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Employee Experience Explained

A guide to understanding how your organization culture creates an employee experience that drives employee engagement.

The Employee Experience Definition: The Employee Experience (EX) is the sum of perceptions employees have about their interactions with the organization in which they work.

There is a good deal of confusion about the definition of “Employee Experience.” When individuals and organizations are defining Employee Experience, there is a fairly large range in their descriptions. Part of the reason for this confusion is that we tend to mix similar concepts, or use these terms interchangeably:

  • Organizational Culture
  • Employee Experience
  • Employee Engagement
  • Employee Satisfaction
  • Employee Well-being

While some of these terms directly relate to creating an overall employee experience framework, they each have their own meaning. So, let’s clear up some of this confusion around the definition of Employee Experience by defining these terms individually.

Employees having a meeting together, discussing the employee experience.

What is the Definition of Organizational Culture?

Organizational Culture is what we build. It is a set of values, norms, guiding beliefs, and understandings shared by members of an organization and workplace taught to new members as the way to feel, think, and behave. Simply put, “it’s the way we do things around here.”

Culture can be deliberate or organic. Either way, all organizations have a culture within the workplace. This culture sets the tone for the behavior of the organization. In other words, the key difference between Organizational Culture and Employee Experience is that culture is what we build, EX is the result of that culture.

What is the Definition of Employee Experience?

The Employee Experience is the sum of perceptions employees have about their interactions with the organization in which they work. EX is an organization’s culture through the eyes of its employees. Think of it this way-EX is the operating system or “OS” for your people. If this OS or environment is effective, it will attract, retain, and engage your employees. EX is what we measure when we survey employees, factoring each stage of the employee lifecycle (onboarding process/surveys, pulse surveys, exit surveys, etc.). It tells us how they perceive their organization’s culture.

Employee Experience is based largely on employees’ perception of what is going on, and not always on the reality of what occurs. It also relies heavily on whether expectations are aligned with the actual experience. Therefore, this is why two employees, working in nearly identical environments or cultures, can have vastly differing Employee Experiences. The Employee Experience, therefore, depends largely on perceptions and expectations . EX is not limited to an employee’s interactions, it can be anything the employee sees, feels, or hears while they are working for a company. Remember that every interaction an employee has from start to finish, the employee journey will greatly affect their overall employee experience.

As we did the research for the 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

Most organizations fail to understand this concept. So, they believe that creating a stellar Employee Experience strategy is a matter of tossing out a few perks that they believe to be universally appealing, then calling themselves “great places to work .” This may work for a new employee, but over the course of the employee’s journey it wears off. Their workers are still disengaged, and they move on to a workplace where their EX is better aligned with what they’re looking for. Everyone has their own idea of what a perfect Employee Experience looks like. As a company, it is important to recognize what matters most to your employees at work and cater to their needs and wants. Utilizing an employee experience platform can help you accomplish this.

What is the Definition of Employee Engagement? What is Employee Well-being?

Employee Engagement is an 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. Employee Engagement is our “reward” for creating a superlative Employee Experience.

Often, when we talk about Employee Engagement, we are confusing it with Employee Well-being. We think it is about employees “feeling good,” “being happy,” or being well.” Employee Well-being is about how your job affects your overall health and happiness. It’s not enough, however, to merely have happy employees at work. That is certainly important, but does this cause employees to act?

Employee Engagement involves both feeling and doing. We use the analogy of bringing our hearts and spirits to the party. This involves “feeling.” It’s critical-we must “feel engaged.” This is where Employee Well-being comes into play. I both “feel” and “am” well. But Employee Engagement also requires action, this is where the minds and hands are added. I both “feel” and “act” when I am truly engaged. An engaged employee, consequently, not only feels valued in the workplace but turns that positive employee experience into employee productivity.

When it comes to both the Employee Experience and Employee Engagement, most organizations are getting only half of the equation right, that is to say, they focus on the “feel,” but not on the “act.” If you measure your EX via survey, you will have direct insight into your employee’s engagement and wellbeing.

