Forget “Engagement”: It’s All About the Employee “Experience”

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If you’re like me, you’re probably a little tired of hearing about employee engagement, mostly because the things businesses have been doing to engage with their employees didn’t offer long-term solutions. Morale would go up and down in the same month, and everyone would be back at square one.

Think of the perfect culture like a spa visit. It’s not just about the services (perks), but about the whole experience—from the hospitality and peacefulness, to the relaxing atmosphere. The latter is what shapes a successful, lasting company culture. It’s for that same reason that the HR industry has been abuzz with the words “Employee Experience” (EX).

What Employee Experience (EX) is—and what it isn’t

Let’s start with what it isn’t.

When we talk about the Employee Experience, we’re not referring to the Employee Life Cycle (ELC). That’s part of a much larger process, and is typically the responsibility of a company’s HR department. EX on the other hand is up to each leader within the company.

The Employee Experience isn’t a list of perks like those free snacks in the break room or beanbag chairs and pinball machine you set up in the lounge area. Yes, perks are easy to introduce and can make employees happier, they’re usually Band-Aids—short-term solutions that won’t address larger business problems or employee engagement issues.

EX doesn’t have anything do with the talent management, human resources development, or Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Granted, EVP does play into the concept of Employee Experience, but it has a much more narrow focus. A good thing to remember is that EX isn’t employee satisfaction, nor is it about trying to capture how an employee feels about the company.

Here’s what the Employee Experience is: It’s about the sum of the different perceptions employees have about their interactions with the company that employs them. This means a few things.

Employee Experience is bigger than the Employee Life Cycle, casual Fridays, etc. EX involves how the company handles the hard days, like when an employee receives bad news about a loved one, difficult performance reviews, or how the company followed up with employees after they gave feedback on the last employee engagement review/survey. More than this though, the Employee Experience is ultimately about how employees perceive these events and the ways in which they’re handled by the company.

The purpose of a good Employee Experience

Developing a strong Employee Experience is about creating the right conditions under which you can maximize the attraction and retention of high potentials.

High potentials are actively engaged in their job, they’re focused on the positives, good at time management and their job; but they’re also in-tune with business metrics, employee engagement, customer engagement, and have a grasp of the bigger picture. These are the people who will help your company run like a well-oiled machine. They’ll also be the keystone in the Employee Experience.

It’s a ‘chicken or egg’ scenario. You want to develop an exceptional Employee Experience to attract and retain your high potentials, but those same individuals will also be responsible for maintaining that experience. You need the high potentials to make the Employee Experience foolproof, but you need a good Employee Experience to get the high potentials in the first place.

If you’re wondering what a good Employee Experience does for your high potentials, it’s simple. When management seems to be invested in its people, when they make it easy for employees to imagine themselves as part of the company’s future, they’re going to feel like the company cares about them. This will make them far less likely to leave to seek fulfillment elsewhere, because you’re already providing it.

It comes down to whether you’re telling your high potentials that they’re valuable to you—at least creating the perception that they are through the Employee Experience. If you’re not, they’ll find another company who does seem to value them, their needs, and their talents.

When you build the right EX, you gain the ability to transform your organization from within. The Employee Experience directly translates to higher employee retention, which in turn correlates to a higher customer satisfaction and engagement rate.

Investing the time in EX is one of the smartest ways you can develop the finer points of your company mission, to create an organization that brings in culture-appropriate talent and personalities that can help sustain that success. For #DramaFreeHR, aim for improving the experience rather than just trying to engage your employees at random intervals. Remember: It’s all about perception!

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