A lot is said about improving employee engagement and employee experience in the modern workplace, but what gets spoken about less often is the connection between the two.
We like to talk about employee engagement and employee experience as being two sides of the same coin, rather than employee engagement vs employee experience as if they are competing concepts.
We believe that when employees have access to the tools, resources, and people they need to succeed (experience), then they will naturally be more engaged and add value to the business.
The issue is that many frontline employees don’t have this kind of access and end up becoming disengaged as a result.
Employee engagement vs employee experience: differing definitions to achieve the same outcome
The one time we can talk about employee experience vs employee engagement is when giving each its definition.
Employee engagement definition
Employee engagement can be thought of as the level of enthusiasm, dedication, and connection an employee feels toward their job. Engaged employees are more productive and loyal workers, making them a hugely valuable asset for the business.
Engagement levels are measured by:
- How actively they participate in organizational activities, communications, and initiatives
- How much discretionary effort they put into their work
- How invested they are in the company’s mission, values, and overall success
Engaged employees are the driving force behind your organization's success, and research shows that organizations with higher levels of engagement outperform their counterparts in business outcomes such as customer satisfaction, employee turnover, product quality, and more.
Employee experience definition
Employee experience (EX) is the sum of all interactions between an employee and their organization. You can think of it as the journey an employee takes while employed by your business.
Experience encompasses everything from how they are onboarded and trained, to their daily work environment, the relationships they form with co-workers, and the way employee feedback is given and received. Every single step is an opportunity to build a positive employee experience.
You might be familiar with the phrase ‘moments that matter’, borrowing from the customer experience (CX) concept of ‘moments of truth’. CX looks at the customer journey and all the opportunities along it to alleviate pain and offer up value. EX does the same for the employee experience asking, for example:
- Do employees start day 1 with immediate access to the tools, resources, and people they need?
- Are development opportunities made clear to them when available? Can employees build a career at your organization rather than just doing the job?
- How often do you ask for their input and feedback — and what do you do with these insights once they are shared?
- Do you celebrate their work anniversaries and make them feel valued?
A negative experience can lead to a lack of engagement and, ultimately, employee turnover. A strong employee experience increases an employee's commitment to your company, encourages a great workplace culture, and creates a more engaged, productive workforce.
According to Gartner, employees who report a positive employee experience are:
- 60% more likely to stay with the company
- 69% more likely to be high performers, and
- 52% more likely to report high discretionary effort – work they do above and beyond what’s expected based on their daily responsibilities
And with high discretionary effort, customer service levels and ongoing customer loyalty are likely to improve too. A customer’s experience with the company is only as good as the employee’s experience, after all.
Employee engagement and experience in action
We can look to the modern Japanese ramen bar Tonkotsu as an example of employee engagement and experience. This organization is committed to creating an engaging environment for their employees, delivered via Blink — the frontline employee app.
- Staff members are able to chat freely and instantly using internal messaging, without anyone getting notifications on their personal devices while on leave!
- The team shares a central Feed where company updates are posted — from new menu launches to awards and achievements
- Leaders can continuously encourage a leveling up of quality and customer service by directing employees to up-to-date critical information when they needed it
All this resulted in Blink becoming a critical part of daily life for Tonkotsu team members. With 99% active users, Blink was able to provide Tonkotsu with a truly unified, connected organization.
The relationship between employee engagement and employee experience
While defining employee engagement and experience is important, understanding the relationship between the two is key if you’re going to get both right. So, what is the connection?
In short: employee experience lays the foundation for employee engagement.
“Good overall EX will set the stage to produce employee engagement, which is when staff enjoy their work and feel valued at the workplace.”
Next, we’ll look at how that ‘stage’ can be set and who the major players in when it comes to creating engaging employee experiences.
Employee experience and engagement: who, how, what
Every person in your organization has a role to play in delivering employee experience and engagement. And yet, we know we need some accountability otherwise responsibilities fall through the cracks!
