Employee experience vs. employee engagement

How often do you think about your employees’ day-to-day experience?

You know, the reality of working in your organisation every day.

If you’re not visualising their experience, you should.

Employee experience rates as one of the top concerns among companies.

According to a survey by Deloitte University Press, “nearly 80% of executives rated employee experience very important (42%) or important (38%), but only 22% reported that their companies were excellent at building a differentiated employee experience”.

But wait, your company does plenty of employee engagement from encouraging community service to offering wellness programs…

That’s not the same thing.

What is the difference between engagement and experience?

Some companies are starting to use employee engagement and experience interchangeably, and that’s wrong. They are different.

There are differing views and it’s quite confusing in application as these concepts are quite new…

However, here are my thoughts so far for what its worth.

Employee engagement looks at the commitment level of employees — if they don’t believe in the work, then they won’t be engaged in it or, worse, won’t represent your organisation well to customers or external contacts.

People want to feel a sense of purpose in their work, to choose to do the work, feel their work is acknowledged and know it is going somewhere. In order to make progress in this area, companies should consider following the Five Is: Inspire, Inform, Involve, Instruct and Incent. (See below for more on what Temkin Group says about these — I couldn’t agree more!)

Now, when we talk about employee experience, we mean how employees feel about the day-to-day of their job and environment. It really boils down to making the employees happy and glad to come to work everyday because they are having fun.

Think: Bringing in lunch for the team, holiday gift exchange and more.

5 ways to engage employees

Most companies believe that engaged employees work harder, make recommendations and help out their customers and colleagues.

That sounds good. So how do you start trying to reach out?

I usually suggest following the Temkin Group’s Five Is when it comes to employee engagement:

  • Incent – Create programs that will measure, reward and reinforce desired behaviours.
  • Inspire – Connect employees with the vision and values of the company and their future career progression.
  • Inform – Let employees know what the important priorities are for the company.
  • Instruct – Provide coaching, feedback and training to help employees improve and achieve.
  • Involve – Listen and take action when employees have problems.

5 ways to improve your employee experience

No matter what, each and every day employees have an experience. So being proactive to ensure it’s not only positive, but allows employees to do their best work in a satisfying way is a smart move.

Five ways you can get started on that experience improvement are:

1. Don’t forget about people once they become employees. 
Wining and dining candidates to get them to accept job offers is one thing, but you can’t then leave them high and dry after they start. Make sure your onboarding process is an enjoyable one or you’ll find people won’t stay long term. Also, what do you do at their 6 month mark, 1 year mark, 2 year mark and other key milestones?

2. Make happiness a priority. 
What will make your employees’ work and life easier, smoother and more enjoyable? Find out if there’s a need for more flexibility, working from home options, better technology tools or even just a new coffee maker. Happy employee = better performance.

3. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. 
Ask for your employees’ input. Listen to what they say, and act on it. Similar to the involve of the Five Is, this one also encompasses respect for time and intention. Don’t assume that your employees are working 24/7 or will be looking for your email at 10 pm. Also, don’t assume that they didn’t understand what you meant; give them a chance to explain. Respect them, and they’ll respect you in return.

4. Pats on the back are appreciated.
If your employee puts in the extra effort to get a project done on time or under budget or both, then applaud that job well done. Whether they want to admit it or not, everyone loves a gold star every now and then. And what’s even better is if you’ve taken the time to get to know your employees and can reward with something personally meaningful: tickets to a favourite sport or concert, lunch at a favourite restaurant or gift card to that shop they always mention.

5. Get social.
Make time for not only for you to get to know employees, but for your team to get to know each other. Just like the check ins we’ve discussed with employees (see last week’s Empathy post), team members need time to check in with each other. Support across peer levels as well as above makes for better work environments.

Why is employee experience important?

Employees’ experience of your organisation directly affects your customers’ or clients’ experience and even your brand or product.

Think about it this way: Say the employee’s day-to-day experience doesn’t line up with what they are required to do, then normally that leads to frustration, disengagement and, ultimately, unproductivity and/or leaving the job.

However, if employees enjoy their experience and are happy with what they see, hear and do day in and day out, then you’ll see happier, productive people.

Plus, you’ll have ambassadors out in the world promoting your company. When people hear about what a good place to work an organisation is, they not only wonder if they should be working there, but that often translates into good feelings about the company and potentially buy in (shopping there, buying product, etc.). Sounds like a win-win!