Employee Engagement vs. Employee Experience: Are They Different?

In a complex and competitive labor market, an effective employee experience strategy can give you a definitive edge. It is key to improving retention, ensuring loyalty, and garnering referrals – cementing your organization as an employer of choice. This is why it is important to look beyond only employee engagement and reinforce the quality of the overall employee experience aided by technology.

Modern HR practitioners are always looking to find new ways to elevate the employee experience, but studies suggest that this is not so easy. The emerging workforce, comprising a sizeable segment of millennial workers, wants a sense of purpose and meaning to their jobs. Only offering the basic perks and benefits is not enough to ensure a positive holistic experience.

When we sat down with Lisa Sterling, Chief People and Culture Officer at Ceridian, she reaffirmed this sentiment. “Improving the employee experience goes far beyond the Instagrammable, short-term perks like bean bag chairs, foosball tables, or free snacks in the office.”

So, what makes for a great experience, and is it different from your existing employee engagement tactics?

Learn more: “Millennials” The Architects of Employee Experience

Employee Engagement vs. Employee Experience: Understanding the Basics

In the last few years, the definition of employee experience has changed significantly.

Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends focused on the transition from engagement and culture into a 360-degree experience blueprint. Fast forward to 2019, and this year Deloitte highlighted how employee experience is directly linked to human experience and why finding purpose at work is so necessary.

Simply put, engagement is only one part of the conversation. Lisa explained this further: “The employee experience is the sum of everything an employee sees, hears, feels, and believes about their employment throughout the employee lifecycle. However, employee engagement is a ‘component’ of the overall employee experience which impacts their level of productivity and, in turn, can impact a company’s operations – positively or negatively.”

Interestingly, the concept of employee experience (EX) is inspired by customer experience (CX), where an individual’s relationship to the organization is determined by trust, seamlessness, and loyalty. HR can bring the same level of “emotional connect” to employer-employee relations by adopting employee experience strategies.

Learn more: 5 Ways Technology is Transforming the Employee Experience

How Can Technology Influence Employee Experience Strategies?

Technology has the potential to transform workplaces and dramatically reduce friction. Whether you’re talking about CX or EX, frictionless experiences are key to retention and loyalty. In their 2019 report, Deloitte investigated employee satisfaction with the tools and technologies at work. An overwhelming 62 percent said that the scenario was only “somewhat satisfying – dissatisfying.” This indicates that there’s a long way to go when it comes to using technology for positive employee experiences. Similarly, access to information, job design, and daily workflows were other areas of concern.

We asked Lisa for her views on how technology can help improve employee experiences, and she had these three recommendations:

1. Empower your employees with self-service modules

Self-service has proved immensely successful for streamlining customer journeys. Employers are also “taking a page out of this book,” says Lisa, with self-service integration into every employee service module. According to her, “adopting intuitive tools that make traditional cumbersome HR processes (like trading shifts or vacation requests) easy for employees to consume” can significantly contribute to better experiences.

2. Adopt experience-focused HR technologies

Recently, there has been a rising trend of experiential tools targeted towards the global workforce. From employee management tools with social integration to L&D platforms that mimic experiential ecosystems, there are several options to explore. ” Learning experience platforms (LXP) will often have a YouTube or Netflix-like user interface, making it simple for employees to find, consume, and share content with little training,” said Lisa.

3. Cut down the learning curve with AI-driven assistants

Employees do not want to spend their precious time navigating through workflows and figuring out how to best use the available technologies. Deloitte’s 2019 report indicated that 60 percent of employees want easier access to data and information. AI-based virtual assistants can take text or voice inputs to quickly offer relevant insights. “For instance, employees can converse with a virtual assistant to see shift schedules, swap shifts, check on leave balances, or request time away from work, without navigating complex screens,” highlighted Lisa.

Learn more: 7 Ways AI Can Improve Overall Employee Experience

For any employee experience strategy to succeed, HR practitioners must pay close attention to all of these details and answer these questions:

  • Are your employees empowered to make autonomous decisions?
  • Are technologies being leveraged strategically to foster a culture of “happiness” and purpose?
  • Is it as easy to get started with work (EX) as it is to buy a product (CX)?

Think Beyond Engagement: Why Employee Experience Is so Important

In a competitive labor market, the brightest talent can pick and choose from a variety of prospective employers. Your employee experience strategy will directly impact retention and satisfaction at the workplace, upping referral scores, and amplifying your employer brand.

“Best-in-class companies will attract – and keep – their top talent based in part on how well they differentiate themselves with employee-centric experiences,” Lisa mentions.

This is why EX has steadily moved up on the list of company priorities in recent years. As HR reimagines itself as the strategic arm of an organization – and not just an administrative cog – interest and investment in employee experience strategies will only grow.

“This greater focus on the employee experience also aligns with HR’s changing role of becoming a more strategic business partner, with 83 percent of HR leaders saying that employee experience is either important or very important for their organization’s success,” agrees Lisa.

Learn more: Why You Should Think of the Employee Experience as Your Product

It Is Time to Move Beyond Engagement-Only Strategies

When you consider the direct link between EX and business outcomes, it is easy to see why an “engagement-only” stance is no longer enough. Driving home the employee experience versus employee engagement debate, Lisa concludes by saying, “Companies who place an emphasis on employee experience encounter more than four times the average profit and more than two times the average revenue.”

That seems like a good reason to start building some robust employee experience strategies if you haven’t already begun. Using technology to identify how you can elevate the employee experience can help you develop great strategies that aid retention and improve business outcomes.

What are some of the employee experience strategies you have deployed to create a better, more productive workplace? Share your views with us on , , or . We are always listening!


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