What is Employee Experience?

A guide to understanding how your organization’s culture creates an Employee Experience that drives employee engagement.

Defining the Employee Experience

In technical jargon, the Employee Experience (EX) is the sum of perceptions employees have about their interactions with the organization in which they work. In simpler terms, it’s the way employees feel about their organization, or it’s the organization’s culture through the eyes of its employees.

When we measure EX, we are hoping to answer this simple question: “What’s it like to work at this particular place?”

How is Organizational Culture different from Employee Experience?

Employee Experience (EX) and Organizational Culture are closely related concepts but different enough that they warrant separate labels. Organizational Culture is the set of values, norms, guiding beliefs, and understandings shared by members of an organization/workplace that are taught to new members as the way to feel, think, and behave. Simply put, “it’s the way things work at a particular place.” Culture can be deliberate or organic. Either way, all organizations have a culture.

EX is how employees react to and experience their organization’s culture. When examining the EX, we are focused on the employees’ perspectives, and because employee voice is a vital to a thriving organization, we give this concept its own label: We call it the “Employee Experience.”

More about the Employee Experience

A useful analogy is to think of the Employee Experience (EX) as the operating system or “OS” for your people. If your OS is effective, it will attract, retain, and engage your employees. EX is what we measure when we survey employees, accounting for each stage of the employee lifecycle (onboarding process/surveys, pulse surveys, exit surveys, etc.).

EX relies heavily on whether expectations are aligned with the employees’ actual experiences. As we did the research for our book “The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results” we reviewed over 40 million survey responses. We developed this equation as a result of what we found:

EX =
Experiences + Expectations + Perceptions
Unmet Expectations + Unmet Experiences

Many organizations believe that creating a stellar Employee Experience is a matter of tossing out a few perks, then calling themselves “great places to work .” This may work for in the short run, but over the course of an employee’s journey it starts to wear off. The better course is an EX that gives each employee a purpose, a path, and a place.

Where does Employee Engagement fit into things? What about Employee Well-Being?

Employee Engagement is an outcome that flows from an organization’s Employee Experience. When the EX is aligned to the needs of the organization and its employees, the organization benefits from high levels of Employee Engagement in the workforce.

Employee Engagement is that emotional state where we feel passionate, energetic, and committed to our work. As a result, we fully invest our best selves in the work that we do. We bring both our emotions and our actions to our work- our hearts, spirits, minds, and hands. When employees are engaged, they choose to give discretionary effort in helping their organization win. As explained, when employees experience a sense of purpose, path, and a place within their organizations, they experience belonging and Employee Engagement becomes almost automatic.

So then are Employee Engagement and Employee Well-Being the same concepts? Not really. Well-Being is about “feeling good,” “being happy,” or being well.” Employee Well-being is about how the job affects an employee’s overall health and happiness. It’s not enough, however, to merely have happy employees. Winning organizations need their employees’ focused contributions, and that discretionary, special effort that comes when employees are engaged in their work.

When it comes to EX management, most organizations are getting only half of the equation right, that is to say, they focus on the happiness aspect, but not on the other elements such as belonging, growth, individual development, meaning and impact, to name but a few.

What is Employee Satisfaction?

When we talk about Employee Satisfaction, we are referring to certain foundational elements of the Employee Experience that don’t necessarily motivate an employee to do great work, but are vital to the employee’s relationship with the organization. These are those transactional elements such as safety, tools and resources, perks, employee recognition, and even compensation. Again, these factors don’t necessarily motivate , but if they are lacking, an employee won’t bring their best self to work (they will be disengaged).

While Employee Satisfaction is transactional, it is still important and vital. It represents the foundational “this-for-that” relationship that we must first establish with any employee. Like a bank account, as long as the employer is depositing sufficient funds (compensation, satisfactory workplace, benefits, safety, etc.) into the satisfaction account, the employee is willing to contribute effort commensurate with these deposits.

Our main point? Employee Satisfaction must be present before we can work on other aspects of EX, such as growth, individual development plans, etc.

The Employee Experience Summarized

When distinguishing between Organizational Culture, Employee Experience, and Employee Engagement, it may be helpful to think of it this way: Organizational culture is what we build; EX is what we measure, and Employee Engagement is the outcome we want.

Your Employee Experience strategy should be designed to do the following:

  • Measure and understand how your employees experience your organizational culture (employee experience surveys)
  • Align your EX to the mission and values of your organization (what behaviors should you expect from your leaders)
  • Use an Employee Experience platform or other system to continually monitor the overall health and effectiveness of your EX
  • Use data and insights to guide operational leaders
  • Teach front-line leaders the important of helping each employee find a purpose, path, and pace within your organization (Leader Driven Experience)
OC vs EX vs EE

Winning with the Employee Experience

Presented by: Christian Nielson and Matthew Wride

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At DecisionWise, we care about improving your company’s employee experience. Our experts can design a custom listening strategy for you with our award-winning employee experience survey technology, guide you to fully understand your data insights, and help you get the results you want.