Here is who’s generally responsible for employee experience vs employee engagement, how we can look to improve both, and what the ideal outcome would be.
Employee experience Employee engagementWho is responsible for it?Some companies have dedicated EX managers while others will put together task forces to push the agenda forward. In reality, every leader is responsible for the employee experience of their organization — EX needs to be owned from the top down and will impact the entire lifecycle of an employee’s tenureWe can think of HR, Internal Comms, and other mid-level managers are the ‘owners’ of employee engagement. But really, it’s up to the employees whether engagement is given, as it lives inside them — they need to feel like it’s being earned by their organizationsHow to improve it?Improving employee experience comes down to a number of factors, including having the right tools and initiatives to enable, engage, and understand employeesWith the foundations of a positive employee experience laid down, leaders then need to reinforce and encourage a culture of connection and engagementWhat’s the end goal?A stronger overall experience with your company from the employees’ perspectiveMore engagement, participation, and connection with the company, leading to better performance, lower attrition, and stronger commercial results
Employee experience and employee engagement in practice: the moments that matter
We touched on the concept of ‘moments that matter’ earlier in this guide, and we’re big fans of that way of thinking about employee experience vs employee engagement.
Let’s take a look at some specific ‘moments that matter’ along the customer journey and how the overlap between experience and engagement plays out in each.
Attraction and recruitment
What your potential employees experience when they apply for a role speaks volumes about your business. This first touchpoint should be straightforward, satisfying, and rewarding — after all, you want to set the right tone.
If you have chaotic or unclear recruitment processes and clear communication is difficult to achieve, this could be a major “red flag” for potential candidates. It also sets you off on the wrong foot with new hires and can have a long-lasting impact on how employees experience and perceive your business.
If a potential hire disengages during the recruitment process, they’ll fall immediately out of your recruitment pipeline.
- Keep in contact with your applicants
- Provide feedback on their progress
- Respect their time by providing them with a good estimate of how long the recruitment process will take
The more transparent you are during this ‘moment’, the better experience you’ll create for potential new hires — and the more engaged they’ll be from the very start of their journey.
A comprehensive onboarding program benefits everyone. It should be tailored to the individual and provide a detailed introduction to their job and your business.
- Make sure they understand what’s expected of them
- Connect them with the resources they need
- Introduce them to the people who can support them in their early days
- Create open channels of communication so they can share feedback and ask questions
- Don't forget about the employee digital experience
The first 90 days of an employee’s tenure is crucial for engagement and therefore retention. Don’t miss this opportunity to deliver.
You can start measuring an employee’s engagement levels right away.
- Are they taking initiative?
- Do they have questions and seek answers?
- Are they actively engaged in meetings and conversations with co-workers?
These all point to a high level of engagement, which increases your chances of retaining them. By setting goals, providing feedback, and giving them the opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute to your business early on, you can ensure that new employees stay engaged and motivated in their roles for the long term.
Another way to boost engagement from day one is to assign internal employee engagement champions. These are team members who keep new hires in the loop on how to use their engagement channels — and get them excited to engage with you!
Today’s employees expect to be able to access the technology they need, when and where they need it. If you don’t provide them with easy-to-use tools, you risk wasting their time — and, therefore, your money. Worse, leaving them feeling frustrated and undervalued.
This ‘moment’ has been more or less perfected for desk-based employees. But for deskless frontline teams, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
Frontline workers need the right tech and employee apps to get their job done when out in the field. This can make a huge difference in how they experience their day-to-day roles — and how satisfied they are with them.
- 60% of frontline workers are currently unsatisfied with the technology their employers provide
- 56% state they had to use their own technology to perform their work better
- 96% of frontline workers want better communication tools
Naturally, this is going to result in a poor employee experience. And as business leaders, we can do better than that.
When technology is used to improve the employee experience, then levels of engagement with that tech will soar. We know this from our own work with frontline organizations as the adoption of Blink’s frontline employee app has been as high as 96% for our customers.
