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EX101: What is Employee Experience?

 

Awareness of employee experience (EX) has been on the rise for some time. In fact, the amount of searches for "employee experience" have more than doubled over the past five years. With that growing interest in mind, many leaders have taken the initiative to learn more about EX and how it might affect their organization. Unfortunately, most definitions focus on parts of EX, and do an ineffective job of providing a complete definition of EX. In the first post of our EX101 series, we provide a comprehensive definition of EX to give leaders the understanding needed to take the next step in improving EX in their organizations. The first step in improving EX is to understand it.

 

What is EX?

Employee experience (EX) is defined as the comprehensive set of interactions and observations an employee has with an organization. Theoretically, this definition is sound, but what does it mean in practical terms? To best understand the comprehensive nature of EX, there are two dimensions that require further explanation: timeline of employee experience, and types of employee experience.

 

Timeline of Employee Experience
EX occurs over the entire employment lifecycle, from the first time an employee encounters an organization before being hired, through the interactions they have with an organization after leaving. This exhaustive timeline is comprised of five smaller time frames:

  • Pre-employment (~2% of EX): Experiences a potential employee has with an organization prior to being hired. Examples include:

    • Observations a potential employee makes about an organization based on their review of the organization’s Glassdoor, LinkedIn, or web pages.

    • Interactions a potential employee has with an organization’s recruiters. 

    • Interactions and observations a potential employee makes during an organization’s interview process.

  • Onboarding (~3% of EX): Experiences an employee has during an organization’s onboarding process, which occur after they’ve accepted an offer to work at an organization through the time they establish themself as an employee within the organization. Examples include:

    • Interactions an employee has when completing necessary paperwork to establish employment at their organization.

    • Interactions an employee has with their organization’s HR staff prior to and when beginning employment.

    • Observations or interactions an employee has during an organization's orientation process.

  • Employment (~90% of EX): Experiences an employee has during their time of employment at an organization. Examples include:

    • Interactions an employee has when completing work within their organization.

    • Interactions an employee has regarding their performance and compensation within their organization.

    • Observations an employee makes about their contribution to the organization's goals.

  • Departure (~3% of EX): Experiences an employee has when leaving an organization. Examples include:

    • Interactions an employee has when completing exit interviews within their organization.

    • Interactions with processes an employee must complete prior to leaving their organization.

    • Interactions an employee has with their coworkers and management while leaving their organization.

  • Post-employment (~2% of EX): Experiences a former employee has with an organization once they've left. Examples include:

    • Interactions a former employee has with old colleagues after leaving an organization.

    • Observations a former employee makes about communications they receive from an organization after leaving.

    • Interactions a former employee has with any of an organization's post-employment programs.

Definitions of EX often focus on one or a few of these time frames, but do not capture the comprehensive timeline that makes up EX. It is important to note that while all of these time frames are important, the majority of EX falls within the "Employment" time frame. Because of this, it is the largest driver of employee perceptions and feelings about an organization. When evaluating EX (which we'll cover in an upcoming EX101 post), this time frame should receive the most attention.

 

Types of Employee Experience
EX is also comprised of all types of experiences an employee has throughout the timeline of their employment. EX is experienced by the employee, and the types of experiences an employee has can be broken down into the four categories in which people naturally experience things:

  • Spiritual Experiences: Experiences an employee has related to their sense of meaning, purpose, or calling. Examples include:

    • Observations an employee has about the impact their work is making in the organization.

    • Interactions an employee has in being recognized for their contributions within the organization.

    • Observations an employee makes about an organization's purpose or mission statement.

  • Intellectual Experiences: Experiences an employee has related to their skills, capabilities, or leadership abilities. Examples include:

    • Interactions an employee has when developing and presenting new ideas within their organization.

    • Observations an employee has when understanding how their role fits into the organization.

    • Interactions an employee has with the strategic plan of the organization.

  • Emotional Experiences: Experiences an employee has related to their relationships, social engagements, or personal development. Examples include:

    • Interactions an employee has with their manager or colleagues on a social level.

    • Observations an employee has about the way their organization treats its employees.

    • Observations an employee has about the relationships they hold with their colleagues.

  • Physical Experiences: Experiences an employee has related to their compensation, their physical work environment, or the tools available to them. Examples include:

    • Interactions an employee has with the physical environment in which they work.

    • Observations an employee has about their compensation and benefits.

    • Interactions an employee has with the various pieces of technology and tools made available to complete their work.

Definitions of EX often cover one or a couple of these types of experiences, but do not capture all four. It is critical to understand EX as being comprised of all four of these types of experiences to ensure that its entirety is realized when evaluated (which we will cover in a future EX101 post).

 

What EX Is Not

As stated above, while most definitions of EX include bits and pieces of what makes up EX, most do not provide a complete definition. The most common misrepresentations of EX include:

  • Results

    • The largest misrepresentation of EX is "employee engagement" - which is a result of EX - not the definition of EX. Employee engagement is extremely important as it drives a tremendous amount of value in organizations, but it is inaccurate to define EX as this result.

  • Medium of Experience

    • EX is defined in terms of the interactions and observations an employee has - not the mediums through which those interactions or observations occur. Too often, EX is portrayed as technology, the physical workspace, or person-to-person interactions. While all of these mediums are a part of EX, it is insufficient to define EX in these terms.

  • Surveys

    • Evaluating EX is an important part of maintaining and improving EX. It helps organizations understand how employees perceive or feel about their organization. That being said, surveying employees to understand their perceptions and feelings about the organization is a measurement mechanism of EX, not the experience itself.

  • Programs or Initiatives

    • Programs or initiatives (often enacted to provide a short-term adrenaline boost to employee engagement) are often defined as EX, but are not. These programs or initiatives include things like bonuses, benefits, perks, or employee engagement programs, and alone do not make up an organization's EX.

  • Employer Branding

    • Communicating an organization's values, mission, and internal EX is very important both internally and externally. That being said, this form of communication is a representation of EX - not EX itself. Changes can be made to the way an employer brand is portrayed, but it will not have much of an effect on EX within the organization. 

  • HR

    • While the HR plays an important role in monitoring and maintaining EX, EX cannot be defined as the functions and responsibilities of the HR department. It is also important to note that EX is not the responsibility of the HR department alone.

 

Summary

EX is defined as the comprehensive set of interactions and observations an employee has with an organization. By focusing on the timeline over which these experiences occur and the types of experiences that occur during that timeline, organizational leaders can accurately envision a comprehensive definition of EX. Leaders can use this definition to help inform their understanding of EX, and what it might look like in their organization.

 

The next step in making an impact on EX is to understand why it is important: either the value created by a positive EX, or the consequences of a negative one. In our next EX101 post, we'll outline the impact that EX has on organizations. Subscribe to our blog to receive notifications when we publish this next post in our EX101 series. Feel free to reach out if you'd like to discuss this post or any other topics associated with EX. 

About Holistic

The Holistic Employee Experience Platform is designed to make work meaningful within organizations. Holistic improves employee experience by focusing on four areas proven to drive an increase in employee engagement and organizational performance. To learn more about the Holistic Employee Experience Platform, visit our website, or reach out for a demo.

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