Over the past year or so, the phrase “employee experience” has barged its way into conversations about human resources and employee engagement.
This prompted some eye rolling from some who felt like this was just another example of repackaging the same old HR stuff under a new label.
And the more you see the phrase, the easier it is to dismiss as simply a new buzzword.
Don’t make that mistake.
This past week, I had dinner with a friend at a hip new restaurant. The place was buzzing with contagious energy when we walked in. The restaurant space itself was fairly small but despite being crowded, it felt intimate. The menu was interesting both visually and for the choices offered. The food was both beautiful and delicious. And the service was amazing. My friend even commented at one point that even the guy washing dishes looked cool.
Everything was great. I left dinner that night feeling exceptionally satisfied and happy. I will remember this restaurant, refer it to others and go back as soon as I have the opportunity.
That’s the impact of a great experience.
What’s the difference between Employee Engagement and Employee Experience?
For the past couple decades, we’ve been fixated on employee engagement and for good reason. Engagement is the emotion and mental connection we have with our work. Our level of engagement has a profound impact on our work performance, commitment, and advocacy.
The employee experience, on the other hand, is the day to day interactions we have with all the things that make up what we call “work.” It includes everything from the physical work environment to the technology we use to our interactions with others.
Stated another way: Experience is what happens at work, engagement is how we feel about it.
The employee’s experience of work drives their engagement and that engagement level drives their performance. If we really want to find ways to sustain higher levels of employee engagement and performance, it starts with designing the work experience to be more engaging.
Employee Experience Design
So much of our work with employee engagement is reactive. We field a survey to find out how employees are feeling, then we engage in a game of corporate whack-a-mole as we try to fix the issues.
But in far too many cases, we aren’t addressing the root causes. Designing the employee experience is where we as leaders and HR professionals have our greatest ability for influence and impact.
We’ve all heard of design. At it’s most basic, design is about bringing intention to the act of creation. It is a process to increase the likelihood that the new thing you create (process, interaction, technology, product, etc) will have the desired effect on those who you create it for.
Employee Engagement asks the question: “How do my employees feel about the experience they are having of work?”
Employee Experience Design asks : “How do I want my employees to feel about the experience they are having of work?”
It is a shift from playing defense to playing offense. If you want your employees to feel accepted and included at work, how might you design the new employee on-boarding experience differently to ensure that they felt that way from the day they accepted your offer? Or, how would staff meetings look if you redesigned them to ensure employees felt accepted and included?
Ask the Questions
Shifting our efforts in the direction of employee experience design represents a huge opportunity for those interested in improving engagement.
One of the first steps to take is to get educated about design. Design is a proven process that’s used in many disciplines including marketing and technology. It’s past time that we bring it to our work as well.
To start having an impact immediately, use these questions to evaluate the experience you are creating for employees:
- How do we want employees to feel about this?
- What can we do to make that happen?
These two questions will force you to clarify your intentions and then use those intentions to inform your actions.
When we learn to clarify and articulate the kind of experience we are committed to creating for employees, we will be a big step closer to making it happen.