Employee Experience and Engagement

These two words are often confused.  Employee experience is largely one way and is about the company providing the employee with an environment that meets their need for comfort and efficiency.  Employee engagement, on the other hand, is a measurable element of employee experience and is more focused on building a two-way communication between management and the employee.

In a survey of employee experience in the recruitment, retention and productivity of employees it was identified that six workplace practices are critical to creating a positive employee experience:

  • Organizational Trust
  • Co-Worker Relationships
  • Meaningful Work
  • Feedback and Growth
  • Empowerment and Voice
  • Work-Life Balance

As we have seen in our own establishments, employee engagement is largely focused in the workplace, productivity and enabling employees to do their job and achieve business goals.  Experience however, is wider and includes not just work, but the employee as a human being as well.

Employee experience, the Globoforce Study shows, is not “just about feeling good at work” it’s about creating holistic experiences in the work place.

It is important to understand the difference between experience and engagement.  The findings from the study show that organisations that deliver a positive employee experience through human workplace practices like recognition, empowerment, and feedback see a significant impact on return on assets and return on sales.  To realise this superior productivity, it is important that managers understand the difference between experience and engagement.


What Does Employee Experience Mean?

Many HR professionals have struggled to find a way to understand and quantify this important new industry measure.  Other HR experts dismissed the term saying it is only a dressed-up version of employee engagement created by millennials to justify more ping pong tables at their office.  The question is, “Should we follow Air BnB’s lead and appoint a Global Head of Employee Experience or continue to focus our efforts on improving employee engagement.”  After consideration I believe that employee engagement is one of the naturally occurring benefits of creating a great employee experience.

Employee experience refers to an employee’s perception of the company they work for.  This perception is an aggregate of how an employee interprets their many interactions with the company, from business practices to work environment.  The holistic measure takes each employee’s thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about their experience working for the company.

If your company is interested in enhancing its employee experience it should focus on improving the overall quality of life of their employees.  However, don’t get this confused with offering additional benefits, new perks, and other “feel good” initiatives in hopes of increasing employee engagement levels.  Unfortunately, these superficial, short-term motivators often have little to no effect on an employee’s engagement level.

Employee experience is the entire experience an employee has at work – from experiencing a long commute to the work place and having a hard time finding parking, to a crowded cafeteria without vegetarian options, to knowing who to contact to resolve a benefits or work issue, to having the right tools to do their job.


Employee Engagement   v   Employee Experience

We should look at these as two different perspectives on the same thing: employee experience refers to how your team experiences you as a company, while engagement often refers to how employers experience the team – are people productive, do they recommend the company, and how long they’d work there?  Engagement data is often focused on measuring the ROI of employee practices – are you happy with what we’re doing.

For practical purposes, the employee experience is the totality of experiences one has during the recruitment, employment, and post-employment phases of a job.  This includes the interactions with others, the policies, procedures, and processes one faces, the culture of the organization, the total rewards (pay, benefits), the physical environment, and the job itself.  The totality of all these factors large and small create an experience that ultimately influences the level of engagement an employee feels toward their employee.

Employee engagement refers to an employee’s psychological involvement in their job and tasks, the connection they feel to their colleagues and leaders, and the resultant commitment they have to the company.  Highly engagement employees are typically thought to have a positive effect, high energy, and will display discretionary effort.


Reasons for Disengagement

The following in my experience are causes for disengagement:

  • Lack of understanding of, or connection to, the core mission and values of the company
  • Lack of feedback and direction from the team manager, or just poor communication between the employee and manager
  • Feeling underappreciated for the employee’s individual efforts
  • Lack of good rapport with team mates
  • An incomplete onboarding process



Employee experience is the total of all the experiences and perceptions that employees go through while working at your company.   It is an employee-centric and bottom-up approach where employers design their work-flow and processes around their employees to better their day-to-day and overall experiences.  Employee engagement is all about short-term cosmetic changes (i.e. one-off engagement activities), employee experience includes the entire reality of ‘what it’s like to work here’.  Both are equally important but to really develop a strategy that encompasses both it is important to understand both and how they impact on work and your organization.




Globoforces WorkHuman Analytics and Research Institute and IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute research to determine the impact of a positive employee experience on employee engagement and retention.