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What is employee experience?

SurveyMonkey Enterprise is our purpose-built solution for managing enterprise feedback so you can better design experiences that delight your customers and employees. 

As a business, it’s likely you’ve invested an abundance of time and money into improving your customer experience (CX), but have you taken the time to look at your employee experience (EX)? Your workforce is your company’s greatest asset. It’s time to look at what EX is, its benefits, and how to design or improve it. 

What is employee experience (EX)?

Every moment from the time a prospective employee looks at your job posting through the end of their employment with your company—including what they feel, learn, see, and do—is part of their EX. Company culture, workspace (which in the world of hybrid working, could include work environments and work locations), and technology are all important components of EX. Some may confuse employee experience with employee engagement, but they are two different concepts.

While the concepts may overlap, employee experience is more holistic and encompasses more elements than employee engagement. EX is what the employee has lived through during their tenure. Engagement is the process of trying to understand, evaluate, and respond to those experiences. In other words, employee engagement is an outcome of employee experience.

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Stages of employee experience

The employee lifecycle is composed of sequential stages of the employee journey with your company. There are 5 key stages in the employee lifecycle that are also milestones in EX. Each touchstone adds to the employee’s perception and emotional reaction to your company.

Recruitment

It is during recruitment that your prospective employee begins their experience with your company. First impressions are made with your job description—is it written in a way that indicates inclusivity? Does it describe and embody your company culture? Beyond the job listing, prospective employees interact with your application program, recruiter outreach, and interviewers. These experiences include ease of submitting an application, time to receive a response, and the attitudes of the Human Resource department and the interview panel team during the recruitment phase. 

Many aspects come into play to create a positive EX during the recruitment phase, from how effective employers nurture their employer brand, to how inclusive the job description is so that it attracts a diverse talent pool, to the smoothness of the interview process.  

Onboarding

In the onboarding phase, employees meet with Human Resources representatives, receive information about their role, and begin team orientation. The new hires may also meet with company leaders to help immerse them in the company culture. This process includes a benefits presentation, initial goals, and meeting the team. This is a time for employees to begin learning systems, tools, and processes. Effective onboarding can generate enthusiasm and commitment for the new job. Employees are slowly ramping up as they learn and grow into their roles.

During onboarding, the employee is immersed in company values and company culture. Ensuring new hires have a positive work environment and the tools they need to perform their jobs efficiently and easily are key in EX.

Development

The development stage is active throughout an employee’s tenure. It ensures the employee has everything they need to perform their role effectively, and that they can grow in their role and advance within the company. Among the tools that HR and managers have to ensure effective employee development include regular 1-on-1 meetings with direct managers and skip-level meetings with the manager’s manager, a performance review system, setting goals and learning objectives, and receiving opportunities for training and development. Effective 1-on-1 manager meetings include discussions about goals and accomplishments and an exploration of areas to target for training and development. 

Strong EX in this stage is dependent on open communication with managers and leaders, and the availability of appropriate training for professional development.

Retention

Once an employee is fully integrated into the company, a good retention strategy will make sure they want to stay. With the cost of replacing an individual employee ranging from one-half and two-times the employee’s annual salary, according to Gallup, it makes sense to try to keep existing employees. 

When an employee applies for promotion or lateral move, their experience in the retention stage includes interaction with the internal application system, HR, and new managers and team members. The ease of this process has a definite impact on retention.

A company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is another factor in employee retention. In our April 2021 Workforce Happiness Index¹, workers who said their company is “not doing enough” to prioritize diversity and inclusion scored only 63 on the index. In contrast, both those who said their company is doing “about the right amount” and those who said their company is “going too far” on DEI issues achieved a much higher score of 751.

Lastly, when an employee expresses the desire to move within the organization, either laterally or to a higher level, EX is critical. If the experience is positive, the individual won’t feel compelled to look for a job elsewhere.

Exit

Employees leave for a variety of reasons—retirement, another job, or a major life change. The exit phase is initiated by the employee, and generally begins with a personal conversation with their manager and letter of resignation, which now is often sent by email. This is later followed by an exit interview, usually conducted by HR. 

An exit survey or interview will help you understand areas you may need to improve to reduce turnover and is the final touchpoint in their EX.

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Employee engagement versus employee experience

In corporations, there has been a shift from a focus on employee engagement to a more holistic employee experience. Employee engagement is the level of motivation, enthusiasm, and commitment an employee feels toward their job. Companies promote employee engagement because it improves productivity, retention, and leads to higher profits. Interestingly, employee engagement hinges on a great employee experience.

As we’ve discussed, employee experience is every interaction, impression, emotion, observation, and more, that an employee encounters throughout their time with your company. 

