Employee engagement and employee experience come down to the question: What makes people want to come to work?
Employee experience is every element of the employee life cycle, from onboarding to performance reviews, team offsites, exit interviews, and offboarding. Employee engagement reflects how your team members feel about the company, the work that they do, and how motivated they are to make an impact.
All of this might sound like a lot to track — and it is! However, we’ll get into the nuts and bolts of the employee experience versus employee engagement, how to measure both, and best practices when trying to cultivate an engaged workforce.
Employee Engagement vs. Employee Experience
Employee experience and employee engagement both play crucial roles in employee retention and overall employee satisfaction. As Gallup has documented, strong employee engagement also improves business outcomes and has a positive effect on your company’s bottom line.
“When I think of employee experience, this is really the employer’s input, the company’s influence on their employees’ experience during all their interactions,” said Amy Bastuga, chief people officer and CHRO at Radio Flyer.
Bastuga continued, “The second part of the equation is employee engagement, which is what I call output, and that is how employees feel as a result of your company’s input. You can measure engagement, and you can also really measure it by your employees’ actions.”
Creating a positive employee experience requires thinking through all aspects of the employee journey. This includes fostering a company culture that meets your employees where they are, developing an employee engagement strategy, and focusing on employee satisfaction during different stages of employee and company growth.
You can think of employee experience as how your team members experience your brand. Optimizing your employee experience can also optimize your brand. In fact, an article in the Harvard Business Review looked at the impact of employee experience on organizational growth and found that there is a correlation between happy employees and happier customers. That means improving your employee experience can increase profitability.
“When we set the objective to build a highly engaged culture, we started with the employee experience. We talked about what we wanted our internal employment brand to be, our internal experience, and what we wanted our internal promise to be to our team members,” said Bastuga.
Additionally, the Radio Flyer team wanted to align their brand promise with their promise to their employees. “We took our external brand promise, ‘Every time we touch people’s lives, they will feel FUNomenal™,’ and we turned that internally as our employee experience promise. Then we defined: What are the four main contributors to somebody really feeling FUNomenal™?”
The Radio Flyer team landed on these four criteria: They wanted their employees to love their job, grow with the company, feel recognized, and be encouraged to play.
With that in mind, improving your employee experience requires attention to detail and planning. This starts for new employees from their first day and includes creating regular touchpoints and using metrics to measure employee satisfaction.
How to Set the Tone and Measure Employee Experience
In order to create a great employee experience, here are a couple of important elements of culture and milestones for HR and business leaders to consider:
Onboarding New Employees
The first 90 days that your new hires experience on the job shape their perception of your company, their role, and their connection to their place of work. There are eight essentials to the onboarding experience, which include easy access to company resources; a clear understanding of your company’s mission, vision, and values; regular manager check-ins; and creating individual development plans.
In short, your employees’ onboarding experience sets the tone for their employee experience and engagement. As you onboard your team members, check in with your new hires and ask for employee feedback and how you can improve the onboarding experience going forward.
You can create onboarding surveys asking them to reflect on 30-, 60-, and 90-day intervals as part of your employee experience strategy and to help safeguard against attrition in the future. Questions you can use in your onboarding surveys include:
- How could your first day have been improved?
- Was your workspace and/or technology ready for you on your first day?
- Do you have a clear understanding of what is expected of you in your current role?
You want to create a mix of questions that are open-ended and on a rating scale so you can accurately assess how your HR and broader team are performing and how you can improve. Open-ended questions provide your employees with the opportunity to be specific and give examples related to their experience, and questions on a rating scale allow HR teams to easily analyze data and find out where the employee experience needs improvement and what team members value the most.
Establishing a Positive Company Culture
There are three pillars of a good company culture: purpose, community, and growth. A company’s culture is informed by its team members and is constantly changing and evolving with them. Company culture is also informed by your leadership team, their vision for the company, and how they enable growth for your employees.
However, without values-based guidance and infrastructure from the people team, a company culture can quickly become unhealthy at best, and toxic at worst. Toxic work environments can be places where employees don’t feel psychological safety, as if they can voice their opinions, or that they’re recognized for their work and contributions.
It’s crucial to consider how your organization’s policies affect your employees. Failing to create policies that support every type of employee can result in a discriminatory environment, especially for vulnerable groups like parents and caregivers or team members from marginalized backgrounds.
