What is employee experience?

Definition: Employee experience encapsulates what people encounter, observe or feel over the course of their employee journey at an organization.

Example: Checking in with new employees after one month helps gauge their employee experience during onboarding.

In the last few years, understanding and optimizing the employee experience has emerged as a key priority for HR and business leaders. But what do we actually mean when we talk about employee experience? We recently explored this question in our new eBook, The three Es: Making employee engagement, experience and effectiveness feedback work for your organization.

The employee experience encapsulates all that people encounter, observe or feel over the course of their employee journey at an organization. It’s an expansive view of the relationship between the individual and the organization, starting with the application process and continuing through to the day the individual exits the business and even beyond to when they join the organization’s alumni.

The sheer diversity of experiences that fall within this journey - from interviewing and onboarding, through training and development and eventually exit - means that the employee experience is not static. In fact, it can vary from day to day. Because of this, it’s useful to think about employee experience in terms of key milestones in the employee lifecycle. While all organizations are unique, they typically share these common experiences: candidates, onboarding, training, exiting, alumni.

Why employee experience is important

Each step in the employee lifecycle can be an important lever impacting both culture and performance. Asking for feedback at each key milestone helps organizations to understand how they’re supporting their employees to be successful, and where they need to do more.

Take for instance, the onboarding experience. This milestone is a critical step in inducting new employees into the culture of the organization and is an opportunity to introduce them to the people, tools and experiences that will help them be successful. When done well, it helps new starters reach their full potential faster and keeps them at the organization for longer. On the other hand, an ineffective onboarding process can hold individuals back, so it takes a lot longer for them to start making a real contribution to the business.  

Understanding the employee experience

When designing a feedback program to understand the employee experience, these three touchpoints, which span the entire journey, can make a good starting point:

  • Candidate recruitment: Captures the candidate experience from the perspective of both successful and unsuccessful candidates with the aim of creating advocates for the organization, no matter the outcome of the process.
  • Onboarding: Applies to all new employees joining the organization. Timing of onboarding surveys is important - consider the value of gathering first impressions as well as giving new hires the chance to make judgments and form opinions.
  • Exit: Requesting feedback from all employees who voluntarily exit the organization can offer valuable insights into the changes that need to be made to reduce churn and keep good people at the organization as long as possible.

When it comes to deciding where to start, be led by the questions that the organization needs answered the most. This may mean starting with exit surveys if there’s been an increase in turnover or investigating the candidate process if it’s hard to recruit the right people.

It can take time to start identifying patterns and drawing linkages, so the main thing is to simply get started collecting data. With this information, the organization can start to build its employee experience story and reveal real opportunities to become an even better place to work. 

Learn more about engagement, effectiveness and experience

Our new eBook explores the three Es, with examples of companies putting each concept in action. Learn how you can used employee feedback to improve your company culture for everyone.

Download the free eBook