I recently sat down with a top executive who asked me - “where did employee experience come from? I keep hearing the term but I don’t know if it is the same as engagement. Did it come before engagement, or is it new? Help me understand.”
It’s true. Employee Experience, as a concept and strategy, has been building steam in recent years. And it can be confusing to make sense of it after decades of emphasis on Employee Engagement. So where did the idea of Employee Experience come from, and why does it matter?
employee experience is so much more than engagement
While engagement reigned as the leading employee metric for several decades, and in many organizations, it is still a key metric, the promised results of focusing on it have never fully materialized. In many organizations, engagement would rise right around the time of an engagement survey, and then it would return to about the same level it was at before, give or take a few points. Many organizations have been too focused on manipulating or increasing an engagement survey score - a noble, but somewhat myopic effort.
While engagement certainly matters, organizations have realized that measuring engagement isn’t enough. Many times engagement efforts are closer to putting lipstick on a pig than creating lasting, systemic change. It might look more attractive for a moment, but there is no room to address, much less solve, the underlying reasons driving the scores. Focusing on engagement has driven short-term, tactical action plans that at best tend to focus on a narrow set of employee needs.
On the other hand, an employee experience focus provides a big picture, strategic view of how well an organization is doing across the entire employee lifecycle - especially during “moments that matter”. It encompasses things like what attracts potential recruits and at the same time, the relationship an individual has with his or her supervisor, or how positively they view their experience with coworkers or community service efforts. Viewed from this vantage, employee engagement is an outcome measure that looks at one piece (typically discretionary effort) of a larger puzzle (everything that contributes to an employee’s overall experience with an organization).
lessons from customer experience
Consumer access to similar products and services continues to soar, along with greater access to information about you and your competitors. Customers have more options, can switch to using competing products and services with ease, and have more power to influence your business than ever before.
Customer experience efforts began with a desire to create a new competitive advantage. Rather than viewing customer interactions as single data points, customer experience efforts strive to understand the full journey a customer has with a brand - from interactions online, in stores, and with customer service teams. With this big picture view, brands and organizations can link several, disparate data points into a single map and can design all interactions to create a series of positive, memorable experiences for the customer. From this more strategic vantage point, it’s clear that focusing just on a single interaction, say the point of purchase, can lead to poor overall customer experience.
what experience do your employees have
Consumers aren’t using all of this new information only to focus on what brands they want to purchase, they use the same approach to determine what companies and organizations they want to work for. Social media and company review websites provide a transparent look into working for your company. With competition for top talent fiercer than ever before, it’s critical to take the same approach and consider the entire full Employee Experience - from the moment a potential employee learns about your organization, through their full employment, and exit.
employee experience as a differentiator
With an estimated 89% of companies employing some form of customer experience strategy, the approach is plateauing in critical ways as a differentiator. This is the main driver of a new focus on Employee Experience. The next step in setting your brand apart is focusing on Employee Experience. According to an Accenture study, 65% of consumers consider how well employees are treated when determining whether or not they will purchase your product or service. And consumers are more likely to be enthusiastic about your brand if they feel excited about the idea of working for your organization.
Employee Experience, done well, drives results. Hilton is a great example. Hilton has established a key strategic differentiator in the consumer experience. And Christopher Nasetta, as CEO, has also made deliberate investments over time to enhance and differentiate that experience by focusing on Hilton’s Employee Experience.
Hilton has done things like redesign break spaces for employees, provide real-time, bite-sized leadership development for busy leaders, along with better travel perks for their own people. Their Employee Experience focus has not been about perks, but about what their unique culture and strategy call for in alignment with their overall business goals.
The results have been impressive - their stock and net promoter score have done as well as Marriott’s while at the same time, they were named Fortune’s Best Company to Work in 2019.
Regardless of where your organization is today, taking steps to emphasize and improve Employee Experience can deliver strong employee outcomes like engagement and retention as well as business results.