As the world changes, so do the needs and expectations of employees. Several factors are driving the rise and evolution of employee experience.

  • Millennials want a chance to have their say. Millennial workers are 4-times more likely to quit their jobs than Boomers, and 11-times more than Gen-X, if job pay and company purpose don’t align, according to insights from the 2021 Fortune Best Workplaces for Millennials™, conducted by Great Place to Work®. “Gender equity” was mentioned by millennials more than by other generations and more than in any previous year’s survey, according to Great Place to Work.
  • There’s a war over good talent. With fewer jobs and more candidates, the best way to differentiate yourself as an employer is great EX.
  • Organizations are changing fast. The economy is forcing some companies to shrink and some to expand rapidly. Your business needs to understand the impact this is having on your employees.
  • The expectation of personalized employee experiences. Employees have grown to expect unique experiences similar to the personalization of customer experiences.
  • The rise of social media. Transparency is more important than ever when a review—positive or negative—can go viral. These social reviews can directly affect the perception of a business or brand.

Benefits of employee experience

Clearly, EX is an important part of the employee journey with your company. What you may not realize are the effects EX has on your business’s culture and bottom line. Employee performance and productivity, as well as your company’s profitability, are all influenced by EX. 

Engagement

EX directly influences employee engagement. If an employee has a strong EX, they can perform their job duties more easily and effectively. This leads to job satisfaction, motivation, and enhanced communication with team members and managers. Employees with positive EX put in more effort at work and are invested in company success.

Recruiting

Today’s job seekers are looking for more than a salary. They are looking for meaningful work and up-to-date work culture. As job seekers explore available positions, they are looking at anonymous review sites like Glassdoor or other workplace discussion apps to find out about your company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion; benefits; sustainability practices; company culture; technology; environment; and other components of EX.

Retention

While you have been monitoring your employees’ performance, they have been evaluating your company. Starting at onboarding, employees are looking for good EX with fast access to systems, tools, and information they need to be productive at their jobs. Inc. reports that as many as 40% of newly hired employees leave almost right after they start, citing better opportunities, culture, supervisor relationships, and other EX factors as reasons. If you deliver  great EX, you’ll have increased success in attracting and retaining your workforce.

Better customer experience

There is a direct relationship between customer experience (CX) and EX. Companies with strong EX have more highly engaged employees, which leads to greater customer satisfaction. So, to improve your CX, start improving your EX.

Bottom line

There are clear links between employee experience and profitability. According to a 2020 survey of CX and EX leaders conducted by Salesforce, businesses that prioritize EX to deliver a premium CX achieved 1.8-times faster revenue growth. 

How to design a strong EX

Once you’ve established that you need to strengthen your EX game, you have to start creating a plan. 

Identify your top priority

What aspect of EX will you focus on first? Base your decision on your current business situation and choose the point in the employee lifecycle you want to target. For example, if you’re seeing high employee turnover, you may want to focus on understanding the feedback from exit interviews and surveys.

Gather data

Collect data that is directly related to the experience you are focusing on. It will take time to gather enough meaningful data to analyze, understand, and apply to EX. This is the reason for narrowing your focus to your top priority. Taking a broad overview could be overwhelming and ultimately yield too much information to deal with at once—this will delay implementing any actions in your EX plan. Once you’ve acted upon your first priority, move on to the next, executing surveys and collecting data for one objective at a time.

Empower action

Once you’ve collected the data from your employee experience surveys, examine things from a company-wide as well as individual perspective. You can identify teams, managers, and departments that are in need of support to help them understand their role in EX and give them an opportunity to take action to improve.

Promote transparency

Create a dedicated online channel to provide employees with a source of information for all things related to your company. This could be a place where senior leadership posts updates to share across departments. Ensure that communication is open both ways, with avenues for employee feedback—and make sure you’re ready to act on it. Transparency breeds trust, which enhances EX.

How to improve employee experience

There are several touchpoints along the employee lifecycle that impact EX. Those touchpoints fall into 3 basic environments.

Environments that make up the employee experience

1. Culture

Your company’s culture is made up of values, goals, attitudes, and practices shared by your employees and organization. It’s the way your employees feel about their work, company values, and approach to the future. A good company culture fosters curiosity, respect, teamwork, and wellness. For example, Dennemeyer, which provides IP protection and management, used SurveyMonkey Enterprise to build an employee-centric culture, highlighting the role of surveys in fostering this environment.

2. Technology environment

EX includes having the appropriate tools available for your employees to do their jobs. Invest in tools that allow employees to maximize their efficiency and productivity, which will, in turn, make them more confident in their roles. While tech investments may seem expensive, the returns will far outweigh the cost.

