Employee Experience often gets confused with Employee Engagement. Some people think the difference between the two largely comes down to the name. After all, the results promised by high engagement numbers are those driven by a great employee experience. And because we value retention and productivity, most HR leaders are tasked with measuring and improving engagement. We hold HR departments accountable for the engagement survey results and we set goals around the numbers. Yet most engagement surveys can only offer a snapshot of how employees feel at a given moment in time, rather than provide a more comprehensive understanding across the employee life-cycle.
What Do Engagement Surveys Actually Measure?
The evidence of a correlation between high engagement and high performance is compelling. It’s a testament to how important engagement is on the bottom line, and why we spend so much money measuring it and working to improve it. Far from irrelevant, engagement offers a critical look into how employees feel about the organization at any given time–identifying the current emotional state of the workforce in a given time period.
However, measuring engagement can be tricky business and the scores can be easily influenced by recency or superficial factors. Maybe you have seen or heard of a company that meets engagement goals by offering gifts and incentives to complete the survey or timing the survey to coincide with good news. Alternatively, you may have been on the other side. Engagement numbers take a hit because of circumstances beyond your scope and you are held accountable for the results.
It can be challenging to know what to take seriously when engagement can fluctuate so much, especially when the same benefit can start off as a blessing but then suddenly shift into a source of frustration. I recently heard a great story that illustrated this conundrum. An employee at a major tech company in the Bay Area responded to an engagement survey question about break room amenities with an answer to the effect of, “I needed the food in the breakrooms when I was an intern in order to afford to eat and work here, but now it is making me fat.” I mean, come on! How do we hold a department accountable for the fact that the employee engagement experience was so successful that the employee now makes enough to live comfortably and is complaining about the food. That shouldn’t count against us, right?
How do we move forward from here? Could we get a better understanding by changing the question or looking at employee life differently? How would we measure that accurately?
These are the types of questions that led Jacob Morgan, author of The Employee Experience Advantage, to his conclusion that organizations achieving the best employee outcomes were teams thinking long-term. Instead of designing a new HR process or adding a new perk as a bandaid for issues identified in engagement surveys, teams that were knocking it out of the park were approaching engagement from a whole different angle.
Employee Experience is Greater than Employee Engagement
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