Business Leadership Today

Employee Experience Explained


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

Companies have long grappled with the challenge of keeping employees engaged and motivated. The pandemic complicated an already complex challenge by profoundly altering the employee experience for many workers throughout the world.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, in light of the Great Resignation, and with the looming threat of more labor shortages in some professions, ensuring a positive employee experience should be at the top of the to-do list for all organizations looking to re-energize, re-engage, and retain talented employees. 

To understand how employees are impacted by their experiences, whether it’s their experience of something as rare as a global pandemic or something as mundane as the daily conversations and interactions they have over morning coffee with those they share office space with, and how those experiences affect an organization’s long-term success, companies need to look at what makes up the employee experience, how it is influenced, and how they can ensure that influence is positive. 

Employee experience is the sum of all the interactions that happen during the employee lifecycle. An employee’s role, work environment, workplace culture, leaders, and how their leaders demonstrate a commitment to their growth, success, and well-being are all part of the employee experience journey.

This article will explain the concept of employee experience, why it matters, and how organizations can create positive employee experiences for all employees. 

What Is Employee Experience?

Gallup defines employee experience  as “the journey an employee takes with your organization.” This journey includes every interaction that happens during the employee lifecycle, as well as the experiences that involve an employee’s role, work environment, and supervisor, among other factors.

Employee experience encompasses how an employee feels during all their interactions with their employer throughout their professional relationship with them and the impact those interactions have on their attitudes toward their job. 

This includes (but is not limited to) the employee’s first encounter with the employer (through familiarity with the employer’s reputation and the experience of applying for the job), the first time the employee meets the employer, the employee’s experience of their work environment and encounters with co-workers, the workplace culture, the exit interview process, and any interactions the employee has with the employer after the employee leaves the organization. 

Why Does Employee Experience Matter?

Employee experience plays a significant role in employee motivation, employee engagement, and employee retention, but that’s not all. Employee experience is also strongly linked to customer experience. In fact, the link between the two is so strong, many are declaring employee experience is the new customer experience

Customer experience encompasses everything an organization does to put customers first, provide an exceptional experience, add value, meet their needs, and help them to grow. According to a recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey, 55% of executives surveyed said they believe it is not possible to provide a great customer experience without providing a great employee experience.

Employees who view their employee experience positively are much more likely to work harder, take pride in their work, and provide a positive customer experience. When an organization provides a positive employee experience, they see improvements in customer satisfaction, greater innovation, and generate 25% higher profits than organizations that do not provide a positive employee experience.

Who Is Responsible for Employee Experience?

So, who is responsible for employee experience? Typically, HR departments. However, according to Forbes contributor Jacob Morgan, it’s not solely the responsibility of HR: 

“In every single organization that I have worked with or researched, this is owned by HR. But with a caveat. Even though HR owns the employee experience it’s not just up to HR to create this. In soccer, the goalie owns any soccer ball that comes flying at the net but it’s actually everyone’s job to keep the ball from going into their own goal, if it does, the whole team (not just the goalie) loses. The same is true for employee experience. Although HR is being tasked as the employee experience torch bearer this isn’t just an HR responsibility.” 

Since the employee experience is made up of all an employee’s day-to-day interactions with members of an organization, all members of an organization are part of the employee experience and impact it in one way or another. Positively shaping the employee experience requires the guidance of a skilled leader who’s committed to employee success and a collective effort from employees at all levels of an organization. 

HR/Employee Experience Managers

HR departments manage many of the functions and processes that impact employee experience and play a role in guiding the entire employee experience, from the moment a candidate applies for a job with the organization to the moment they conduct the employee’s exit interview. 

Many companies have taken to hiring employee experience managers. Employee experience managers are typically part of HR departments.

Employee experience managers develop strategies that help them understand employee sentiments and satisfaction so they can effectively manage the entire employee experience for an organization, including recruitment, development, coaching, and retention. 

They gauge employee attitudes toward their jobs and their level of satisfaction by utilizing tools like employee surveys, feedback, rewards, and KPIs for tracking and improving employee engagement, performance, and productivity. 

But employee experience is created whether or not an organization has an HR department and a dedicated employee experience manager. Ideally, a company will have a designated team that is focused on creating the desired employee experience. However, we know this isn’t the case for all companies. 


Leadership affects the employee experience more than any other factor because of the way leadership defines organizational culture. An employee’s day-to-day interactions with their direct supervisor or manager, in particular, affect an employee’s experience for better or for worse, depending on the quality of those interactions. 