3. Workspaces

Physical workspaces impact employee happiness and productivity. Small cubes with no windows aren’t as appealing as a more open-plan environment with lots of natural light, and areas for downtime, focused work, and group meetings. Enhance EX with nice breakrooms, an on-site gym (or a wellness stipend), and comfortable meeting areas. 

Remember that not all workspaces are in an office. The flexibility to work from home also promotes a positive EX. Just make sure employees have everything they need to be productive—wherever they work, such as providing stipends for work-at-home expenses. Ensure remote employees feel included, especially if most employees work out of offices. 

Gather data

It goes without saying that gathering data to evaluate your EX is critical to evaluating the success of your plan. 

Operational data

Basic operational data includes personal information, training details, and salary history. You’ll compile a lot of this data throughout an employee’s time with you.

Experience data

For better insights into EX, collect experience data with tools from SurveyMonkey. Our surveys will help you collect, analyze, and use experience data to find out how different aspects of the employee experience are perceived and what you can do to improve. 

Combine operational and experience data for the best picture of EX. Operational data indicates you should invest in company perks for employees. Experience data tells you if the employees like the perks you offer and if there are other perks they’d prefer.

Get leadership buy-in

It’s critical for your major stakeholders to understand the importance of improving employee experience. Present leadership with information about the link between EX and positive outcomes for your business. Show them that excellence in employee experience delivers increased productivity, employee retention, and ROI. Leadership support will enhance your EX plan exponentially.

Listen to your employees

Offer employees multiple ways to offer feedback—and observe what they are doing on a daily basis. If you’re trying out a new way to streamline a process, watch it in action and make fixes where necessary. Do your best to personalize events in the employee lifecycle to ensure they are engaging and meaningful. And remember that in a culturally diverse company, you must listen to viewpoints from all perspectives.

Invest in the workplace environment

Ask your employees what would make their in-office work environment better—and act on it. Some ways to improve the workplace may include:

  • Updated computers
  • Free food
  • Redecorated spaces
  • An office dog
  • New furniture

Focus on performance management

Employees need to feel that their performance is managed adequately so they feel valued and motivated. Provide managers with training, foster active listening, and keep tabs on how employees feel with pulse surveys. Pulse surveys, administered periodically, measure mood and frustration levels, providing you with ideas for areas for improvement.

Measure EX

When you’re ready to take on EX, you’ll want to collect data to evaluate the issues your employees are experiencing. Focus on areas for improving employee experience and the improved business outcomes that will result. When reviewing results, look for what you’ve learned and what improvements you still need to make.

Employee experience surveys should be conducted at various times throughout the employee lifecycle. This will yield a deeper understanding of both positive experiences and areas that need improvement.

We’ve discussed how employee experience has a direct impact on engagement. Conducting an employee engagement survey during the retention phase of the employee lifecycle—typically given to established employees on an annual basis—will reveal how motivated and engaged they feel at work.

Employee engagement impacts

  • Improved employee productivity, customer satisfaction, and company profitability 
  • Retention of employees
  • Increased revenue
  • Improved customer experience

Utilize pulse surveys to assess your EX improvement efforts. These short, focused surveys are given periodically—at a frequency of your choosing—to ensure your employees are reaping the benefits of your EX improvements. Based on the results, you can update and tweak your plan.

Capture the experience of both successful and unsuccessful employment candidates with candidate surveys. The results will shine a light on the quality of your job advertisements and listings, perception of your brand, and recruitment process. 

Gather feedback from new employees to assess their thoughts about learning their role, management expectations, and workplace resources with an onboarding survey. Onboarding defines the whole employee lifecycle. It has a strong link with EX and engagement.

When you offer training opportunities for your employees, it’s helpful to gather information both before and after the sessions. Pre-training surveys assess existing knowledge about the topic and expectations for the training. Post-training surveys can reveal the effectiveness of the instructor, employee interest, and what areas still need improvement.

Performance reviews limited to the manager and employee-only show a portion of the employee experience. 360 reviews include input from a senior employee, a junior, a peer, and a self-assessment. 360 reviews are anonymous, so raters are likely to be honest about their thoughts. These are generally used for team development, not as performance review tools for salary increases.

When conducting an exit survey, your goal is to link input from other surveys given during the employee lifecycle. This should provide a picture of the overall employee experience and reveal insights into staff turnover and overall experience.

A well-planned and designed employee experience will help you not only attract great employees but also set them up for success during their time with your company. Begin collecting information with SurveyMonkey Enterprise tools built for your organization’s success. And if you have questions about how we can help drive growth and innovation to enhance employee experience, contact us today!

1Methodology: This Momentive study was conducted Apr 8-18, 2021 among a national sample of 8,233 adults. Data were weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the U.S.

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