When you design and foster a positive company culture, on the other hand, you recognize your employees, encourage team members to share their point of view, and make employees feel like they belong in their workplace. Just as you can create onboarding survey questions, you can also design culture surveys to help you assess more about your team culture. Here are some guiding questions you can use:
- Do you feel like you belong at your company?
- What are three words you would use to describe the company?
- What do you like most about your company’s culture?
Once you’ve collected your data, you want to look for recurring themes. Does one group of people feel like they belong, and another does not? As you gather information on how your workforce feels about your company, you can create initiatives that address your strengths and gaps accordingly.
When it comes to the overall employee experience, there’s a close relationship between employee happiness and customer satisfaction, and your employee experience needs to live up to your brand promise. HR and business leaders can take an iterative approach to their employee experience just as they might to their product and improve it based on data from employee experience surveys.
A 2023 Gartner article described “The Human Deal Framework” which outlined the five key elements for employees to derive meaning and value from their work: deep connections with coworkers, autonomy at work, room for personal growth, the feeling that their wellbeing is prioritized, and an investment in the organization’s purpose. When measuring employee engagement, you’re measuring how your employees feel about their company and the work they do, so those five elements can be helpful in understanding what motivates employees to do their best and what type of questions you should be asking to get a sense of their engagement.
Like employee experience, a good way to measure employee engagement is through pulse surveys and engagement surveys. When creating your engagement survey questions, you want to get a sense of how fulfilled your team members are at work, look for any emerging patterns or trends, and use the data you collect to inform how you go about implementing a program or figuring out where you should invest to improve employee engagement.
Designing Survey Questions to Accurately Measure Employee Engagement
Below, we’ll look at how to measure the different components that make up employee engagement and how to design survey questions that help you uncover where your company is succeeding and address issues.
Employee satisfaction means an individual is content with their role, pay, and benefits. A large contributor to your overall engagement scores, employee satisfaction can be considered the foundation of employee engagement.
Here are some questions that can help inform you about your employees’ satisfaction:
- How would you rate your work-life balance?
- How satisfied are you at the company?
- How much autonomy or decision-making power do you have in your current role?
When designing survey questions around employee satisfaction, the answers your workforce provides can be illuminating. For example, if you ask a question about work-life balance and find out that 70% of your employees feel that their work-life balance is poor, you can review your PTO data and find out: Are my team members taking PTO? What’s my attrition rate? Can I implement an initiative, like “no meeting Wednesdays,” to lighten my employees’ load?
On the other hand, high employee satisfaction scores can be a sign that your current initiatives are effective at garnering high levels of engagement. In that case, you might invest even more in certain programs.
Providing Development Opportunities
As LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report found, “Empowering employees with career development tools and internal mobility options engages learners and expands workforce skills.” Not only can learning and development improve the employee experience and engagement, but when employers invest in their employees, it creates an atmosphere where team members want to invest in their companies, too.
Part of developing your workforce includes implementing performance management and regular performance reviews so employees know where they stand. To find out more about your team members’ experience when it comes to learning and development, here are some survey questions that you can ask:
- To what extent do you see yourself growing and developing at your company?
- Has your manager discussed learning and development opportunities with you?
- How are you challenged in your current role?
Reviewing these types of questions can help you uncover if you need to invest more in training your managers or offer classes and workshops. You can also learn if certain trainings were particularly useful and had high levels of engagement.
Making sure you have engaged employees can have a big impact on the success of your business. Both employee experience and employee engagement are essential parts of your workplace culture — but understanding the distinctions and how both ideas relate will help ensure employees are satisfied enough to stay at your company.
Employee engagement surveys can give you an excellent sense of what aspects of your employer brand are resonating with your team members, and how you can improve the employee life cycle. Check out Lattice's employee survey templates hub to learn how to design the best engagement survey questions and leverage a variety of templates to improve your employee experience and engagement.
- Workplaces with high levels of employee engagement have better business outcomes.
- By optimizing your organization’s employee experience, you live up to your brand promise and optimize your brand.
- New hires’ first 90 days shape their perception of and connection to your organization and can set the tone for their employee experience.
- Employee engagement surveys are an effective way of measuring employee experience and employee engagement.