From sharing knowledge through a secure, mobile-first resource Hub, to tracking workflows in real-time and ensuring key information has been seen and read with mandatory reads, having access to well-designed employee experience software & tools can make a massive difference to engagement and productivity.
Bidirectional communication through these technologies is also crucial. It’s no good just having the odd bit of information trickle down from HQ, it’s much more engaging to create communication channels that allow for the flow of employee feedback loops and two-way dialogue.
That way, employees can contribute their ideas, share experiences, and give feedback in a safe and secure environment.
The organization’s ethos around communication will have a big impact on an employee’s overall experience.
Make sure that conversations are timely and transparent – and that employees feel like they’re truly being heard when it comes to issues or challenges that arise.
You should also closely consider the communication channels and features you use for day-to-day comms:
- Are they counterintuitive?
- Do they cause more stress than support?
- Are they difficult to access?
These are the factors that define the employee experience in terms of communication.
Making sure you have the right processes in place to facilitate effective and efficient communication is key, as it will ensure that your employees are heard, their needs are met, and everyone feels supported.
The engagement side of daily comms is how often your employees communicate with leadership and their co-workers.
- Are they proactively raising issues and giving feedback?
- Are they using the channels you’ve provided for them?
- Are they interacting on a daily basis with co-workers or the wider company?
And, of course, it’s hugely important to pay attention to what your employees are saying in these conversations. This can tell you a lot about how engaged they are in their roles, providing vital information to help you better understand their experiences in the workplace.
By paying attention to both the experience and engagement side of daily communications, you can ensure that your employees have a positive experience and stay engaged.
The experience of feedback collection is incredibly important: how, where, and when you collect it will have a big impact on the types of responses you receive.
Feedback should be sought in an environment that encourages honest and open conversation, as well as being convenient for employees to access.
For example, if you’re collecting feedback through an employee engagement survey, make sure that it is easy to access and use. If employees find the survey overly complex or time-consuming, they’re unlikely to complete it.
It’s also important to consider when you’re sending out surveys or asking for feedback. example, If you send them out on a Friday afternoon, or during a night shift for your deskless staff, employees may not have the time or energy to give their full attention to completing it.
If you want your workforce to provide their feedback, they need to feel like their input is heard and valued. This means if you’re asking for feedback regularly but not using it to make any changes, employees may understandably become disengaged over time.
You can measure feedback engagement in terms of response rate: are your employees responding to surveys and giving their input frequently? If they’re not, it could be a sign that you need to adjust your feedback collection — or actioning — process.
It’s also important to consider how frequently you’re asking for feedback: if it becomes too frequent or tedious, employees may not feel compelled to respond. Try to strike a balance between collecting enough feedback to make informed decisions, but not too much so that employees become annoyed.
Promotions, birthdays, and anniversaries
If you want to create a positive and engaging experience in the workplace, it’s important to recognize and celebrate your employees’ big moments: promotions, birthdays, work anniversaries, and so on.
These types of celebrations can be incredibly motivating for employees. It shows that their hard work is valued and appreciated, which increases positive workplace experiences and feelings of job satisfaction.
To ensure a good employee experience with recognition, you should consider how you go about it, and make sure your recognition processes are fit for your specific workforce.
Let’s consider a busy manufacturing employee out on the warehouse floor. Calling them to HQ for a congratulatory meeting is going to be inconvenient, to say the least. A better option would be to give them a dedicated Feed shoutout or employee recognition message delivered directly to the palm of their hands.
When recognition hits the mark, employees are five times as likely to be connected to company culture and four times as likely to be engaged.
So by investing time into engaging your staff during the moments that matter most, you can drive their connection to colleagues and their sense of belonging with the company throughout the rest of the year.
Creating additional, ongoing opportunities for employees to connect with each other — such as secure chats and private groups — will also help them feel more connected and valued even during quiet days. These engagement efforts become even more important for frontline workers, who often lack the opportunity to connect with co-workers on a daily basis.
Exiting the organization
Employees will always leave your organization, whether through natural turnover and retirement or voluntary attrition.
