Employee engagement and employee experience (EX) are popular terms in the HR space, though many people — incorrectly — use them interchangeably. EX covers all touchpoints an employee has in their role, while employee engagement measures how they feel about their physical environment, co-workers, managers, company culture, and more. A healthy employee experience encourages engagement and can provide your team and business with a bounty of positive benefits.

Understanding how employee experience and engagement relate can help you create a more positive work environment filled with a productive, engaged workforce. Below, we discuss the key elements of employee experience and employee engagement for increased retention and happiness that support positive business outcomes.

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What is employee experience?

The employee experience is every step an individual takes with your company, from their initial application submission to their exit interview to everything in between. A number of internal and external factors influence what employees experience during each lifecycle phase.

Let's paint a picture: imagine you work a job for 10 years, and someone asks how you felt about your role. To answer the question, you’d consider your daily life in the position, the workplace culture, each growth opportunity you received, the physical workplace, how your managers treated you, your work-life balance, your financial well-being, how connected you felt with co-workers, and so forth. All of these factors contribute to the overall employee experience.

Employee lifecycle phases

Understanding the different employee experiences in every lifecycle phase can help you understand how workers engage with their roles throughout their journey with your company. The primary employee experience phases include:

  • Recruitment and hiring: In this stage, a potential hire has gone through the application process and has been in contact with the hiring team. They've maybe even met their future teammates and have gotten a better understanding of what their work-life will be like. The final step is reviewing and accepting an offer.
  • Onboarding: Proper onboarding sets the stage for the rest of the employee life cycle. The way in which you train and prepare your new hire plays a huge part in their employee satisfaction and shapes their views on their role and team moving forward.
  • Engagement: Employee engagement is a crucial step in any professional journey. Managers and HR leaders must work together to spark motivation and engagement in their teams. Helping people understand how their roles fit into the bigger picture and setting meaningful goals are some of the best ways to develop highly engaged teams.
  • Development and growth: Your team of highly creative and skilled employees wants to feel challenged in their roles. If they don't feel there are adequate opportunities for growth within the organization, they might look elsewhere. Ask for feedback from your people to know how you can help improve their experiences and keep them around for the long haul.
  • Offboarding: If an employee leaves your organization, the way you navigate this stage is just as important as any other in the life cycle. Conducting exit interviews will unlock key insights into their employee experience and could potentially help improve certain elements in the team for future hires.

Developing a healthy employee experience is multi-faceted, but it doesn't have to be scary. Dive deeper into the importance of a positive employee experience.

Employee experience factors

Creating an integrated experience across the lifecycle phases involves many factors. Employees want to feel supported by their managers with the equipment and training necessary to succeed and to feel connected with workplace culture.

The key pillars influencing a positive employee experience include:

  • company culture and values
  • empowerment and autonomy
  • recognition
  • communication
  • well-being programs
  • resources and technology
  • training and career development opportunities

There are 11 key pillars to the employee experience. Read on to learn more about each one.

Why the employee experience matters

The employee experience directly impacts business success. According to Gallup research, teams with an increased focus on a positive experience can boost company profitability by 23%. Glassdoor data show that 77% of potential hires say the employee experience is a deciding factor.

A poor employee experience affects productivity, profitability, company reputation, talent acquisition, and much more. When employees experience top-notch encouragement and support throughout their journey, they work harder to see the company succeed.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a key element of the employee experience. Highly engaged employees who feel passionate about their work generally enjoy a positive employee experience. When you increase employee engagement, you can improve the entire employee experience across each major touch point.

Employee engagement primarily measures how enthusiastic and emotionally invested workers feel toward their position and their organization. Is your team giving 100% every hour because they're aligned with the company's mission and values, or are they just going through the motions of the 9 to 5?

Employee engagement factors

Many factors contribute to fostering an engaged workforce and engagement scores can come from various internal and external factors. Some of the most critical employee engagement drivers include:

  • Meaningful work: When employees feel aligned with company values, engagement levels rise. Help your people rally around collective objectives and see how they contribute to the bigger picture.
  • Employee recognition: It's crucial that your employees know they are valued not only for their work contributions but for who they are as people. Recognizing your employees’ dedication keeps them engaged and illuminates their value to the team.
  • Psychological safety: It's of the utmost importance for employees to feel safe and secure in their work environment. Workplace psychological safety refers to a state where employees will not feel afraid of consequences for speaking up or sharing ideas.
  • Work-life balance: There's nothing wrong with giving 110% in all your tasks, but employees need to feel comfortable unplugging at reasonable hours. Create an environment that allows for rest so that your team feels refreshed when they log back on in the mornings.
  • Role clarity: It can be extremely frustrating for an employee to not understand the goal or intention behind a task they're performing. By emphasizing role clarity, managers can work with employees to create well-defined game plans for their short and long-term professional aspirations.

👀 Discover the other 10 key drivers of employee engagement.

Why employee engagement matters

Disengaged employees move many organizations backward. According to Gallup research, a lack of employee engagement caused businesses to lose a total of $7.8 trillion in wasted productivity. Engaged employees can increase company sales by 18%, performance rates by 202%, customer loyalty by 10%, and profitability by 23%.

Employee engagement provides many benefits for your business, including:

  • better team performance
  • increased employee productivity
  • lowered workplace stress
  • decreased employee absenteeism
  • higher retention rates

The benefits of boosting employee engagement are countless. Check out these tested strategies to improve engagement on your teams.

Employee experience vs. employee engagement: What is the difference?

The primary difference between employee experience and employee engagement is how they influence each other. Employee engagement directly contributes to the employee experience. While the employee experience covers every interaction between employees and the company, the engagement metric includes how passionately employees dive into their work.

