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Employee Experience vs. Employee Engagement

31 Jan 2018 - Blog

What’s the difference between Employee Experience and Employee Engagement?


Employee experience, or EX was an HR buzzword throughout 2017, but isn’t this just another name for employee engagement? In this article we discuss the differences between the terms and the approaches to working with our people.


Employee Experience is a way of thinking and acting


Whilst the benefits of employee engagement have long been established, employee engagement measures tend to look at a particular moment in time (whether you measure annually, monthly, or during another time period).
EX extends the approach to consider engagement at all touchpoints throughout the employee lifecycle, importantly, from the employee’s perspective.

Josh Bersin[1] says,

“Starting as potential hires and recruits, employees look at everything that happens at work as an integrated experience that impacts daily life in and outside the workplace, including overall physical, emotional, professional, and financial well-being. Candidates assess future employers from the very start of the talent acquisition experience and make quick judgments about what life will be like for them in the organization, based on how they interact with the enterprise during the recruiting cycle.”


EX is an employee-centric way of thinking about the organisation where decisions made internally consider ‘how will our people perceive this?’ ‘What impression are we giving our people if we act this way?’ It takes into consideration how employees see, hear, believe and feel about all aspects of their employment:


Employee Experience factors


It requires a culture where leaders and managers alike put themselves in the employees’ shoes. A definition we like from Tracy Maylett and Matthew Wride [2] is:

 “Employee Experience is the sum of the various perceptions employees have about their interactions with the organisation in which they work.”


Now, an organisation just focussing inward on employees wouldn’t survive, so the employee experience and customer experience should be considered together. There shouldn’t be intended differences between how the customer and the employee perceive an organisation’s actions. (More on the relationship between CX and EX here and here.)


Employee Engagement is the output you are aiming for


By improving the employees’ experience of your organisation, you are going to achieve more engaged employees. Employee engagement can be seen as the end goal, while improving EX is the means to that end.


What Employee Experience is and isn't


What is the employee experience journey?


The employee experience journey looks at the lifecycle of the employee and thinks about the EX at each stage. The aim of considering the EX journey, is to ensure employees are engaged all along the way from candidacy through onboarding, performance, growth, and eventually exit. Disengagement at any stage evidently leads to a worsening employee experience.

The Employee Experience Journey


For example, during candidacy, we might consider:


Later in the cycle, during ‘growth’ we might think about some of the same aspects of EX in a different way:



Why we should optimise the employee experience


Our people will have impressions of the things that their organisations do, and these won’t be kept to themselves. Blistering employer reviews are all out there on Glassdoor and a quick Google of ‘worst places to work’ delivers plenty of horror stories.

The damage caused by publicised poor employee experience shouldn’t be underestimated. Amazon, Sports Direct and even ‘best place to work’ Google have seen damage to their employer brand from widely reported stories.

Internally, a poor employee experience at any point in the lifecycle can lead to disengagement, and the ensuing, proven problems such as increased absence, lower productivity, increased accidents and employee turnover.


Employee Engagement Statistics


How can you assess the employee experience?


Organisations are developing an integrated focus on the entire employee experience, bringing together all the workplace, HR, and management practices that impact people on the job.

Josh Bersin[3] references a model as starting point to address EX that includes meaningful work, the purpose of the organization, talent development and growth, rewards and wellness, the work environment, fairness and inclusion, and authenticity among management and leadership.

The PEARLTM model used by People Insight as a basis for employee surveys comprehensively includes each aspect of EX. It can serve as an assessment tool through the employee experience lifecycle to help you understand, and adjust your employees’ experience accordingly.


The PEARLTM model (Click on the image for a larger version)


There are several ways to tackle EX assessment, based on the model. For example:

However you design the process, it will be critical that leaders from across the business buy in to the importance of a good employee experience, and critically, are willing to take action based on your survey findings. More on this to come.


The key takeaways



EX will become more commonly discussed in 2018. Organisations are likely to become increasingly aware of the impact that employee experience has on their business, and instigate both short-term engagement initiatives and longer-term strategies as they design a more meaningful EX lifecycle. Indeed, without employee engagement at all stages of the lifecycle, the employee experience is likely to be both poor and short-lived.

Already we have seen larger organisations taking the employee experience seriously, like when Airbnb’s CHRO became Chief Employee Experience Officer. We expect this trend to continue.

Employee Experience job ads

More info on employee experience from around the web and references



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