When they do, an exit interview is the final ‘moment that matters’ — and an incredible opportunity for insight. These conversations provide a rare view into how former employees feel about their time with your company and can be highly valuable in helping you identify issues with the employee experience.
And yet, so many businesses fail to organize exit interviews. These learning opportunities are slipping by and can be the final nail in the coffin of disappointing employee experience.
Honest exit interviews give employees the space to share their experiences without fear of retribution, so the conversation is as valuable for them as it is for you.
And always think about the how — how can you make this experience as positive as possible? How can you ensure you learn as much as possible from their departure?
Spend time considering what questions to ask, who should be asked, and how insight is collected. Ensure that all exit interviewees are asked the same questions, in a consistent and respectful manner. And, of course, take the time to put what you've learned into an actionable plan for improving engagement moving forward.
When done well, the exit experience can be incredibly valuable in helping you shape a great employee experience overall.
As the final ‘moment that matters’, a disengaged employee is unlikely to give you much to work with during this exit interview. If they’ve had a bad experience with your business, this might come out as anger or frustration, while if they’ve felt undervalued and under-heard then they might not feel able to speak up and tell you what you need to hear.
Remember how we said that employee engagement has to be earned? That’s still true even in this very last interaction. Create a positive exit experience and make it clear that you really do want to hear what they have to say.
Driving the frontline employee experience
Frontline employees represent the majority of the workforce and companies must consider how to keep their deskless workers engaged.
Frontline employees often face unique challenges when it comes to their employee experience and engagement. These workers typically have limited access to co-workers and have been historically forgotten when it comes to engagement projects and tech investments, meaning they can easily become isolated and disconnected from the organization.
Without support from their company, deskless employees can also miss out on important elements of the employee experience such as recognition and rewards, which are key components of driving engagement.
Frontline organizations need to focus on the specific needs and concerns of their workers.
Providing frontline employees with accessible, intuitive engagement tools, ongoing recognition, instant access to company resources, and a central Feed to share information and news are just a few examples of how organizations can ensure their frontline employees feel connected and engaged.
This will help to create an interconnected workforce that is united behind the same goals and objectives, even when working from different locations or time zones.
Key metrics to measure experience and engagement success
Finally, it’s important to track changes in performance metrics associated with engagement and experience initiatives. By monitoring how these programs affect these key KPIs, organizations can gain a better understanding of how engagement initiatives are impacting bottom line results.
Here are a few key KPIs to consider:
- Employee engagement rates: How many employees are engaging with your company engagement channels? What time of day do employees engage the most? Which teams or departments are engaging the least?
- Employee retention: How long are employees staying with your company on average? Are they continuing to stay with the organization or leaving after a short time? Do engagement rates show any trends that correlate with this?
- Absenteeism rate: Are employees missing more work days than usual? Does this align with a drop in engagement rates?
- Employee survey response rates: Are employees responding to surveys? How many employees are engaging with surveys? What day and time do you see the most engagement with pulse surveys?
- Quality of feedback: Is employee feedback constructive and actionable? Is it provided in a timely manner?
By tracking these metrics over time, organizations can get a better understanding of how their engagement and experience initiatives are impacting employee performance. This will help them to make any necessary adjustments to their employee experience strategies, ensuring they are getting the most out of their engagement and experience efforts.
Blink. And employee engagement is earned every time.
Employee experience vs engagement: FAQs
What are some examples of employee engagement?
Some examples of good employee engagement could be quality customer service, high communication response rates, frequent engagement with employee platforms, and low employee absence rates.
With these metrics monitored over time, organizations can get a better understanding of how their engagement and experience initiatives are impacting employee performance and make any necessary adjustments.
What is the employee experience journey and how can I improve it?
The employee experience is the entire journey of an individual’s time with your company, from pre-hire through post-exit. Improving this journey means providing employees with the tools, support, and resources they need to succeed in their roles. It also means fostering a positive culture where employees feel heard and appreciated throughout all of the moments that matter on their journey.