Employee Experience

Trevor Nelson
Trevor Nelson, DTM, PHR, SHRM-CP
Are employees leaving your company at an alarming rate? Can you tell that employees are more disengaged and just don’t have the passion for their work that they used to? Are you wanting to bring engagement and excitement back into the workplace? Taking a look at the overall employee experience is a good place to start. High turnover or high employee dissatisfaction are just a few signs that the employee experience is broken or missing something and, if not fixed, could be a path down a slippery slope for a company.

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What Is Employee Experience?

Employee experience is the entire employee “lifecycle” from beginning to end. It involves the employee’s perceptions of how they are treated, how others are treated, how the company compares to others, what will make them stay with the company, what will make them leave the company and the list goes on!

The experience can even start before the employee joins the company through the process of being recruited or applying for the company. Employee impressions and assumptions of the company can begin even before they are called an actual employee. The end of this experience, if there really is one, can reach beyond actual employment with the company. The value of the employee experience to a company should be just as important as the value of any product or service they provide.

Employee Experience Versus Employee Engagement

Many people often think that employee experience and employee engagement are interchangeable. However, employee experience is much more expansive and will likely include employee engagement as a key (but not the only) factor. The difference between employee experience versus employee engagement is like using a map instead of a GPS. A New York Times article explains this concept very well:

“Using printed maps [employee experience] requires travelers to work together…GPS [employee engagement] removes that entire interpersonal dynamic. It encourages a passive form of journeying. Driving by map…engages you actively with your surroundings.”

To expound on this comparison, employee engagement can be (and typically is for most companies) interpersonal. Credit should be given where credit is due. However, employee engagement can often be viewed as a checklist item. If a company implements this one change, employees should be happier. Getting from point A to point B has been achieved. While this may be true, and employees are indeed happier, the effects of said change likely won’t last. Alternatively, by looking at the bigger picture of the map, a company could see where roadblocks or detours could occur in the employee experience and figure out a way to navigate around those before they become a larger issue. That is what employee experience is all about.

Benefits of a Positive Employee Experience

No matter where a company is at in creating a positive employee experience, the benefits of a positive employee experience can truly have an immense impact across various aspects of the company. The benefits below are just a few examples of what a company has to gain from developing or improving a more positive employee experience.

1. Attract Better Talent

One major way a company gains additional employees is through employee referrals. These referrals are often a valuable resource to recruiters because these candidates already know someone within the company which creates an effective connection early on in the employee experience process.

Imagine how detrimental a negative employee experience would be to this process. Instead of drawing candidates in, it could actually keep candidates away. In contrast, a positive employee experience could be more profitable than even the most creative marketing tactics. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. A positive employee experience definitely has the power to get employees talking and bringing in some exceptional talent.

2. More Productive Employees

On a scale of “actively engaged to actively disengaged,” a Gallup poll has shown that the majority of employees in the world (a whopping 53%) fall into the middle “not engaged” category. These employees likely complete their job duties and meet expectations. However, they aren’t necessarily committed to their job and would likely leave for something else if given the right opportunity.

This is where engagement, in particular, as part of the employee experience can have a dramatic effect. If even a portion of that majority could be taken from “not engaged” to engaged or actively engaged, productivity numbers would exponentially increase. Instead of just meeting expectations, employees would be exceeding them and would likely be proactively seeking out ways to do their jobs even better. Not only would this increased productivity have a positive impactive on a company’s bottom line, it would likely lead to happier customers as well.

3. Reduced Employee Turnover

The power of a positive employee experience can also have a positive effect on attrition. The more valued employees feel, the less likely they are to leave a company (or it at least makes the decision to leave a company that much harder). Leaving a company due to pay or compensation does indeed happen. But there is a greater likelihood that an employee will leave the company if they don’t feel valued, if their manager isn’t treating them fairly or if they feel like their contributions don’t matter. All of those are factors to consider in the employee experience.

Components of Employee Experience

As discussed earlier, the employee experience takes into consideration the entire “lifecycle” of the employee. While there is a wide array of touchpoints within the span of an employee’s tenure with a company, these are a few standouts that deserve to take priority.

Hiring and Onboarding

As early on as filling out an employment application, submitting a resume or speaking with a recruiter, a prospective employee begins to form expectations on what it will be like to work for a company. Whether your hiring process takes hours, days, weeks or months, how candidates are treated during the hiring process can be the birth of the employee experience. Those expectations continue to develop as the employee is likely at their most vulnerable during the onboarding process. Until an employee knows how to perform their job duties in a satisfactory manner, their experience in any type of training or probationary period can have a lasting impact on their overall employee experience.

Recognition and Development

Typical annual merit increases and performance reviews are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the employee experience. As newer generations have entered the workforce, their expectations have continued to evolve and change. Companies must always be cognizant of how they are recognizing and developing their employees and that one size does not fit all. Most employees want to feel valued and appreciated and have a desire to continue to learn and grow. Otherwise, they are just spinning their wheels and that is a dangerous breeding ground for disengagement.

Transitions or Departures

Just as employee referrals are of value to a company’s recruiting process and therefore the employee experience, employees leaving the company (or even transitioning to another part of the company) are just as important to consider. Focusing first on employees moving within the company, this is where consistency is key. If employees feel like they are getting different experiences from department to department, this could lead to feelings of unfairness, favoritism or even resentment. These feelings have a tendency to spread and will greatly impact the overall employee experience, even if the move was for something like a promotion.