What is the Definition of Employee Satisfaction?

When I am satisfied with something, such as a meal, I don’t necessarily do anything about it. Satisfaction causes me to feel good about that meal, but doesn’t cause me to act. I probably wouldn’t go out and look for places to recommend that meal to others. Perhaps I’ll come back but I may not. Certainly, I wouldn’t say I was “delighted.”

Woman enjoying the employee experience

When we talk about Employee Satisfaction, we are referring to those elements that don’t necessarily cause me to do anything, but are critical to my relationship with the organization. These may include elements such as safety, tools and resources, perks, employee recognition, or even compensation in many cases. In other words, these factors don’t motivate me, but if they are not present, I am demotivated. You can compare them to the Hygiene Factors described by Herzberg.

Employee Satisfaction is transactional. It is a “this-for-that” relationship. 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. Employee Engagement, on the other hand, is transformational, resulting in employees giving their discretionary effort (you can think of this as with customer satisfaction, or the customer experience, having a satisfied customer doesn’t mean they will come back for more or change behavior).

Companies should analyze both satisfaction and engagement, factoring in employee feedback, to fully understand and improve the employee experience.

From Organizational Culture to Employee Experience to Employee Engagement

When distinguishing between Organizational Culture, EX, and Employee Engagement, it may be helpful to think of it this way:

Organizational culture is what we build. EX is what we interpret and measure about culture. Employee Engagement is what we feel and do because of the Employee Experience.

Who is responsible for employee experience?

As you might imagine, creating a better employee experience doesn’t rest upon one person’s shoulders. It’s helpful of the employee experience through three separate lenses:

1. The Organization Lens
Looking through this lens, the owner, executive, or manager sees the EX as it affects the organization, not necessarily the employees.

INSIGHT: This lens can help leaders temporarily set aside personal relationships and emotional issues related to employees to see what needs to be done to preserve the well-being of the organization.

2. The Employee Lens
Looking through this lens, the leader sees the EX from the perspective of the employee on what is best for the people that work in the organization.

INSIGHT: This lens may allow a manager to understand how employee beliefs led to a specific outcome in a way that wasn’t possible looking at things only from her own perspective.

3. The Leadership Lens

Looking through this lens, you are able to look through the organizational and employee lenses at the same time, giving both views their appropriate consideration, while also paying attention to the leader’s own viewpoint. This approach integrates three points of view:

1. Their own point of view

2. The organization’s point of view

3. The employees’ point of view

INSIGHT: This lens gives a broader, more complete range of insights needed to make decisions.

Employee Engagement is a 50/50 Proposition

As these lenses illustrate, creating a strong employee experience at the workplace is a 50/50 proposition between the employee and the involved leadership/organization itself. While it is certainly incumbent upon leaders and the organization to create a work environment that is conducive to a great employee experience, the employee must choose to engage. The organization might do everything right to develop a good employee experience with higher engagement, increased productivity, employee happiness, remote work options, etc., but if the employee doesn’t want to engage they won’t. In fact, our surveys of over 50 million employees have shown that Fully Disengaged employees, or those you might consider unhappy employees constitute about 5% of the workplace. They are negative, sabotage the company culture, and employee turnover within them is not uncommon (focusing employee retention efforts with them may not be worth your time).

man and woman handshake, employee experience

That being said, the next category of the spectrum contains 17% of employees called the Opportunity Group. Creating a positive experience with these individuals is where you will see your engagement within the workplace bear the most fruit, creating a competitive advantage between you and the rest.

The rest of the spectrum includes Key Contributors and those we consider Fully Engaged. These employees are generally engaged while at work and are positive contributors to the entire employee experience initiative within your company.

Download a Sample DecisionWise Employee Experience Survey

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.

The Employee Experience:
How to Attract Talent,
Retain Top Performers,
and Drive Results

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