What is employee experience?

Employee experience (EX) is the journey each employee takes with a company, including everything from company culture to the work environment to day-to-day technology. Many aspects of employee experience happen naturally, but can also be influenced by employee experience strategies to increase retention and improve overall well-being throughout the employee lifecycle.

What are the core components of employee experience?

While many elements of the employee experience are the result of day-to-day interactions, several components can be influenced by management to help attract, retain and engage high-performing employees. These “pillars” of employee experience include three fundamental components:

Company culture

While company culture can be difficult to define, in general it refers to the behaviors, attitudes and activities that characterize what it's like to work for an organization. It represents the way people feel about the work they do and the teams they collaborate with. A company’s culture typically centers around shared values and goals—ones that are often set by leadership but may evolve over time as the business grows—that together serve as the “personality” of an organization.

Corporate culture is an important element of the employee experience because it has a direct influence on how people feel about their jobs: whether they’re energized and motivated or drained and discouraged.

Physical work environment

The physical environment includes all of the sensory elements an employee encounters throughout the work day: the feel of the office chair, the sounds of street noise from the window, the sight of conference room or videoconference arrangements, the smell of coffee in the kitchen and more. Each of these aspects affect an employee’s ability to focus and perform, and together can have a profound impact on the day-to-day employee experience.

Actual physical needs vary from person to person, but the overall work environment is equally important for both in-office and remote employees. Whether an individual is sitting in a cubicle or collaborating from a home office, physical surroundings influence how each individual feels about his or her work.

Workplace technology

While many organizations prioritize technology as part of the customer experience, this factor is often overlooked or neglected as an essential component of the employee experience. Because employees expect their work technology to perform like their personal technology, the ability to provide reliable, secure digital solutions is key.

Workplace technology is a key pillar of the employee experience because it has a direct impact on productivity and performance. Employees who are able to access the exact apps and data they need, when they need it, will have a much different day-to-day journey than those who are slowed down by a lack of digital tools, long load times, security bottlenecks and down times. Just as a grinding company culture contributes to a poor employee experience, workplace technology that’s outdated or difficult to use can also turn employees away. According to Forrester, “technology has an outsized impact...on what employees experience in their daily journeys.1"

When examining the key components of employee experience, it helps to think of the journey as an ongoing process rather than definitive stages. It begins the moment someone starts the onboarding process and extends beyond 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.

Why is employee experience important?

Employee experience matters because it has a direct impact on how committed each person is to moving the business forward. The goal is to take care of employees so they’re empowered to take care of customers, which in turn helps the company gain a competitive advantage and drive profitability.

What are the advantages of employee experience—and why should you invest in it?

Investing in employee experience can influence not only a company’s ability to attract and retain top talent, but also keep people inspired to do their best work. This, in turn, leads to the ultimate employee experience advantage: higher levels of engagement, lower turnover, a better customer experience and a bigger bottom line.

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. Additional research has shown the organizations that invest most heavily in EX are included 11.5 times more often in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work, 2.1 times more frequently in Forbes’s list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies and 4.4 times more often on LinkedIn’s list of North America’s Most In-Demand Employers.2

The benefits of creating a great employee experience go well beyond business metrics like KPIs and performance management to influence overall productivity and profitability.

Employee experience vs. employee engagement

While employee engagement is often associated with the employee experience, the two are in fact two distinct entities.

Employee engagement is a psychological state driven by an individual’s emotional connection to an employer. Engagement refers to how invested employees feel when it comes to business outcomes, and whether or not they’re able to find meaning and purpose in their work.

The difference between employee engagement and employee experience lies in the overarching characteristics of each element. Employee engagement refers to the emotional and social needs of each individual, while employee experience encapsulates the more practical aspects of day-to-day activities such as physical offices and digital workspaces.

While employee experience and engagement should be treated as two separate needs, both are important. For example, people who feel passionate about the work they do will not have a positive employee experience if they spend hours each day troubleshooting access to apps and data.

What does employee experience management involve?

Employee experience management is the process business leaders use to help ensure each touchpoint is a positive one. It encompasses the full scope of company culture, work environments and digital technology—often as part of an overarching strategy. Employee experience management software is sometimes, but not always, used as part of this process.

