Many people don’t know the difference between employee engagement and employee experience. However, you can narrow down the difference in terms of easy everyday interactions. For example, you may be planning a company event, with communication that states the time, food being served and activities offered. A few employees state they will be there. By responding to a company event, that is engagement. But do people actually want to go? Perhaps they are concerned with their workload. Or, they dislike their coworkers. All of these make up aspects of their employee experience.
In this scenario, employees may have the same level of engagement, but vastly differ in their experience. Yes, one greatly impacts the other, but only one aspect clearly gives you more information about how people are actually feeling. After all, it’s great to get 80% of your employees to say they’ll go to an after hours event, but if only a third of them show up then something isn’t working.
Why Employee Experience?
Simply put, employee experience is the culmination of every interaction that someone may have with your company from the hiring process, to their training, throughout their entire tenure and all the way to their offboarding and exit interview. It includes the work they are asked to perform, their relationships with coworkers or managers and even how they fit with your company’s core values and organizational culture.
In a world that has so far focused on employee engagement, experience takes into consideration so much more. Now, what can you do to supplant basic employee engagement with employee experience?
Gather feedback in an unbiased way
None of us are immune to bias. There are more innocent forms of bias, such as being someone really extroverted who forgets that your introverted team may not love frequent social events. But it’s also important to be mindful of the less innocent forms of bias. Research and data collection on bias in performance reviews has revealed the way specific people are negatively impacted by the type of feedback they receive. It is no surprise that this usually affects marginalized groups.
Any type of bias will harm the authenticity of the feedback you receive. And since that feedback is all you have to try to create a specific employee experience for the sake of engagement, then bad feedback means a bad experience.
This is why the language we use is extremely important when conducting any kind of survey or review. When gathering employee feedback, make sure to use language that isn’t leading. Leading questions are intentionally or unintentionally designed to get a specific type of answer. For example, asking an employee, “Do you find the new clock in process to be too complicated?” already puts the idea in their head that the process is too complicated, regardless of what they may have thought before. Instead, asking them, “What could be improved about the new clock in process?” allows for them to provide a more authentic record of their experience. This reduces the chance for bias in answers and allows employees to have a more comfortable experience that doesn’t sway them in one direction.
The authenticity of feedback collected in this way allows for a wider range of employee engagement in responses.
Implement Employee Feedback
Implementing employee feedback doesn’t mean saying ‘yes’ to every request. Using the data gathered from the previous point, you can easily make decisions going forward that show you’ve interpreted the feedback correctly.
Maybe someone in the previous survey told you that they had trouble with the new clock in process because it didn’t work on their phone. This is great feedback, as it provides a concrete example and reason for why their experience is subpar. Now it’s time to see if the process isn’t compatible with smartphones at all, or perhaps it’s certain models. Isolate this feedback, and test it against other experiences.
You don’t want to ignore feedback nor take it entirely at face value. Good interpretation means looking at it critically and figuring out what can reasonably be done to improve. Looking into this feedback and implementing it shows effort on behalf of the business to enhance the employee experience. Knowing that employees have been heard and listened to is an essential part of any work culture.
How does this affect the employee experience? Feedback is a two way street, and workers that understand their employer is working with them to provide the best type of work environment will appreciate their company more. It also allows new hires to begin in an already high performing organization.
Have Empathy for Employees
In today’s job climate, it can be difficult to ensure that our employees feel valued and appreciated. An employee first mentality can pave the way to the ideal experience, resulting in the kind of engagement needed to keep the business running smoothly.
In addition to properly gathering and implementing employee feedback, there are countless ways to show your team that you value them. A 2021 survey reported that transparency and fairness were key qualities in an empathetic employer, and therefore, a better leader. And a better leader begets a more engaged team.
Show empathy and understanding when they call out sick, and don’t make them feel guilty for putting their health and wellness before the needs of the business. You may struggle that day without them, but you would struggle even more in the long run if they quit. And if your entire business hinges on whether or not a single employee can show up to work that day, it may be time to reevaluate some processes.
People don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. And nothing is faster at destroying that trust and respect between you and your team than treating them like a cog in the machine. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the day to day and lose the big picture impact of your actions on your organization. But if you want a truly engaged workforce, you have to learn to set the little things aside for the sake of long term success. This means being empathetic and compassionate even when it’s hard.
Above all, you’ll find the greatest influence on employee experience and engagement is you. Building a healthy employee experience can become an integral part of your company culture, and your team is paying attention. The best way to build a great experience is to be engaged with your own employees.