What Is Employee Experience?
By Sarah Johnson, PhD - August 11, 2021
What is employee experience?
The phrase “employee experience” has made its way into the mainstream of HR topics. Unfortunately, there is no single, agreed upon definition of employee experience; in fact, an internet search produces several different definitions. At Perceptyx, employee experience encompasses everything associated with the experience of being a member of the organization:
Employee experience broadly describes what it’s like to work in the organization and how employees feel about their experiences at work.
Yes, our definition is broad. But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, even this more inclusive definition may prove inadequate. In reality, right now it isn’t clear what the current employee experience is. The line between the employee experience and the employee’s overall life experience has become blurred, assuming that line exists at all anymore. We need to question what we thought we knew about employee experience, as the post-pandemic workplace is shaping up to look much different from how things looked in the past.
In this article, we’ll explain our definition of employee experience and why it’s evolving. We’ll also explain why a focus on employee experience—even as it’s currently being redefined—is critical for engagement, and why now more than ever, every leader and manager needs to be considered a part of the employee experience team.
Get tips on how to enhance the employee experience from our free guide, The Employee Experience Playbook.
What Is Employee Experience?
As noted, we consider employee experience to be a description of what it’s like to work in the organization and how employees feel about their work experiences. That includes the tangible elements of work such as technology and the physical work environment, but also intangibles like work relationships, autonomy on the job, trust in leadership and their decisions, and opportunities for growth and development. All these elements comprise the employee experience and ultimately the culture of the organization; the employee experience is a manifestation of the organization’s unique culture.
Ensuring a positive experience for different types of employees was already a very complex task given these disparate elements—but post-pandemic, it is becoming infinitely more challenging. That’s because the remote and hybrid work models emerging in many organizations remove much of the organization’s control over the experience, and fundamentally change other elements of the employee experience.
For remote and hybrid workers the line between home and work is blurred, and the employee’s entire life has become intertwined with the work experience. Many employees prefer these work arrangements because they free up time otherwise spent getting ready for work and commuting, allowing them to more easily manage personal and family obligations. But as a result, work and personal obligations are juggled throughout the day—and they each impact the other. Organizations that offer flexible work hours tailored to individual employee preferences will also have to grapple with issues such as how to handle calls that come in when the employee is done with their workday and similar dilemmas. Interactions with colleagues are fundamentally altered as well. Gone are the days of getting to know one another through casual, spontaneous conversations at lunch or getting coffee. Interactions now are more technology-driven, as opposed to interacting face-to-face.
Managers—as the main point of contact between employees and the organization—will have to take on much of the responsibility for creating a positive experience for remote and hybrid workers. Managers will need to focus on connecting with these employees and understanding the personal experiences of team members working remotely. The manager skill set—which has already changed through the pandemic, both for those managing remote and on-site employees—will have to expand to incorporate skills for effectively managing remote employees, and that skill set will continue to evolve. Managers will need to alter their processes and criteria for decisions impacting skill development, promotions, and salary increases to account for less face time with employees.
We are at an inflection point with regard to employee experience; it’s more complex and more distributed. Gone are the days when the company had full control over the physical workplace and the tools used to get work done.. Where previously we might have looked at the experience of workers in the office, in manufacturing, and in distribution, the new reality is that of a multiverse of workplaces—and work experiences.
One thing the COVID-19 pandemic taught us is that all moments in the employee experience matter. That understanding, combined with the need to rethink how we manage the experience in a world where many employees do not physically co-work, requires us to think differently about how we curate and create a positive experience when significant numbers of employees are working remotely or in a hybrid work environment.
Why Focus On The Employee Experience?
Creating a positive employee experience has always been a difficult task, but the changes in the workplace following the pandemic will make it much harder. There are no easy answers, but it’s crucial to examine these issues carefully, simply because employee experience impacts everything from engagement and productivity to employee retention, and ultimately, profit:
The metrics for measuring engagement can tell us whether or not the employee’s experience working in the organization is positive. While these metrics don’t in and of themselves tell us about the positive or negative aspects of that experience, they serve as a “thermometer” that can tell us when there is a problem we need to identify.
Supporting An Employee Experience Culture
Identifying elements in the experience that may be barriers to engagement requires listening.
As many organizations learned during the pandemic, continuous listening to find out what employees need is invaluable—particularly during times of change. The transition back to work post-pandemic qualifies as a big reset; organizations that solicit employee feedback frequently will have the benefit of data when making decisions about the post-pandemic work environment.
Listening will help leaders and managers understand discrepancies in the experiences of different employees and groups, and guide adjustment of policy. Feedback will also be critical for determining the rules of engagement for meetings and collaborative work when some team members are remote—as well as how to ensure equity in advancement and development opportunities for remote employees.
Employee feedback will also be critical for defining manager competencies. For remote workers, managers will be the de facto employee experience team; employee feedback will give the organization insight into the most important competencies managers need to effectively manage remote workers.
One of the biggest challenges in designing the post-pandemic workplace is that we don’t have a baseline for the experiences of these new demographics of remote and hybrid employees. Continuous listening will help establish that baseline, as well as help leaders make sound policy. The implications of these new work arrangements for engagement, turnover, advancement, and connections will take longer to discern—but by regularly seeking employee feedback, organizations will know where they are and have a much better idea of what they need to do.
The one certain thing is that companies can’t assume what employees want; they need to collect the data. Managing the employee experience is becoming much harder, and the “new normal” will continue to evolve over the next months and years. As it does, listening to employees offers organizations their best chance to successfully navigate the transition.
See the way forward to a better employee experience.
The Perceptyx platform helps you develop a flexible listening strategy that fits the needs of your organization and identifies unsatisfactory elements in the employee experience. Combined with survey design assistance from our people analytics experts, you can zero in on employees’ perception of the experience in every part of your organization, and identify the specific factors with the biggest impact on employee experience and perceptions.
Perceptyx provides support in addressing those issues as well, with easy-to-implement action planning. Our platform not only helps you keep your finger on the pulse of your people’s perceptions—it also helps monitor actions and outcomes, to help you build internal best practices.
Get in touch to see how we can help your organization improve the employee experience to increase engagement—and profitability.