Although EX is frequently associated with human resources, employee experience management is not the job of one division alone. While HR departments do handle some aspects of oversight, the employee journey involves numerous touchpoints spanning the entire organizational structure. That means each team plays a role in managing the employee experience, from HR’s first-day onboarding process for new employees to IT’s management of digital workspace technology to how executives handle performance reviews and professional development opportunities.

In short, employee experience management involves taking steps to deliberately influence various touchpoints and help ensure work flows seamlessly from day to day.

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.
  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, business leaders 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.

How can you improve the employee experience?

Organizations looking for ways to enhance the employee experience can benefit from three key steps:

  1. Collaborate across departments. 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 across the entire organizational structure.
  2. Design technology around the employee experience. Instead of trying to fit EX initiatives into 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.3 
  3. Build a holistic program. Rolling out a dozen different solutions to meet a dozen different needs is far inferior to creating a connected employee experience. Improving the employee experience starts with scrutiny of each 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 role does employee experience technology play?

While updating office furniture and rearranging work schedules tend to be relatively straightforward aspects of EX management, technology tends to require more forethought and planning. That’s because tapping into employees’ full potential requires the right set of tools. However, many organizations lag behind when it comes to employee experience technology. More than 90% of executives are satisfied with the technology experience their company provides, but only 68% of staff agree.4

With an increasingly virtual workforce, technology now plays a critical role in improving the employee experience by providing the tools people need to work reliably and securely from anywhere. Examples of technology built for the employee experience include digital workspaces for easy access to all apps and data and high-definition virtual apps and desktops. Each one provides employees with seamless, secure access to the resources they need to be productive.

How do you measure employee experience?

Once a strategy is in place, the next step is to measure employee experience.

One of the most common methods for measuring the employee experience is to conduct employee surveys about company culture, the workplace environment and business technology. These surveys are typically conducted at regular, ongoing intervals to help create a feedback loop: First, the executive team gathers employee feedback on various aspects of the employee experience. These insights can then be used to guide policy changes and business decisions. Then, when the next survey is conducted, leadership can see which areas improved and what may need to be addressed next.

Another way to measure the employee experience is to analyze existing organizational data. For example, if part of a company’s EX strategy involves a digital workspace and virtualization technology, leadership might decide to examine app load times, logon durations, bandwidth issues and recurring help desk tickets. Many employee experience platforms offer special features such as user behavior analytics and security analytics, which allow IT to evaluate issues in real time. These types of measurement tools can be used to proactively prevent problems that would otherwise hinder the employee experience.

By using multiple methods for measurement, organizations can score the overall employee experience to more easily identify areas for improvement.

Digital transformation and the future of employee experience

At a time when many organizations are in the midst of major digital transformation, employee experience is becoming an increasingly essential element for businesses to survive and thrive. 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.

How does Citrix help businesses improve the employee experience?

Citrix equips organizations with technology designed specifically to enhance the employee experience. Trusted by 100 million users across 400,000 organizations, these solutions help empower people to do their best work.

  • Secure digital workspaces ensure employees always have fast, reliable access to all of their apps and data, no matter where they work or which devices they use
  • Special HDX technology ensures video and voice remain crystal clear and pixel perfect, even in the most challenging network conditions
  • Simplified workflows and content collaboration tools help break down bottlenecks for a seamless employee experience
  • Individual user scores and performance analytics enable IT to ensure a great experience on every app, at all times
  • Unified endpoint management makes it easy for IT to provide an unmatched employee experience across a wide array of devices

Together, these employee experience solutions provide a solid framework for creating an outstanding digital EX platform.

Additional resources

1 Forrester, The Employee Experience Technology Ecosystem, David Johnson and Andrew Hewitt, February 2019
2 Harvard Business Review, Why the Millions We Spend on Employee Engagement Buy Us So Little, Jacob Morgan March 2017
3 Forrester, Employee Experience Index, David Johnson and Samuel Stern, February 2019
4
PwC, Our status with tech at work: It’s complicated, October 2018