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Beyond employee engagement: Time to focus on the employee experience

If employee engagement is to have the transformational impact it promises, perhaps we first need to stop thinking of it as a concept in isolation. Flat global engagement levels certainly lend weight to the argument that companies need to alter their thinking and approach. This means considering engagement in broader terms, as just one albeit important part of the whole employee experience.

What does the employee experience encompass?

Basically anything that impacts upon an employee’s experience of the organisation they work for. The company’s vision and values, how it treats customers, employees, wellbeing policies and the company culture, to name just a few.

This broader proposition better reflects the complexities and influences of the modern workplace. And, by better understanding the experience as a whole, the various parts can be measured and analysed in this context, and then improved.

“Take a step back; the logical starting point is to map out the entire employee journey. This allows you to consider what processes, surveys, feedback tools, apps or any other measures or resources that are needed at the various stages. You could even choose to involve employees in this exercise to get their ideas and input on what they feel is needed in order to enhance their experience (and, within that, their engagement).”

How will the changing workplace affect HR?

Major workplace trends and changes such as skills shortages, an aging population, multiple generations of workers and a spike in employees on short term contracts are all muddying the waters for HR with engagement. The workplace is changing at great pace and HR has a pivotal role to play in managing this transition while maximising the employee experience and honing the employer value proposition.

“Some industry thinkers have theorized about a shift in HR’s role as chief talent officer to that of ‘chief experience officer’, and this seems quite apt. After all, HR’s job is now not just about keeping talented employees, it’s about keeping then engaged and fulfilled, and offering them the very best experience. And an enriching and rewarding work experience is what employees today want. After all, “The journey, not the destination matters”, as the author T.S. Eliot told us.”

Should you survey employees more often?

One consequence of all the business changes is that relying on a single annual employee survey has become increasingly challenging. Hence all the interest in more regular employee check-ins in the form of real-time feedback or employee pulse surveys. But caution is needed to avoid potentially serious pitfalls…

“It’s important not to rush into introducing real-time feedback apps and, to a lesser extent, pulse check surveys without a clear plan for them. The most obvious risk, particularly with ‘always on’ feedback, is that you get lots of data and then can’t resource proper analysis of it, and/or it isn’t acted on. This can lead to further disengagement.”

Predictions of the demise of the traditional annual employee survey appear premature. Certainly this isn’t reflected in the latest global findings from Deloitte. Their study shows that eight out of 10 companies run annual or less frequent surveys. And, while more frequent surveys are gaining in popularly, currently only 22% of companies say they survey employees quarterly or more often.

So, what should we conclude from this? We’re not saying that this all means that one large annual engagement survey is best for all companies and always will be. Rather that each company needs to consider the best survey model, methodology and frequency to suit their context.

“The most common approach we’re seeing from clients to surveying employees involves running a substantial survey once a year, and then either an interim check-in at six months or quarterly pulses. This enables them to hone in on known key issues, gauge progress on actions taken and ensure they have a contemporary measure of engagement levels throughout the year.”

Examples of companies who put employees first

The likes of Google, Apple et al are mainstays on every list of the top employers to work for. But we’ve looked beyond them for inspiration, picking out a handful of other companies. All are leaders in their respective fields and operate indisputably hugely successful businesses. What they have in common is their prioritisation of the employee experience over and above everything else.


The Virgin Group

Virgin focus heavily on employees and their experience of working for the group. Sir Richard Branson talks about the importance of providing ‘purpose’ to employees as a fundamental part of engaging them. Crucially, they also listen to and really involve employees giving them a voice in the direction of the business. As Branson himself said in an interview, “It’s our people who drive our success”. The implicit suggestion from him here is that, while customers are undoubtedly hugely important, a company’s success starts with its employees and what they experience.



The Tata Group

Tata Group is very well known for its philanthropic values and its dedication to its employees. They’ve long taken an almost pastoral approach to engaging employees. They want their employees to experience a wholly supportive environment, one where they feel all aspects of their work and personal lives are supported. They place great emphases on employee wellbeing and encourage people to bring their ‘whole selves’ to work, believing that that this creates a culture where employees are empowered and free to give their best.



The Walt Disney Company

Disney is, arguably, most associated with its exemplary customer service. But where does this come from? Dedicated and highly engaged employees, of course. For Disney’s Cast Members (as employees are known) it is about their shared mission and a ‘bigger picture’ that they’re all committed to. It is the power of the collective, the team and the experience of being part of something bigger. By fostering this kind of camaraderie and having employees who enjoy their work and understand how they are contributing, this enriches their experience as employees and also the customer experience too.


Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report 2017.

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