit changes that included parental leave benefits for salaried and hourly workers. This is a notable shift, as many organizations focus their engagement efforts on corporate employees.
Our mission is to be the most hospitable company in the world, and you can’t do that without great people, and you can’t get great people without being a great workplace.
–Matt Schuyler, Hilton’s chief human resources officer
In one year alone, Wegmans invested $50 million in employee development and $5 million in scholarships. The grocery chain prides itself on ensuring that employees are well-equipped with the resources to be successful—butchers have been sent on trips to Argentina and Colorado to learn about beef, while deli managers have gotten extensive cheese education through company-provided trips to Italy, Germany, and France. 🥩🧀
Honestly? We’re jealous.
Our employees are our number one asset, period.
–Kevin Stickles, Wegmans’ vice-president for human resources
This retail chain is infamous for it’s exceptional customer-service experience—there are even several books on the topic. Much of their customer success can be traced back to the focus that the organization has on selecting and grooming their talent, and leading with their non-negotiable core values. Nordstrom invests in providing their employees with autonomy, flexibility and trust—while continuing to provide career development opportunities throughout their employees’ tenure with the organization.
Through a relatively recent brand revitalization, Arby’s has fostered a strong employee experience through an internal program called “Arby’s Brand Champ,” which aligns with their brand purpose and mission: “inspiring smiles through delicious experiences.”
According to QSR magazine, a publication focused on the growth and development of food chains, Arby’s is focused on driving customer experience through employee happiness, and emphasizes the importance of supporting employee dreams—at Arby’s, and beyond.
The airline has been vocal about their order of importance policy that prioritizes employees first, then customers, then shareholders—a groundbreaking framework very rarely seen in the business world!
We believe that if we treat our employees right, they will treat our customers right, and in turn that results in increased business and profits that make everyone happy.
The popular airline has even gone viral online because of the humorous nature of their in-flight announcements—reinforcing their belief of having fun and enjoying time at work.
We all want to be recognized and feel that our work matters. Employee experience isn’t going away—in fact, it’s becoming more important and more human-centered every day.
Given the significant impact on virtually every business measure—and even more importantly, the well-being and happiness of the people in the business—leaders are doing themselves and their employees a service by prioritizing building and maintaining a positive employee experience for everyone.
Ready to take the next step? See what else you can do to engage and motivate employees with our latest guide:
What kind employee experiences have you had in the past? Is there a workplace or practice that particularly stands out?