What is the employee experience?

employees talking

In a recent post, I talked about how 'the employee experience' would become a bigger part of HR technology as we move into 2020. So I think it’s right to explore in a little more detail, exactly what we mean when we talk about the ‘employee experience’.

An employee experience is not necessarily “employee experience”


One common misconception I have noticed in discussions about the employee experience, is to assume that this means ‘the experiences you provide for your employees’. While there might be some truth in this, the employee experience is about far more than just providing employees with experiences.


1. It’s not about taking your team out for lunch once a week.

2. It’s not about running a team building activity in an escape room.

3. It’s not about throwing the best office party in the world.


Sure, these things are all going to contribute to the overall employee experience, in their own way. But they do not make up the employee experience itself.


It is about each interaction your employees have with your brand


Wikipedia defines employee experience as “a set of psycho-cognitive sentiments about the experiential benefits of employment”. Which, as with many things on Wikipedia, is a bit of a mouthful.


In an article for Inc, Elizabeth Dukes describes it a little clearer. She says “it is the sum of all interactions an employee has with their employer”.


In other words, the employee experience includes every single interaction that an employee has, during their employment with your company. From reading that very first job vacancy, to the way you manage their retirement. Every interaction plays a part in the employee experience.


So if you want to improve the employee experience, you need to think about the interactions employees are having with their supervisors, their co-workers, their customers, the environment they are working in. And, yes, the actual experiences you create for them

Why is the employee experience so important?


The idea of “employee experience management” is a relatively new concept, and is widely credited to Professor Kaveh Abhari. But actually, it is made up of all the things we’ve been investing in for years. Things like employee engagement, performance management, diversity and inclusion.


And the reason it is so important, again, is described quite well by Elizabeth Dukes:

“It is how the employee perceives the company overall, and their role in the company” she writes. “What some organisations forget, is that their employees are their first (and most important) customers. Therefore, focusing on the employee experience is even more critical than evaluating the customer experience.”


Technology is infiltrating every corner of the employee experience


According to the HR technologist, the employee experience is being influenced at every turn, by technology. For example, employers are using tech like:


1. Recruitment bots to automate the ideal candidate experience

2. Training simulations to enhance the learning and development experience

3. HR helpdesks to speed up the experience of seeking help at work

4. Employee engagement tools to drive the wider experience of company culture


These tools and ideas sound worthy, in theory. But not all industry experts are convinced.


Is there too much HR technology on the market?


Josh Bersin is an experienced HR tech analyst, and indeed he believes that the HR technology market is focusing more on the employee experience. But while Josh Bersin agrees with the importance of the employee experience, he’s not convinced that technology is always helping things along:


“We have hundreds of new technology tools to help diagnose and improve the employee experience” 


“Every survey tool, portal tool, mobile app, and process management tool, now has ‘employee experience’ slapped on its website, telling us ‘this, too, will make your employee experience better”


Bersin warns that we are in a stage where most companies have too much technology, and not enough of our most precious resource – time. He therefore recommends that to improve the employee experience, we actually need to simplify the technology experience.


Perhaps this means, controversially, that we should all be using less HR technology overall?