What is employee experience? Everything you need to know

Do you keep hearing the phrase employee experience? Want to know what it is? In this post, we provide a comprehensive overview of everything you need to know about the employee experience.

What is employee experience?

Think about your work. How do you generally feel about it day to day? Is it positive or negative, or does it depend? What are the things that impact how you feel?

In simple terms, the employee experience is how every employee feels about doing the work they do in the company they work for on a day to day basis.

The concept of the employee experience evolved from established marketing thinking around the customer experience. The key messages from customer experience management experts are that where customers feel it is easy to do business with you and they have a positive experience of doing so, they will be more loyal and more likely to continue buying from you.

The same principles can be applied to employees. Where employees feel they have a positive experience of work they will be more engaged, more motivated, more loyal and continue to contribute to the organisation.

There is also evidence to show that the employee experience has a direct impact on customer experience. Indeed, one of our own case studies shows that employee engagement has a direct impact on patient satisfaction.

What are the benefits of having a positive employee experience

A positive employee experience leads to higher levels of employee engagement:

The main benefit of a positive employee experience is increased employee engagement. When employees enjoy a positive experience at work they are more likely to be committed to their work and to the organisation. A positive employee experience will lead to employees who are more motivated and productive.

A positive employee experience makes it easier to attract and retain talent:

In today’s competitive job market, attracting and retaining top talent is essential for organisational success. A positive employee experience acts as a powerful magnet, attracting talented people.

When employees have a positive experience, they are more likely to become brand advocates, sharing their positive impressions with others and contributing to a positive employer brand. This positive reputation helps attract high-caliber candidates who align with the organisation’s values and mission.

Additionally, organisations that prioritise the employee experience can reduce turnover rates, saving time, resources, and recruitment costs associated with constant hiring and training.

A positive employee experience leads to greater levels of customer satisfaction:

Positive employee experience directly influences customer satisfaction and loyalty. Engaged, satisfied employees are more likely to deliver exceptional customer service, going above and beyond to meet customer needs and expectations.

When employees feel valued and empowered, they become brand ambassadors, creating positive interactions and building strong relationships with customers.

As a result, customers perceive the organisation as trustworthy, reliable, and customer-centric, leading to increased customer satisfaction, repeat business, and positive word-of-mouth recommendations.

A positive employee experience leads to more innovation and adaptability:

A positive employee experience nurtures a culture of innovation and adaptability. Employees who feel supported and encouraged to experiment, take risks, and share their ideas are more likely to contribute to the organisation’s growth and competitiveness.

When employees feel psychologically safe and know their ideas are valued, they are more willing to challenge the status quo, propose innovative solutions, and adapt to changing market dynamics.

What’s the impact of a negative employee experience?

When companies fail to prioritise and cultivate a positive employee experience, it can have far-reaching consequences that negatively impact both the employees and the overall organisation.

A negative employee experience leads to decreased employee engagement and productivity:

A negative employee experience often leads to decreased levels of employee engagement and motivation. When employees feel undervalued, unsupported, or unappreciated, their enthusiasm for their work diminishes. This lack of engagement results in reduced productivity, lower quality of work, and decreased overall performance.

Employees may become disengaged, merely going through the motions without actively contributing their best efforts, which can harm team dynamics and hinder organisational success. This phenomenon is called quiet quitting.

A negative employee experience leads to higher levels of employee turnover:

A negative employee experience can contribute to high turnover rates, as dissatisfied employees are more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere.

The cost of constantly recruiting and training new employees can be significant, draining company resources and impacting continuity and productivity.

High turnover also leads to a loss of institutional knowledge, as experienced employees leave and take their skills and expertise with them.

A negative employee experience can damage your employer brand and reputation:

Companies with a negative employee experience often develop a poor employer brand and reputation.

Dissatisfied employees are likely to share their negative experiences with others, both within their professional networks and through online platforms such as social media and employer review sites.

This negative word-of-mouth can discourage potential candidates from applying to the company and can also affect customer perceptions.

A negative employee experience can lead to reduced innovation and creativity:

When employees feel disempowered or fear negative consequences for expressing their ideas or challenging existing processes, they are less likely to contribute their insights or engage in problem-solving.

This lack of creativity and innovation can impede the company’s ability to adapt to market changes, find new solutions, and remain competitive in a rapidly evolving business landscape.

A negative employee experience can lead to poor customer satisfaction:

Unhappy employees are more likely to deliver subpar customer service, resulting in decreased customer satisfaction.

When employees are dissatisfied or disengaged, they may lack the motivation to provide excellent customer experiences.

