Employees want a strong culture and a great experience
High-performing companies need the hearts and minds of their employees. The employee experience and employee engagement go together, but they are not the same thing. One is not necessarily better than the other. They both work together to serve a common cause: Making the workplace great for employees.
Companies can fulfill this in different ways. One way is to focus on creating an engaging culture that puts people first. The other is about focusing on the employee experience to find areas that make the work experience better.
What is the employee experience?
The employee experience refers to the entire journey employees have with a company throughout the lifecycle of their tenure, including all the different interactions they have with the people, the technology, and the work they do. Improving that experience requires really understanding how the employee interacts with all parts of the company.
That experience starts even before people are hired, as they go through the recruitment process, and it continues right up until they leave the organization. Companies that are building people-first cultures invest significantly in the employee experience because they know that it builds a stronger, more engaged culture that translates into better business results.
Smart companies realize a great employee experience depends on analyzing, at a tactical level, every critical moment in the employee journey and understanding how it impacts the employee in an emotional, psychological, or physical way. This might include onboarding, benefits, the human resources information system, internal communication tools, the physical layout of the office, how approval processes work, etc. In other words, pretty much anything that an employee interacts with in his or her life cycle. It’s all an opportunity to evaluate and improve.
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is a psychological state that refers to the level of commitment employees have to their organization and its goals. When employees are highly engaged, they exhibit significant discretionary effort, which means they go above and beyond, take on challenges, and exert more energy than their job requires. When companies have high employee engagement, they have many employees who bring their best energy and ideas every day. And that pays off in terms of productivity.
Ultimately, one of the key outcomes of creating a great employee experience is higher employee engagement. Employees feel important, respected, and trusted when people-first employers find ways to make the work experience better. By fixing problems in the employee experience, employees also are able to accomplish their goals and achieve success more easily.
Companies should boost employee engagement in both ways. They should consistently be monitoring and trying to improve their cultures, with an emphasis on leadership transparency, trust, supportive managers, and meaningful work. And they also should invest in a more thorough evaluation of the employee experience and commit to make changes to the processes, technologies, and experiences that prevent employees from being at their best.
Greg Barnett is chief people scientist at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s survey partner for Top Workplaces.