What Is Employee Experience? Definition & Proven Strategies

 Employee sitting in an office with her workbook

Employee Experience

An exceptional employee experience can help differentiate your company from your competitors. Here’s how to improve your strategy.

The employee experience (also known as EX) starts with the hiring and onboarding process and continues until a person leaves your company. Employee experience is essentially how your employees experience the company, from relationships with their manager, to work accomplishments, to the technology they need to do their job successfully.

It's also one differentiator that sets Certified™ workplaces apart from the average U.S. workplace. Looking to create an award-winning employee experience? Read on.

What is the employee experience?

“The employee experience is defined as the cumulative assessment of an employee’s interaction with your company and its people,” says Julian Lute, senior strategic advisor at Great Place To Work®.

“A positive employee experience is one where employees are trusted to do their jobs and have leaders who show them respect and are fair.” Julian explains the employee experience is important for organizations to weigh up, as it can determine how much effort employees give to the company, as well as how customers experience your products or services.

An employee experience strategy for success

In a world where a hefty paycheck is no longer the primary motivating factor for employees, focusing on the employee experience is a competitive advantage with the biggest payoff. In other words, it’s something companies cannot afford to write off as fluff.

Julian says the most important pillars to a successful employee experience strategy are:

Trust, which is built on credibility, respect and fairness, is influenced by leadership and management,” he explains. “Camaraderie and company pride are how people relate to each other and their jobs.”

When developing a successful employee experience strategy, Julian recommends these three best practices for getting started:

  • Lead with your company’s mission and values
  • Get feedback and adapt accordingly
  • Consider how your employee experience strategy influences all demographics of employees, such as frontline, part-time, and management.

A successful employee experience strategy will impact every aspect of your business. “From how you interview, hire, onboard, train, promote, and recognize employees,” says Julian.

5 Ways to improve your employee experience strategy

Improving the employee experience starts with listening to what your people have to say without judgment. “Then, take action,” says Julian. “Do something in response to what you’ve heard. Thank employees for sharing their thoughts and committing to focusing on one or two things that would improve their experience.”

Consistency is also an important factor when improving employee experience, including consistent meetings, communications, access to advancement opportunities, and fair treatment by leaders, according to Julian. It’s also important that senior leaders are on board to help managers learn to listen and respond effectively to employee concerns.

Here are five ways your company can improve its employee experience strategy:

1. Use employee experience surveys

An employee experience survey is an invaluable tool to help companies take a pulse check on their company culture and how employees truly feel. This is a vital first step in building a successful employee experience from the ground up.

Conducting a confidential employee survey at least annually gives employees the opportunity to provide candid feedback about what matters to them and what they need to feel valued and supported. This one tool can help companies retain and attract stellar talent.

2. Build diversity, equity & inclusion at all levels of the employee journey

More than ever, diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging (DEIB) is considered essential to creating a thriving and productive company. Research shows that DEIB is important because it helps workplaces have 5.4 times higher employee retention and improves the chances of recruiting a diverse talent pool. Strive for inclusivity on day one and let new employees know DEIB matters to your company.

However, remember that DEIB is more than a buzzword. Fostering a sense of belonging not only helps employees feel accepted, but treasured by their workplace, which helps craft a positive working environment. After all, who doesn’t want to feel seen?

3. Offer workplace flexibility

While a hybrid work environment or fully remote positions were being embraced by some forward-thinking organizations, the pandemic has irrevocably changed the workplace.

Now that employees have experienced the benefits of workplace flexibility, including enhanced psychological health and greater work-life balance, they are actively seeking companies that provide it. Workplace flexibility also expands a company’s talent pool because geography is less of a concern. 

Companies can improve their employee experience by offering flexible scheduling (which especially benefits parents and caregivers), flexible positions such as job sharing (where typically two employees share a single role), and cross-department secondments. A secondment to a different aspect of the business can help staff develop new career skills and explore other interests.

4. Design a great onboarding experience

First impressions last, which is why it’s important to design an exceptional onboarding experience. With more and more companies offering a flexible workplace, onboarding new employees means the little things, such as access to an employee assistance program (EAP), or peer recognition channels, may fall through the cracks.

To help new employees hit the ground running, consider assigning a buddy to answer those little questions (this applies whether your new hire is remote or in the office), organizing regular one-on-one meetings with people managers, or creating a roster of virtual coffee meetings across departments.

A great onboarding experience should also include 30-, 60-, and 90-day development checklists for new employees to assess what they need to be successful.

5. Invest in employee well-being

Employee well-being is about more than physical well-being, though that matters too. It’s about creating a culture that offers mental, emotional, and personal support, as well as financial health and meaningful connections. Nurturing employee well-being is vital to developing a resilient workplace and for caring for your employees as a whole person, beyond the 9 to 5.

Companies can invest in employee well-being by connecting staff with experts or coaches, fostering ongoing development and learning, and encouraging self-care. Another way companies can create a positive employee experience is offering paid time off (PTO), which can be used at employee’s discretion for events that have significance to them, such as religious holidays.

Improve employee experience with Great Place To Work Certification

Great workplaces know workplace culture is nothing to scoff at. When employees understand that their work matters and their purpose is aligned with that of their company, good things happen. They’re loyal, engaged, and proud of their company — all signs of a great workplace.

Employee experience also helps your company’s bottom line: 81 percent of employees at Certified companies said they are willing to give extra to their role, versus just 52 percent at the average company. Ultimately, being part of a Certified workplace increases employee retention and pride. There’s no greater employee experience than feeling proud of where you work!

Get noticed as an employer of choice by earning Great Place To Work Certification™.

Claire Hastwell