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From Employee Engagement to Employee Experience

Entering a transformational world of employee engagement

The workplace today needs a transformational approach at all levels for any organization to succeed. We are now at the threshold of the cognitive era. This era is characterized by machines that can learn, reason and interact with humans naturally. The boundaries between people and technology are getting blurred.

But will Machine learning & AI diminish the role of the human workforce? While the answer to that is multi-dimensional, it is important to highlight a critical aspect of this debate. Rather than waning the role of people, in the cognitive era, the human workforce will be at the forefront of working with and realizing the benefits from new technologies to achieve more than was ever possible before. In fact, the cognitive era is just as much the human era. It is now, more than ever that we need to attract and retain the workforce that would enable the competitive edge. And therefore, providing positive employee experiences is incumbent on all organizations – traditional and new age.

With renewed appreciation of the fact that “the battle for the hearts and minds of employees is played out daily through their workplace experiences,” organizations are now revisiting their employees’ experience at work* as a route to enhanced job performance** and sustained competitive advantage***.

In this light, employee experience is coming up as the latest trend taking over in the world of HR. This trend is leading to the emergence of new roles such as chief employee experience officer or head of the employee experience. But is employee experience going to be a short-lived ‘flavour of the season’ or is it here to stay?

To explore and understand this question, the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute and Globoforce’s WorkHuman® Research Institute combined forces to conduct a global research study. As a starting point, they conceptualized employee experience as “a set of perceptions that employees have about their experiences at work in response to their interactions with the organization.” (IBM Smarter Workforce Institute, 2016~)

Here are a few critical things about employee experience –

1.) Employee experience is an amalgamation of three spheres –

The IBM research findings indicated that during employees’ workday, they typically interact across the three spheres – the social sphere, the physical sphere and the work sphere. These spheres of interaction are the key starting point of any employee experience.

While designing the employee experience for their people, an organization must consider its business goals and strategy and ensure that all the elements are in alignment.

Similarly, once an organization outlines its strategy, it must ensure that leadership behaviors, people practices, and management systems —formal drivers of organizational culture — consistently support the employee experience.

2.) Leadership & workplace practices are key drivers of employee experience

Leaders and managers play a significant role in setting the overall tenor and direction of an organization, effectually laying the foundation of a more positive employee experience~~. This starts with a high level of clarity around future direction and why employees matter in successfully achieving the organizational goals.

While leadership inducts momentum towards a positive employee experience, it is through human workplace practices that this momentum is carried forward. Workplace practices that acknowledge the unique human qualities of the workplace at all levels are largely the ones that are the flag bearers of the positive employee experiences.

Ultimately, a positive employee experience is associated with improved employee outcomes such as better job performance, increased discretionary effort, and higher retention.

3.) Employee Engagement and employee experience go hand in hand

Existing research on Employee Engagement has led organizations to formulate and understand the desired state of employees~~~. Engaged employees are proud to work with and are active advocates of their organization. They are satisfied with their organization and are committed to staying with their organization.

Nevertheless, employee engagement does not provide a complete picture of the experiences that employees have within their organizations. When viewed together, employee engagement and employee experience provide a holistic and inclusive view of human experience at work that echoes the employees’ states at work.

Thus, when employees are positive about their experiences at work and are highly engaged, they are passionate and inspired. Consequently, when employees feel negative about their experiences at work and are disengaged, they appear indifferent and disinterested. (IBM/Globoforce Employee Experience Index Study, 2016)

The business case for employee experience –

While the benefits of employee experience are multifold and long term, it is critical to look at the return on investment that it generates. The IBM Globoforce study examined organizations that invested in employee experiences (those that scored highest on the social, physical and the work sphere) and compared these organization to those who did not. The results revealed that organizations focused on employee experience (only 6 percent of the sample population) had four times higher average profits, two times higher average revenues, 40 percent lower turnover and 24 percent smaller headcount against their counterparts.

Take the first step to create a world-class employee experience –

Organizations seeking to enhance the employee experience can begin by espousing the employee perspective as an important starting point. This can be measured using data and analytics to identify needs and its impact on business outcomes. Recognizing the key milestones in the employee journey can further refine insights into areas where experience may be lacking and what actions can be most effective.

Today’s organizations need to attract, retain and develop top-performing talent, create engaging social and collaborative cultures, and connect the right people to get work done. InspireOne | IBM solutions combine market-leading talent management and social collaboration tools with the power of workforce science and advanced analytics. We help organizations build impassioned and engaged workforces, and deepen client relationships that can lead to measurable business outcomes.

We at InspireOne work for the greater cause of establishing and maintaining a strong employee-organization relationship. In partnership with IBM, we have successfully implemented many employee engagement initiatives in India.

Learn more about InspireOne's Employee Engagement Practice

References –

*Lesser E., Mertens, J., Barrientos M., & Singer M. (2016). Designing employee experience: How a unifying approach can enhance engagement and productivity.

**Wright, T. A., Cropanzano, R., & Bonett, D. G. (2007). The moderating role of employee positive well being on the relation between job satisfaction and job performance. Journal of occupational health psychology, 12(2), 93.

***Deloitte. (2016). Global Human Capital Trends 2016: The new organization: Different by Design. Deloitte University Press.

~Globoforce WorkHuman Research Institute. (2016). The ROI of recognition in building a more human workplace.

~~Skakon, J., Nielsen, K., Borg, V., & Guzman, J. (2010). Are leaders’ well-being, behaviours and style associated with the affective well-being of their employees? A systematic review of three decades of research. Work & Stress, 24(2), 107-139.

~~~Macey, W. H., & Schneider, B. (2008). The meaning of employee engagement. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 1, 3-30. 

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Sreyansha is a Senior Analyst at InspireOne. A youthful and whip-smart professional working in the area of employee engagement, OD and leadership development for the past 2 years.

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