There was a time when businesses viewed employees, essentially, as resources—ways they could create more products and make more money. A few decades ago, that thinking began to change, with more leaders adopting the mindset that they should be offering benefits and value to their employees, not merely extracting value from them. That’s where the concept of employee engagement started; by engaging employees, it has long been assumed, companies can actually get better performances out of them. When done right, the focus on employee engagement is win-win.
So why the shift to employee experience? Well, the basic reason is this: Employee engagement, for all its virtues, tends to be focused on the short-term. It’s about making little changes that can impact employee motivation in the here and now. Employee experience is more long-term, and more big-picture. It’s about fundamentally changing how the workplace functions.
Employee Experience vs Employee Engagement
Employee experience is just a way of considering what it’s actually like for someone to work at your company. Another way to think about it: Employee experience is the daily workplace reality for your employees.
The focus of employee experience should be creating a reality where your employees feel truly empowered—not micromanaged. Providing easy access to resources and tools, streamlining communication, offering flexibility for things like lunch and coffee breaks—all of this is encompassed by employee experience.
The bottom line is that all employees have an experience at work each day—whether you realize it or not. Smart companies will be proactive in ensuring that the experience is a good one—not just in the sense of being positive and pleasant, but in enabling employees to do their work in the best, most satisfying way possible.
We don’t need to see these statistics to know the importance of employee engagement. It’s a common challenge we all face, and something that takes focused effort each day to make a change over the long run. We implement incentive programs, organize social committees, hold office gatherings and more, all in hopes of raising spirits to translate that into improved retention and increased levels of customer service. In short, that’s the ideal.
An employee experience focus takes on the big picture. It objectively, even critically, views business practices, policies and procedures from the employee’s perspective beyond the outer façade of engagement. It does so not just by way of introducing incremental, engaging activities and practices, but also by looking at a multitude of small, individual—and sometimes seemingly insignificant—experiences within the employee lifecycle. It then drives transformative change in these areas to either enhance engagement or eliminate causes of disengagement. In fact, it’s often less about introducing something new than it is about changing something already being done.
If you believe that engagement levels have the potential to drive business performance, then perhaps it’s time to approach this whole thing differently. Maybe more isn’t the answer. Maybe beyond just focusing our efforts on propping up engagement levels we should start focusing our efforts on eliminating the barriers to engagement inherent in our businesses. The question to ask isn’t “what more can we do?” but rather “what can we do differently?”