What are the essential differences between Employee Experience and Employee Engagement?

Businesses often use employee experience and employee engagement interchangeably. Both concepts are connected to an organisation’s ability to keep its employees happy and enhance their wellbeing. However, they are also quite distinct.    

Employee experience (EX) is the journey an employee takes with your company

Employee experience is the sum of everything employees see, hear, feel, and believe about their employment throughout the employee lifecycle. This starts during the hiring process (candidates will make judgments about what it will be like to work with you) and continues through to exit interviews, outplacement support and alumni communication.

Engaged employees are the outcome of a good employee experience

Employee engagement is what you get when your employees give their best each day and are committed your organisation’s goals and values. They are highly motivated: both to contributing to the company’s success and to maintaining a strong sense of their own self-worth and wellbeing. Engaged employees are one of the outcomes of a good employee experience.

Employee experience is owned by everyone, not just HR

An employee-centric organisation makes decisions with employee experience in mind. This goes far beyond short term perks, such as an Instagrammable office with foosball tables and free snacks. It’s about bringing employees into the conversation, listening to what they need to work successfully and acting on those conversations.

All senior leaders are responsible for creating a culture where employee happiness is a priority. They set the tone.  For example, they will ask themselves ‘how will our teams react if we close offices?’ or ‘what impression are we giving to our people if we stay silent on high profile political or social issues?’  

Line managers have a closer relationship with employees than senior leaders and HR. They play an integral role in ensuring a thriving employee experience because they understand their employees’ day-to-day work and motivations.  They are also in a position to create an environment where employees can openly discuss their work and how they are feeling.

Covid-19 is transforming employee experience

Like so many other areas of our lives the Covid-19 pandemic is upending many aspects of what is considered a good employee experience. For example, for many people the entire recruitment and onboarding experience is now online. Most organisations are having strategic conversations around the future of work, such as ‘do we still need large, city offices or should we adopt a remote-only or hybrid working style for the long term?’

The impact of all this on employee experience is still unclear – but it will be huge. We will still need to build and sustain effective work relationships, but what tools and social spaces will we need to do that? A remote working approach expands your potential talent pool but how will it affect employee happiness and productivity?

There are no easy answers to these big questions and, with so much uncertainty, now is not the time for rushing into major decisions. But, it is a time to be listening to the needs of your employees and measuring employee experience along the whole employee journey. The key to effective employee experience design is to continually measure those experiences – so you can understand, react and adapt quickly.

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