This can lead to a decline in customer loyalty, negative reviews, and a damaged reputation in the marketplace.

The employee experience encompasses the whole employee lifecycle

The employee experience needs to be seen on a continuum. Employee experience is not a one off initiative or programme. Like culture the employee experience needs constant nurturing.

The employee experience begins the moment someone even considers joining the company to the moment they ultimately leave.

Along their journey there are likely to be many milestones that all have an impact on their experience. For example, our exit survey data shows that many people tend to evaluate their career opportunities with the company after a year or two. Other regular opportunities include the appraisal, pay review, promotion etc.

During an employee’s journey with the organisation there are a myriad of opportunities for the employee experience to be enhanced, or tarnished.  We refer to these as touchpoints.

Every time someone interacts with their colleagues, their boss, senior leaders, they form an impression of ‘the company’. Every process or procedure can impact how easy it is ‘to do business’ with the company – if payroll makes a mistake, people feel their rota is unfair etc., etc., they all leave a bad taste.

what is the employee experience

What can organisations do to create a positive employee experience?

This is our model of the factors that impact the employee experience.

what is the employee experience

Values are the foundation of the employee experience and employee engagement.

Values define what we believe in, what we hold dear, what’s important – to customers, the organisation and its leaders. Organisations that focus on defining and operating according to their values will have higher levels of employee engagement.

Values influence how leaders behave.

Values define what leaders tend to focus on, what they want to see, what they will ignore, what do they reward, punish.

For example, if a critical value of the organisation is being innovative, then leaders are more likely to be seen to encourage creativity and idea sharing. Any leader who behaves in a way that discourages creativity will undermine the organisation’s values.

How leaders behave reinforces organisation culture.

Leadership behaviour defines ‘the way we do things around here’.

Everyone looks to leaders to model how things should be done.

There are three ‘touchpoints’ that influence the employee experience .

Day to day the employee experience is influenced by:

  1. the organisation culture, the way we do things around here. Does it enable me to perform or does it get in the way?
  2. the job itself. Is the nature of my work rewarding, enjoyable, challenging etc.?
  3. the processes, systems, policies and procedures in place. Do they enable me to perform or do they hinder me?

Surrounding the three touchpoints are the key inputs that define how employees perceive their experience of each touchpoint.

These inputs include things such as wellbeing, reward and recognition, development and growth, how people are managed etc., and are the typical things you might find in most employee engagement surveys.

The linkage between the employee experience and employee engagement

In our view employee engagement is an outcome. Employee engagement is the true measure of whether or not people feel they have a positive employee experience.

Employees need to feel committed to their work AND to the organisation for them to feel truly engaged.

If any part of the employee experience is negative then it will erode engagement.

So, to improve employee engagement you need to focus on enhancing the factors that impact the employee experience and ensure that the employee experience is aligned to the organisation’s culture and ultimately back to the organisation’s values.

What’s the best way to measure the employee experience?

The start point to improving the employee experience is to measure it through a well constructed employee experience survey. An employee experience survey is an online survey which collects feedback from employees on their personal experience of working for the organisation.

Employee experience surveys typically measure the key factors that impact employee engagement. Companies then use the data gathered from these surveys to analyse and improve employee engagement.

Designing your employee experience survey requires thought, but our model above provides the core structure for the types of employee experience survey questions you might ask .

As we have seen though, the employee experience is a continuous thing so the gold standard is to measure the employee experience at every stage of the employee lifecycle using four different types of employee experience survey.

Each of these has a slightly different purpose and objective so it is essential to first be clear on your survey objectives, but the data they gather will give you a rounded perspective on how people feel about the organisation at different stages of the employee lifecycle.

  • Onboarding surveys will help you understand how new employees felt about their experience of joining the organisation. This will help you ensure that your onboarding process is as effective as possible.
  • Employee Engagement surveys will help you understand how all employees feel about their experience of working in the organisation.
  • Pulse surveys will do the same as engagement surveys, but they can be used more frequently.
  • Exit surveys will help you understand how leavers felt about their experience of working in the organisation. They are much more effective than exit interviews and a great way to outsource your exit interview process.

In conclusion

The employee experience is much more than staff satisfaction. It is based on many interactions employees have with key touchpoints on an ongoing basis throughout the whole time they are with the organisation.

As such, creating a positive employee experience is not going to be achieved with any single initiatives. To create a truly positive employee experience requires alignment between the organisation’s values, how every person in a leadership position behaves, the organisation culture, the work people do and the processes and systems that underpin that work.

However, if you can truly create a positive employee experience then your organisation will see significant benefits.