What Is The Difference Between Employee Experience And Employee Engagement

This is the second in our series of articles covering employee experience. It’s not required, but you should also read part one of our series, “Employee Experience Trends in 2019“. 

Over the last decade:

  1. Low unemployment rates have created a tight labor market
  2. A five-generation workforce has created a unique coworking dynamic
  3. Technology has changed job descriptions and restrictions

happy employees employee engagement imageThese three factors have merged together to turn the workplace upside down.


Read on to learn how company evolution has changed the way employees view their employers, what it means for organizations trying keeping up with the competition, and how it employee-employer relations must change to with the times.



What is Employee Engagement?

The term employee engagement has been a buzzword circulating in H.R. for years. According to SHRM, employee engagement is defined as “the term that relates to the level of an employee’s commitment and connection to an organization.”


Focusing on employee engagement is said to improve business objectives like:

  • Retention levels
  • Customer loyalty
  • Organizational performance
  • Company value

For roughly two years, management consultant company Gallup, routinely measured employee engagement trends in the U.S. due to its noted importance to company success.


However, as of 2017 Gallup stopped regularly measuring the trends.


Why? Perhaps it has to do with a new buzzword that has started to creep into HR circles: Employee experience.



The Difference Between Employee Engagement and Employee Experience

The idea behind employee engagement is ensuring employers can fulfill the psychological needs of their employees so they can perform well.


In addition to ensuring employees have the tools to complete their work, Gallup suggests that employee engagement focuses on emotional needs like:

  • Celebrating work well done
  • Offering feedback and praise
  • Connecting a company’s vision and mission to a higher purpose

Employee engagement focuses on a mere snapshot of the employee’s lifecycle; like annual performance reviews, monthly check-ins, or weekly updates, typically conducted by one or two people within the organization.


Which means that workplace relationships have a huge influence on employee engagement. Specifically, Gallup research shows that  70 percent of the variance in employee engagement is due to the manager. That is to say, if a manager doesn’t praise their staff enough, they could have a team with low engagement, which might not be representative of the entire organization.


Employee experience, on the other hand, takes a step back in the employee lifecycle.


Rather than focusing on short bursts of an employee’s lifetime and singular relationships, employee experience gauges the entire journey an employee takes with your organization, and each interaction along the way.


Gallup visualizes that journey as the following:


Gallup Employee Experience Chart

(Source: Gallup)

You’ll see that engagement is only one segment of the comprehensive employee experience.



What Creates A Comprehensive Employee Experience

Jacob Morgan, author of “The Employee Experience Advantage” and an expert in employee experience says that in order to touch on every milestone within the employee lifecycle, an organization must focus on the following three pillars:

  1. Culture: This piece is the sense of purpose your employees feel, the organizational structure, the people within your organization, and how an employer expresses its commitment to the health and success of employees.
  2. Technology: What tools do your employees use in their jobs every day? Do they allow your team to get their job done effectively, create workplace flexibility, and inspire collaboration?
  3. Physical workspace: Are your employees comfortable in their space? The physical workspace includes the floor plans, the design of the office, and the amenities your employees can take advantage of to help them work most effectively.

Jacob Morgan, created the diagram below, to help visualize what that looks like:

jacob morgan employee experience

(Source: Inc. Magazine)


How to Design the Employee Experience

Above all, employee experience is an opportunity for employers to show that they value their team, both in a personal and professional setting.


That means, designing the employee experience is about letting your staff tell you what they want in the workplace, and you listening.


Think of the vast amount of money companies throw into uncovering their client’s pain points, or what their customers want from a product or service.  You would never make assumptions, right? The same is said for an employee experience—don’t try to guess what your workforce wants or needs.


To get to the bottom of what your employees want from their experience with you, consider trying some of the following techniques:

  • A survey that asks what type of resources, technologies, and spaces they need to be successful
  • Include employees in the decision-making process as you make workforce changes
  • Give your staff project ownership to help them feel invested in their contributions to the business
  • Gauge the type of benefits your team is currently taking advantage of to see what can be replaced or enhanced
  • Ask how the recruiting process felt for your employees
  • Get exit interviews, and actually implement the feedback

By asking questions, and listening to the answers, you can start to build the foundation for a positive employee experience at your organization.


When the employee experience is good, employees are engaged and able to get their work done efficiently; an equation that delivers better bottom line results.



Want to read more?

Check out our article on how employee experience workplace needs vary by generation, or how you can measure employee experience impact.

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