Many companies may not give a second glance at employees leaving the company, but these employees could be some of their biggest advocates or biggest detractors. Not all employees will leave a company because they had a bad employee experience. However, when an employee gives notice about leaving, they can be treated as outcasts rather than being thanked for their contributions or congratulated for furthering their career opportunities. Most employees don’t want to burn bridges with a past employer, as future opportunities could come from that relationship. Companies should take heed and treat departing employees like they could always return somewhere down the road.

How You Can Create an Excellent Employee Experience

Whether the employee experience in your company is something less than desirable or whether the employees are giving rave reviews and accolades, there is always room for improvement. These are just a few suggestions for continued analysis of the employee experience.

1. Ask Where it Matters the Most

Your employees are your BEST resources! If they aren’t being utilized to evaluate the entire employee experience, there is a huge gap somewhere in the process. At times, business leaders and HR partners may like to think they know what is best for the employees. However, they typically aren’t on the front lines on a day-to-day basis, therefore missing a critical factor when evaluating the employees experience. Without truly getting, understanding and embracing the employee perspective, a piece of the puzzle will always be missing.

There are various methods of gaining the employee point of view. These are just a few out of the numerous ways that a company can seek to understand the motives, wants and needs that their employees have and how they can best work toward satisfying them.

2. Don’t Get Complacent

Improving the employee experience is not a checklist, one-time effort. It should be a strategic initiative that a company can use to set themselves apart from the competition. Employees should have just as high a value proposition as various other resources a company may invest in. Therefore, innovation and change are to be expected in the employee lifecycle just as they are in any product lifecycle.

3. Benchmark

Don’t be afraid to see what other companies are doing. Particularly in times of unprecedented change when most companies are going through the same experience for the first time, companies are reaching out and partnering with each other to share best practices. Don’t get stuck on recreating the wheel if the solution is already out there. If you’re spending too much time trying to determine what will actually improve the employee experience rather than just doing it, then you’re overlooking the whole purpose.

4. Take Action, Gain Feedback, Be Strategic

Just as the employee experience is a journey, implementing strategies to improve it should be as well. Companies should be wary of biting off more than they can chew. While there may be various aspects of the employee experience that you could  focus on, choose a top priority. Having too many goals and objectives could muddy the waters and confuse both leaders and employees on what action is being taken for what purpose. By having efforts streamlined on one priority, you can develop effective action plans, obtain feedback and measure improvement. Once you’ve made satisfactory progress on one priority, which will hopefully create longer lasting effects, then the process can begin anew.

How To Measure Employee Experience at Your Company

Ranging from company-wide to very individualized efforts, there are a variety of tools you can use to measure the employee experience. Paralysis by analysis can occur if you’re using too many tools without the proper oversight and follow through. The most benefit will come from business leaders and HR partners playing equal roles in the development, execution and evaluation of these different options. It is also important to keep in mind that the level and/or promise of anonymity should be considered when evaluating any of these options.

  • Engagement Surveys. These are often done on at least an annual basis, if not more frequently (often referred to as “pulse checks”). They are typically longer, multiple-question surveys that dig into various aspects of a company’s culture. Questions asked on engagement surveys often revolve around company values, leadership and management, pay and benefits or overall job satisfaction. Forced ranking questions, along with open-ended/free form answerable questions, are the most customary questions used on engagement surveys.
  • Town Halls/Skip Levels. On a much smaller scale, companies can conduct employee town halls or skip levels to determine how particular teams are functioning or how effective a leader is at managing their team. Town halls will typically involve employees from a variety of teams, whereas skip levels may focus on one particular team. These are often conducted by a leader two levels above the employees involved, in order to allow the employees to feel like they can speak freely. While there may be structured questions, these conversations are usually meant to be more free flowing.
  • Stay/Exit Interviews. Both of these tools are typically done on a one-on-one basis. Exit interviews are typically done when someone is leaving employment with the company and ask a variety of questions targeted at what is making the employee leave and/or what could have been done to make them stay. Stay interviews are becoming more popular in some workplaces, where the employee is asked similar questions but the focus remains on what can be changed in the present.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Employee Experience

How does a positive employee experience impact the bottom line?
Harvard Business Review (courtesy of Jacob Morgan, one of the world’s leading authors of employee experience) has shown that companies that invest in creating a positive employee experience are 4.2 times more profitable and generate 2.1 times more revenue than those that don’t. Along with the variety of benefits mentioned above, these figures should make any business leader or HR partner do a double take.
What is an employee experience strategy?
Take an honest look at where any company representative (Talent Acquisition, Human Resources, Training and Development, leaders and managers, customer interactions, etc.) has a touchpoint with an employee. Any of these instances plays into the employee experience and will likely have a place to ask, listen and measure.
Trevor Nelson
Trevor Nelson, DTM, PHR, SHRM-CP

With a personalized license plate that literally reads “HRGUY”, I’m pretty passionate about the field of work that I’ve chose to indulge in! I have found Human Resources to be a very enjoyable career! With HR, I have had exposure to various disciplines, such as: Recruiting, Worker’s Compensation, Learning and Development, Benefits, Associate Relations, etc. Being a well-rounded Generalist has given me the ability to widen and deepen my knowledge and expertise in the HR field. I’ve also had the opportunity to work in various industries, including: Restaurant and Entertainment, Call Center, Retail, Non-Profit, Transportation, Printing Services, and Defense/Aerospace. Continual progress and development keeps me going! Inside and outside of work, I love and appreciate opportunities to learn and serve. Whether it be my children’s school, Toastmasters International, Sigma Phi Epsilon, or other community groups, I find different ways to stretch and grow personally and professionally. I currently lead a small HR team that serves upwards of 700-800 associates. We continue to look for ways to add value for our Operations partners, while still being great advocates for the associates, and keeping an engaged and dedicated workforce.

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