What is the employee experience?

For a long time now companies have devoted significant effort into understanding the customer experience so they can constantly improve it. Yet the perspective of another important stakeholder in the company – the employee – hasn’t typically received the same level of attention.

That, however, has all started changing over the past few years with an increase in focus on what is simply referred to as ‘the employee experience’.

What’s the “employee experience”?

You could argue that everything HR-related might be regarded as an employee experience and to some extent that’s true. There are some obvious elements that could be bundled in there: development, diversity, working conditions and so forth. They all contribute to it and in the case of activities like engagement surveys go some way towards helping companies to understand it too. Yet it’s only part of the picture.

The full employee experience is about all the interactions an employee has at their organisation. It reflects how they are left feeling as a result of those interactions. It’s not just focused on activities an employee is engaged in; it’s essentially about the cumulative impact of everything that goes on between the employee and their company – positive and negative.

So as well as being about the more obviously significant moments, the employee experience is wrapped up in subtleties, the build-up of feelings the employee has that in turn pervades their day-to-day reality. It’s highly personal and it’s emotional and there’s no quick fix to shaping it. It’s not something companies can address by introducing a weekly dress-down Friday or putting a snooker table in the corner of the office.

There’s nothing wrong with doing those kinds of things, but fundamentally the continuous day-to-day experiences of employees are far more important.

Understanding and improving the employee experience in your workplace

While an organisation cannot control every single aspect of the employee experience, it can influence some of the emotional and psychological factors that lie behind how someone is feeling and colour their experiences. What factors could be affecting it at your company and what could you do to improve it?

Here are a few components of the employee experience that you could give some thought to:

  • What processes could be driving your employees mad?

In this article, Josh Bersin cites companies’ tendencies to make things too complicated. To illustrate his point, he talks about Coca Cola – and the fact that employees trying to obtain a new employee credit card had to go through 52 different process steps first.

What processes have you got into your company that, well-intended as they may be, are actually making employees’ lives more difficult? Can you simplify or reduce that complexity?

  • Do employees know their work is making a difference?

All too often employees are doing something that’s benefiting others but are unaware of their impact. And that can affect how they perceive what they are doing and how they feel about it.

Research by Adam Grant, Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, revealed employees experience a big boost in motivation when they develop a sense of the impact their services are having.

  • Can employees acknowledge one another’s contributions?

The power of being able to thank others and be thanked should never be underestimated. Being able to consistently recognise one another’s accomplishments irrespective of level or status in the organisation can help create a high trust culture. 

Facilitating ways to do this helps companies be better placed to improve the overall employee experience not simply by enhancing a sense of achievement for individuals, but by enhancing a sense of belonging too.

  • Can your employees be themselves?

Authenticity matters in the workplace. It sounds obvious yet it’s something that can be difficult to achieve. Do your employees work in an environment where they feel they can genuinely be who they are? Or do they feel they need to present a ‘front’?

Everyone wants to be the best, most professional version of themselves at work and there’s nothing wrong with that – but if people feel obliged to compromise who they are and what they value, that could affect how they feel about their relationship with their employer.

  • Do your employees have a clear sense of purpose?

Do employees understand their ‘why’? Extensive research into the power of purpose has shown that employees benefit from understanding both their own ‘why’ as well as their company’s.

According to author, motivational speaker and organisational consultant Simon Sinek, the ‘Why’ should never be about an outcome – like making profit. It should be about why people should care about what they do. What is the purpose and what are the beliefs that make something important?

Having this sense of purpose creates a powerful motivator that enhances wellbeing and ensures efforts are sustained.