Let’s Stop Talking about Employee Engagement…and Instead Build Employee Experiences

On the surface, shifting from “employee engagement” to the “employee experience” may seem like an exercise in semantics.

You might have a point.

I guess it is if nothing actually changes, it is just that. If we: measure engagement without doing anything to address gaps; see our talent as disposable; are willing to risk burning people out over building them up.

The employee experience movement, however, is a call to action. I think it has risen out of a half-way job of making sure work and people matter. And, it goes farther because we’ve realized the only way of keeping boomers from retiring (taking all their knowledge and experience with them) and keeping Millennials’ from fleeing (taking all their enthusiasm and innovation with them), we need to create a work experience that is meaningful.

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

The shift to the employee experience is happening throughout every industry. Whereas employee engagement looks at how people engage with their work, the employee experience is a more holistic approach. It’s about a sense of community and your contribution. And it’s actually a good indicator of the health of not just the employees’ relationship with the organization, but the organization as a whole.

What I’m not saying is we throw caution to the wind. We’re not going to stop employee engagement surveys, but we do need to do something with what we learn from them. We’re not going to ditch our onboarding programs, but we do need to check in with folks it’s working. I’m not saying our wellness programs don’t work, but we do need to ask “what else is needed?” I’m not suggesting we throw out our respectful workplaces policies, but we do need to get worried when people say not 100% of incidents are reported.

This can seem pretty daunting, I know, but here’s a few ideas to get us started:

  1. Job Crafting

The person doing the job should help create, define and train others for that job. You may have Job Crafting tools already, but are they being consistently used? Are those doing the actual job completing them?

Job crafting allows you to make relevant tweaks and changes to role responsibilities, job descriptions, key deliverables, and outcomes. Through this process, barriers and miscommunications get addressed (things that often deflate not just performance but people’s experience of their roles and organization). At its best, job crafting seeks to answer the question: “How can I perform at my best?

  1. Leverage Strengths

When people leverage their strengths, they perform better. Yet most have never assessed their strengths before. One tool I’ve shared with you before is the VIA Signiture Strengths Survey. How is the job, work environment and schedule aligned to individuals’ strengths? How might a few tweaks better enable individuals to flourish in their roles, and encourage others to do the same?

  1. Recognize Greatness (my holy grail)

We so rarely notice the extraordinary that happens in our everyday work lives. We instead see extraordinary as rare and only believe a select few uber performers display it. Well, we get what we expect (and only see what we notice). What if we believed small glimmers of greatness were deserving of acknowledgement? What might that do for people’s perceptions of their jobs?

Young business team enjoying success at conference table

Leaders, don’t wait until annual recognition to tell your team members that they’re performing well. It’s important that you tell your team what valuable contribution they’re making, how much you value them, and specifically the greatness you see them contributing. Write it in an email, send it in a text, post it on your internal intranet, send them a little note on a card. Just find a way to recognize their greatness and don’t wait too long to do it.

What are some of your tips of small but powerful ways to elevate the employeeexperience?

Want to check out more resources about how recognition can elevate the employee experience? Check out these articles:


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