Lever 1: Clarifying an
Employee Experience Philosophy

EXCX-Report Excerpt #1-Image-Clear Philosophy

Earlier this year, we began to explore the concept of employee experience. Since then, we talked to over twenty organizations to understand their approach to employee experience and identify leading practices. Now, this is the first in a series of four articles highlighting our findings. A huge thanks to Medallia for sponsoring this research!

Throughout our research, we identified four levers of employee experience to create sustainable results. This article focuses on one of the employee experience levers – clear philosophy – and is just an excerpt from the main report.

Over the course of our research, it became clear that the most progressive organizations have a very clear philosophy of employee experience: who it is for, what it is, and how it differs from employee engagement. This philosophy then guides all other decisions organizations make with regard to employee experience.

Target audience: Focus of experience efforts

Before we could get into the weeds of precisely defining employee experience, we first had to figure out who it is for. When it comes to employee experience efforts, there are three viewpoints that organizations tend to focus on: employees, customers, or both.

We found that a lot of organizations focus on the two far ends of the spectrum. Only a few consider what both employees and customers want in an integrated fashion. But those that use a blended focus tend to see some of the most desirable employee and customer outcomes.

“HR people are used to working in waterfall, slow, 18-month release cycle models when it comes to process and technology, and that’s not how employee experience works. If I see that 80% of my workforce is breaking down in a process or not being engaged at any given moment, I don’t wait a year to deal with it like in old employee engagement surveys. I want to deal with it today.”

Jason Averbook, CEO and co-founder, Leapgen

Clear definition: What employee experience is

  • “Designing an organization where people want to show up by focusing on the cultural, technological, and physical environments.”1
  • “The extent to which employees of an organization are enabled or constrained by its adaptive work environment and collective work habits to do their jobs today and reimagine their jobs of tomorrow.”2
  • “The combination of organizational culture, technological environment, processes, and physical environment that determines how employees perform and feel about their job.”3
  • “Employees’ holistic perceptions of the relationship with his/her employing organization derived from all the encounters at touchpoints along the employee’s journey.”4

While we found these definitions adequate as they capture important aspects of employee experience, we also found them lengthy and convoluted.

Therefore, we developed our own concise definition of employee experience.

Employees’ collective perceptions of their ongoing interactions with the organization.

Another important point to call out is that employee experience is fluid. It involves constant dynamic human interactions, and as such, it is an ever-evolving target. To adapt to its fluid nature, progressive organizations adopt an iterative stance. They ask, listen, and act on employee and customer feedback in a frequent, swift, and repetitive manner. Thus, they leverage real-time opportunities to capture, process, and address experience feedback.

Relationship to engagement: How experience and engagement are related

Now that we’ve clearly established our definition of employee experience, let’s distinguish it from employee engagement. It is important to do this for a few reasons. First, many people use the two terms interchangeably – and they are actually quite different. Second, the historical legacy of employee engagement has influenced how people approach employee experience. Having a clear understanding of the differences between the two enables us to chart a clearer path forward for developing a strong and compelling employee experience.

All that said, we define employee engagement as:

A measure of energy, involvement, and concentration that is exhibited in work attitudes and behaviors.

Employee engagement is fundamentally different from employee experience (see Figure 1). It is a measurement of what employees do – their “exhibited work attitudes and behaviors” – versus what they perceive. There are other differences as well. For example, in engagement, organizations use a top-down process to develop strategies and implement activities that impact engagement scores. In employee experience, organizations use a bottom-up process to develop strategies and implement activities that impact employees’ perceptions.

Figure 1: Summary of the differences between employee experience and employee Engagement | RedThread Research, 2019.

For more on this and other levers of employee experience – and examples of how companies have brought them to life – we encourage you to download and read the full report. We will also be presenting a free virtual webinar on the research on Tuesday, October 22 at 10 am PT – sign up here.

1The Employee Experience Advantage,” Morgan, J., 2017.
2Employee Experience: Enabling Your Future Workforce Strategy,” Dery, K., Van Der Meulen, N., & Sebastian, I.M., MIT CISR Research Briefing, 2018.
3The New CHRO Agenda Employee Experiences Drive Business Value,” Wadors, P., ServiceNow, 2018.
4Employee Experience: The New Human Resource Management Approach,” Plaskoff, J., Strategic HR Review, 2017.

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