What is employee experience?

Employee experience (EX) refers to the wide range of perceptions and observations workers develop as they interact with an organization. It represents a full journey that begins the moment someone starts the onboarding process and ends the day they do an exit interview, and encompasses every interaction in between—relationships with coworkers and managers, experiences with technology and workspaces, major milestones and more.

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Why focus on employee experience?

The overall employee experience has a direct impact on how committed each person is to the company's mission and vision. It's important to note that EX is not the same as job satisfaction. Satisfied employees can be content with salary, benefits and hours at work but still remain largely uninterested in moving the business forward. If those same employees are inspired by the day-to-day experience, however, they’re far more likely to be engaged and eager to help the entire team meet and exceed big goals.

Because an employee’s intellectual and emotional connections to an employer are heavily influenced by the digital and cultural environments that make up day-to-day experiences, these play a critical role in how motivated someone will be to help drive long-term company success. By designing strategies to optimize the employee experience, the company can directly influence business outcomes.

What are the benefits of investing in employee experience?

Creating a consistent experience across all interactions an employee has with a company can have a direct impact on the ability to not only attract and retain top talent, but to keep people inspired to do their best work, too. This, in turn, leads to better business outcomes: higher levels of employee engagement, lower turnover, a better customer experience and higher financial performance.

For example, in one recent survey of 1,100 employees, 43% either expected or had already seen a better employee experience lead to improved productivity. More than 30% said EX led to improved profitability and more customer satisfaction.

Organizations that invest most heavily in EX are included 28x more often in Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies.

They also had more than 4x the average profit and 2x the average revenue.

Harvard Business Review

What are the biggest challenges of employee experience?

When addressing the biggest predictors of a positive employee experience, there are two key challenges to consider:

1. Cultural challenges: While corporate culture can be difficult to define, at its core the concept stems from the values, priorities and practices that influence the day-to-day experience for each employee. Company culture is one of the most important and influential elements of employee experience: It can motivate or discourage, empower or stifle, energize or drain. For this reason, the tendency at many organizations is to focus on the organization-wide vision and mission as it relates to the employee journey.

However, a growing body of research indicates that the overall employee experience is in fact highly individualized and granular. It’s not just an employee’s overall experience with the company at large that matters, but also daily work and hour-by-hour workflows. While the traditional view of employee experience focuses heavily on the full employee lifecycle, real improvements can only be made once attention shifts to the series of smaller activities that make up each employee’s day.

“What employees experience in their daily journeys is the factor that most affects EX. Improving this requires a different focus—and technology has an outsized impact.”


2. Technology challenges: To create a strong company culture that fully supports employees’ needs, the right technology is key. But while most companies understand that technology serves as the organization’s central nervous system, many struggle to build the ideal digital environment. It’s not uncommon for a company to move forward with apps and implementations without first building a plan for their success. This results in too much complexity—endless stacks of apps and logins, hours spent searching cloud storage and hunting down information—that hinders productivity and engagement instead of improving it.

Technology can enhance and even transform the employee experience. But first, leadership must gain a thorough understanding of which features and functions employees truly need to be successful, and how those technologies will be used in day-to-day work.

Top 3 employee experience best practices

When designing employee experience strategies, it’s imperative to keep these three best practices in mind:

1. Collaborate across executive branches. While much of the attention is often on technology, it’s important to remember that improving employee experience isn’t the province of IT alone. Likewise, for companies that approach EX primarily within the context of HR, it’s essential to look beyond onboarding processes and employee engagement surveys to incorporate CIO input. Working together will help ensure the right solutions are integrated effectively into business processes and practices, thereby supporting employees’ needs while simultaneously meeting critical security standards.

2. Design technology around the employee experience. Instead of trying to fit EX initiatives to existing technology, focus on building a digital workspace that gives employees simple and flexible ways to get work done. Studies show that employees are more likely to be engaged when they believe their IT department is focusing on helping them be productive. Building technology to support a superior employee experience requires three essential elements:

  • Simplicity that ensures fast access to apps and data
  • Ease of use to empower employees to make progress on daily work
  • A single place to go so employees can work from anywhere

3. Build a holistic environment. Rolling out a hundred different apps to meet a hundred different needs is far inferior to creating a connected digital experience. Improving the employee experience starts with scrutiny of each technology decision: Is a new potential tool the best possible fit for employees’ day-to-day needs? Will it build upon existing solutions? Does it positively affect the employee experience? Answering these kinds of questions at the outset will help set the business on a path to building a more holistic environment that supports productivity and engagement—and prevent the mistakes that can increase complexity and hinder EX.

What’s next for employee experience?

The employee experience will continue to play an increasingly vital role in companies’ ability to recruit and retain top talent. In a job market where both potential hires and existing employees can afford to be selective, having an effective EX strategy in place is crucial for any business that wants to not only thrive but survive. By aligning corporate culture and technology to desired employee experience outcomes, an organization will ensure individuals have everything they need to be productive and engaged—both in ways that are personally motivating and meaningful, and that ultimately drive the business forward.

Additional resources

1 https://www.forrester.com/report/Introducing+Forresters+Employee+Experience+Index/-/E-RES137819