To understand the difference between employee experience and engagement, let’s look at an example. Say you recently hired 10 employees who all went through identical hiring, training, and onboarding processes.

In this scenario, only half of the group has the opportunity to provide their managers with feedback and are recognized for their contributions. They are allowed to share thoughts during one-on-one meetings and have honest conversations about where they want to take their careers.

The other half, unfortunately, do not have the same deeper connections with their managers and members of leadership. They will inevitably lack a feeling of belonging to the organization and may complete tasks in a listless and dispassionate way.

Of the 10 employees, it is clear that the latter half of the group is actively disengaged from their work environment. If their employee experiences continue to go unnurtured, this organization will see employee turnover rise.

High employee engagement relates to lower turnover rates, increased retention, improved productivity, and boosted employee satisfaction, all leading to an excellent employee experience. Companies with strong employee experience and employee engagement rates enjoy more than double the performance levels of those who ignore these strategies.

Engagement during the employee experience journey 

Every touchpoint along the employee journey offers engagement-boosting opportunities. In today's competitive labor market, creating an excellent employee experience is what will set you apart from the rest.

Here are a few tips on nurturing engagement during every stage of the employee experience journey:

  • Recruitment and hiring: Make expectations crystal clear during the initial recruitment and hiring phase. If candidates have questions, make sure you provide them with honest answers about what awaits them if they are offered the position. Even if the candidate decides not to accept the offer, if you're genuine and kind to them it will do wonders for your employer brand.
  • Onboarding: Starting a new job can be a nerve-wracking time for some people. Ensure your new hire has the resources they need to get started and provide them with a list of people they can direct their questions to. You can even set up quick "coffee chats" for them with key teammates to break the ice.
  • Engagement: Schedule regular check-ins with employees to gauge their engagement levels. During these one-on-one sessions, remind them that they are always welcome to share feedback on how they can improve their experience.
  • Development and growth: Onboarding should not be the only time employees receive training. You can engage your teams with regular training and growth sessions that allow them to expand their skills and career with your organization. Promoting internal mobility is a great way to keep your employees engaged with the company at large.
  • Offboarding: A person's relationship with an organization does not end the moment they hand in their resignation. If you want your people to leave on a high note, make sure to have the important conversation with them about their time at the company. You might be clued into invaluable insights on how to improve the employee experience for future hires.

👋 Need a hand in curating the perfect employee engagement strategy? Start by mapping out a typical employee journey at your organization with this template.

Tips for creating a positive employee experience

Improving the employee experience doesn't have to feel like a colossal task. Thankfully, you can incorporate a few simple day-to-day strategies to improve how your people feel about their roles and the company as a whole.

You don’t need to reshape your entire management strategy to create a positive employee experience. Instead, you should listen to what your team wants and take action. We recommend the following tips for creating a successful employee experience built on engagement:

  1. Build trust: Trust is one of the most fundamental keys to any relationship. Create a safe space for your people, take accountability for your actions, and promote transparency to see employee engagement climb. When employees trust their managers, they remain loyal and committed. You can improve trust in your relationships with more one-on-one communication and recognition.
  2. Give meaningful recognition: It's crucial to celebrate efforts regardless of the outcome. Create a culture of recognition by acknowledging your people's hard work and contributions. You can also increase recognition in the workplace by promoting peer recognition, acknowledging milestones, and recognizing efforts, not just successes.
  3. Hold regular one-on-one meetings: You may chat with your direct reports on a daily basis via instant messaging or email, but it's important to get regular face time with your employees. Holding regular one-on-one meetings can help create genuine team connections and allow you to uncover any problem areas within your organization.
  4. Perform stay interviews: If you get the sense that an employee might be thinking of pursuing a new professional opportunity, sit down with them and chat about their experience so far. Ask them how you could better support them in their daily projects and discuss where they see themselves further down the line in their careers.
  5. Collect and act on feedback: Feedback helps you understand your team’s needs. Ask targeted questions, send surveys, and schedule one-on-one meetings to collect honest feedback and really tune into how your people are feeling. Offer transparency by showing your team the feedback results and acting on the desired changes.
  6. Support employee mental health and well-being: It's crucial to support your employees’ mental health by offering more flexible scheduling and respecting individual circumstances. Work alongside your HR team to accommodate employee requests and create a healthy space for your teams to thrive.
  7. Prioritize communication: Communication is key in all personal and professional relationships. Ensure that all your team members feel comfortable and confident to speak up about their opinions, ideas, and concerns.
  8. Encourage diversity: Diversity and inclusion in your organization’s culture create a healthier and more positive environment for employees to thrive. You can use survey questions on diversity, equity, and inclusion to understand how your team feels about your current efforts.
  9. Create mentorship programs: Mentorship programs between established and new employees help co-workers develop long-lasting relationships to feel more engaged, confident, and supported. You can try assigning mentors during onboarding so new employees have a go-to support system.

Measure your results! We recommend measuring your current state, then beginning new employee experience or engagement efforts based on your results. You can send out employee experience surveys and track key metrics like satisfaction levels, eNPS, retention rates, and more to see how your efforts improve business and employee outcomes.

Employee engagement and employee experience go together like peanut butter and jelly. You must nurture every phase of the employee journey and life cycle for a healthy, happy, and holistic experience. When employees are engaged and motivated, they are more likely to stay at the organization and can collaborate more productively with their teammates.

Prioritizing the employee experience by engaging your team doesn’t have to be hard. Learn how employee engagement software like Officevibe can take the guesswork out of understanding your team’s needs.

Equip HR and managers with tools to engage, recognize, and drive performance.