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What is Employee Experience?

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The Definition of Employee Experience

Global Shift from Employee Engagement to Employee Experience

Employee Experience is not just a new name for employee engagement. The term employee experience defines a generational shift in attitudes and clear differences in employee expectations toward how the workplace should work and the tools companies can use to incorporate employee feedback into an enterprise culture of innovation.   

First-generation employee listening tools, like the annual engagement survey, gave HR the ability to send surveys, collect insights, develop action plans, implement and wait for whatever trend showed up in the next survey. However, second generation feedback management tools enable every department to respond to emerging trends in real-time. 

The differences in employee engagement that the definition of employee experience encompasses are important because consumer-led technology has radically transformed personal experiences into public moments that generate feedback online. Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter have not only increased the transparency and speed with which we connect and share information, but also the rate at which we receive productive feedback. 

The reason why employee experience matters more now, is because employees expect the same engaging consumer-like experiences at work. Organizations need simplicity plus fast intelligence to embrace the many employee signals that are constantly pouring in to gain a better understanding of employees in their day-to-day work life.  

By capturing and understanding these direct and indirect signals, companies have a constant view from the employee’s perspective at any given time. And by giving the right people fast visibility into these insights, employees are empowered to be an active part of shaping culture and experience — resulting in reduced turnover, higher productivity and a happier workforce.  

The Key Difference Between Employee Engagement and Employee Experience

The terms “employee engagement” versus “employee experience” are often used interchangeably, but they shouldn’t be.   

Employee experience is not about what companies do; it’s about how companies make employees feel throughout that journey. Employee engagement, rather, is now understood to be an outcome of employee experience.  

The Employee Experience encapsulates the entire journey an employee has at an organization. From “interview-to-exit,” every moment, every interaction and every touch point and transaction in the employee lifecycle constitutes their entire experience. 

Engagement is the measured level of commitment, passion, and loyalty a worker has toward their work and company. How engaged a workforce is largely depends on how well an organization takes action on what’s important to employees.  

Employee engagement surveys are great indicators of what’s important, at any given moment in time, but a single survey lacks the ability and continuity to really understand employees in their day-to-day work life. By contrast, Employee Experience uses software to continuously listen and respond to employees in the moment by capturing signals from direct feedback (like surveys) and indirect feedback (such as helpdesk tickets, chatbot transcripts and performance reviews).  

Advanced AI-enabled analytics provides actionable insights from expansive structured and unstructured data sets, while feedback management dashboards and automated alert routing ensures the right insights get to the right people so they can take fast and effective action.  

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However, the main goal of Employee Experience should not have anything to do with the customer.  

The focus must always center around making employees feel valued, motivated and engaged. The best way to do this is not just by listening to employees but actually understanding how they are feeling in that moment of their career journey and taking meaningful action on what is most important to them.  

Employee Experience software makes understanding the career lifecycle of single employees possible at scale by capturing direct and indirect signals in the big moments (first day on the job, onboarding, offboarding), the everyday moments (contacting the helpdesk, attending an All Hands, submitting an IT request) and the personal moments (getting a new manager, returning from maternity leave, transfering to a new department).  

Powerful AI technology makes sense of millions structured and unstructured data points, surfacing emerging trends and detecting issues on the rise. The platform then connects these insights and turns them into suggested actions, automatically routing them to the right teams —from the c-suite to the frontline—in real-time.  

With these suggestions, teams know how to best respond and what steps to take to have an immediate and positive impact on all aspects of the employee experience. 

Your job as an employee experience leader is to “Create Peak Moments”

According to authors Chip and Dan Heath of “The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact,” we tend to remember two out of three things: the best or worst moments of an experience, as well as the last moment. We tend to forget the rest as the particulars of everything doesn’t matter.   

What does matter, however, is creating a “peak” moment – a moment that has a lasting impression. 

Employee experience leaders want to create a work-life culture of engagement that fosters this “peak” moment by understanding how the experience is working (and possibly not working), by collecting feedback and operationalizing those insights to the right teams for action. 

What’s the difference between the CHRO and Head of Employee Experience?

The role of CHRO has traditionally prioritized rules and processes over people. By contrast, the head of employee experience widens the scope of HR to cover the entire employee life cycle.   

As the role of the CHRO modernizes, the line between employee experience and HR is blurring. For example, AirBnB decided to move their CHRO into the position of Chief Employee Experience Officer (CEEO).   

When it was announcedAirBnB’s Global Head of Employee Experience Mark Levy said, “We are focused on bringing to life our mission of creating a world where you can belong anywhere, by creating memorable workplace experiences which span all aspects of how we relate to employees, including how we recruit them, develop them, the work environment we create with them, the type of volunteer experiences we offer them, and the food we share together.” 

Employee Experience leaders are responsible for breaking down silos and collaborating with departments, ranging from IT to finance to marketing, and applying data to inform decision making as it relates to people programs across the organization.   

By blending together traditional human resource functions such as recruiting and talent development with Marketing, IT, facilities, security, social responsibility, and internal communications, employee experience leaders can be sure that every interaction an employee has with the company exceeds their expectations.  

When successful, employee experience leaders will help the organization create a culture of trust and empathy that naturally boosts engagement. Expect increased productivity, better quality products and services, higher retention rates, and better quality candidates applying for available positions too. 

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What are the main challenges of Employee Experience leaders?

When you are responsible for optimizing every moment across the employee journey, it’s not only critical that you have the ability to collect lots of data from a variety of sources, but that you can easily make sense of that data and act on it quickly.  

Translating data into actionable insights is one of the biggest challenges an Employee Experience leader has.  

This is why they must have access to intelligent software that has the ability to analyze and uncover hidden meanings in vast amounts of data. By applying machine learning algorithms to millions (maybe billions!) of structured and unstructured data points, platforms with powerful AI capabilities can analyze text and detect new issues and trends as they arise, eliminating any blind spots.  

The right Employee Experience platform can connect these insights and turn them into suggested actions, automatically routing them to the right teams in real-time-making the job of the Employee Experience leader that much easier.