Understanding the scope of the term “employee experience” can be difficult. Linguistically, it recalls the parallel concept of customer experience, pushing organizations to consider if their employees receive the same attention and dedication that their customers do. Conceptually, it has its roots in organizational psychology, prompting businesses to reevaluate the unwritten contract underpinning their relationship with their employees. And practically, it refers to the companywide strategies and initiatives that better enable employee belonging, wellbeing, productivity, and engagement. For a business to succeed in the modern landscape, a comprehensive understanding of employee experience is more than a bonus. It’s essential.
By nature of its reach as a topic, employee experience is always evolving. Where once employee experience would have been perceived as the sole purview of human resources (HR), now it has the attention of the full C-suite—and with good reason. When we consider the full scope of each employee’s experience, it necessarily includes every potential touchpoint they encounter from onboarding to exit, whether that’s the internal technologies and solutions employees use for human capital management, communication, and monitoring job performance, the social opportunities and facilities available to them in person, or the extent to which their contracted work hours impact their home life. That’s why it’s integral that businesses ensure their people leaders are aligned and pulling in the same direction when it comes to employee experience. But gaining buy-in across the board can be difficult, too.
According to our global survey report of 1,150 senior executives “Closing the Acceleration Gap: Toward Sustainable Digital Transformation,” nearly half of leaders (49%) said that an inability to connect operational, people, and financial data to business outcomes impaired agility.
Over the course of this article, we’ll define employee experience more definitively alongside an overview of similar terminology, before breaking down the benefits of a positive employee experience and providing a full analysis of the major points of focus business leaders need when developing their employee experience strategy. At each stage, we’ll provide current statistics from new and recent reports that illustrate the business needs driving the ever-growing focus on employee experience and employees’ corresponding expectations. By the end, this article will ensure that you have the theoretical framework and the dedicated resources you need to create a strong case for a holistic, multichannel approach to employee experience.
What Is Employee Experience?
The seed for modern employee experience is a simple one: viewing employees as significant partners and stakeholders, regardless of their seniority, gender, race, religion, or any other factors. When we define employee experience, we should do so with that mutual respect in mind.
In short, employee experience refers to the sum total impression left on an employee by each point of contact during their life cycle at a specific company. However, it shouldn’t be viewed as something that a company does to its employees. Instead, it relates to the internal experience of every employee, acting as a means to measure the impact each interaction has on their thoughts and feelings toward the business. It’s about the perceptions they have about the company culture, the way they’re expected to carry out their work, their people leaders, and everything in between. A true image of employee experience would involve a consideration of everything an employee experiences at work.
When we discuss employee experience, it’s further important to view it as cumulative. Every employee’s journey with your organization will have significant moments, but those are far from definitive in themselves. Throughout this article, each time we refer to individual touchpoints and employees’ corresponding perceptions of them—such as the frequency of businesswide meetings, the extent to which their work life is digital, and the strength of company messaging—these are only designed to clarify the sheer variety of encounters an employee will have during any given day, let alone during a full workweek. From the moment a new employee signs their job contract, their perception of your business is constantly evolving. Ensuring that evolution is a positive one requires a sustained, involved approach with dedicated solutions.
In order to better clarify the relationship between employer and employee, employee experience is often viewed under the wider umbrella of the employee value proposition—the unwritten contract that exists between an employer and employee. Historically, the employee value proposition covered the salary and benefits offered to the employee in exchange for their work, but in the last century it’s continually expanded to include everything from professional growth to belonging and diversity. Considering how the employee value proposition is balanced between the employer and the employee is a good thought exercise when considering where to make changes to the overall employee experience.
The Relationship Between Employee Experience and Customer Experience
When we discuss employee experience, it inevitably calls to mind customer experience—itself the cornerstone of many modern marketing and sales approaches. Like employee experience, customer experience refers to the full picture that a customer gains of you as a business during their customer journey. Are they happy with the quality of your product or service? Do they feel any brand loyalty toward you? And what relationship do they have with customer-facing employees at the point of sale? Does the digital customer experience differ from the in-person one? These are all questions that can just as easily be inverted to apply to your people.
It’s the last question there that most obviously reflects the relationship between customer experience and employee experience. Where once the influence exerted from one to the other was best understood by the adage “the customer is always right,” now businesses recognize that a positive employee experience has a direct impact on the customer experience as well. For a truly people-oriented approach, we shouldn’t purely think of employee experience in terms of the knock-on effect it can have on customer experience—supporting your employees at each stage of their employee life cycle carries its own motives beyond measurable metrics. But by considering the tangible business benefits that rise from adjusting employee experience strategy, we can better see how significant an impact an integrated and sustained approach to employee experience can have.