A positive employee experience results in better engagement, retention, performance, and long-term profitability, but a positive employee experience is only possible if employees are led in positive ways by good leaders who are invested in having a positive impact on employees. 

Good leaders consistently communicate cultural norms in ways that create a positive work environment where employees are engaged, have a high degree of loyalty, and feel a sense of purpose in their work. They reinforce core values by modeling behaviors that are consistent with core values and embody the organization’s culture in every aspect of their leadership. 


While it’s true that HR departments, employee experience managers, and leaders play a huge role in shaping the employee experience, ultimately, everybody in the organization is responsible for employee experience. 

This is an important fact to keep in mind when recruiting. Hiring for cultural alignment and ensuring the organization is providing a welcoming, inclusive work environment for all can go a long way. 

Employees need to feel a sense of belonging and psychologically safe to engage, collaborate, and do their best work. Building inclusive teams that support each other and are invested in creating a positive employee experience for all is the key to good employee experience management. 

When the interactions that make up the employee experience are positive, it improves job satisfaction and reduces turnover, as employees who experience support from their co-workers are more likely to stay with an organization for the long haul. 

How to Support a Positive Employee Experience

While there are many different strategies organizations can pursue that can boost employee experience, an inclusive work environment, meaningful work, and a high level of trust are three of the most important factors in supporting a positive employee experience. 

Provide an Inclusive Work Environment

Inclusion is becoming increasingly important to workers. But to create an employee experience that is truly inclusive requires leaders to foster an inclusive culture in the workplace.

Organizations with inclusive cultures embrace differences in backgrounds and experiences and build high-performing teams of employees who are engaged with their work and invested in the organization’s success.

Having an inclusive manager that is invested in helping their team members build authentic connections and feel psychologically safe can improve the chances that an employee will engage with their work, perform well, and stay with the organization.

The strong connections employees build with one another foster collaboration and spur innovation. Being able to bring their whole selves to work every day helps employees feel comfortable giving their whole selves to team efforts. This can supercharge teams and supercharge business outcomes. 

There are several ways Inclusion improves the employee experience. Letting all employees have a voice in the organization and the permission to speak up without fear of retaliation creates an environment where employees are comfortable sharing ideas with each other, which helps teams brainstorm and identify creative solutions. 

It also demonstrates to employees that leadership is interested in what they have to say, the ideas they share, and the unique perspectives and experiences each brings to the table. 

Help Them Find Meaning in Their Work

Meaningful work is an important element of a positive employee experience that can motivate employees to fully engage in their work and consistently perform it well. 

The shared sense of purpose that meaningful work creates for employees unites them with their co-workers in ways that maximize their efforts and support a positive work environment that is conducive to collaboration and where all employees are working together toward achieving the vision together.

Organizations can help their team members find meaning in the work they do each day by tying it to the larger mission and vision of the organization and measuring success in terms of impact rather than productivity and results. 

I recently sat down with Brandi Olson, author of Real Flow: Break the Burnout Cycle and Unlock High Performance in the New World of Work, to discuss why individual performance should be measured with impact instead of perceived productivity.

Showing employees the impact they make on a daily basis not only makes them more aware of the progress they’ve made on the journey to achieving the vision but also makes them more dedicated to the vision and motivated to continue working toward the vision.  

Regularly communicating the mission that the organization’s founders set out to achieve and their vision for achieving that mission both guides decision-making and helps employees find meaning in their work.

Inspiring purpose in employees and creating an experience that is more than the sum of our team members’ output is necessary to achieve the long-term results we want in business. In the post-pandemic world, we need to find ways to rebuild our team members’ trust, boost their energy, and increase their efforts. 

Build a High-Level of Trust

A high level of trust is critical to maintaining a positive work environment where employees do great work and work well together. The more employees are trusted and the more trust they have in leadership, the more satisfied they are in their roles—and the more likely they are to stay.

Just how beneficial is a high-trust environment for employees? According to a team of researchers led by Paul J. Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, very beneficial. 

Zak’s team found that trust in the workplace has a positive impact on performance, employee turnover, and a host of other factors. Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies experience the following:

  • 74% less stress
  • 106% more energy at work
  • 50% higher productivity
  • 13% fewer sick days
  • 76% more engagement
  • 29% more satisfaction with their lives
  • 40% less burnout

Trust improves communication, which, in turn, improves transparency, clarity of expectations, and performance, all of which help to reduce the anxiety that workers develop (and that can cause them to leave) when communication breaks down or during difficult times when they need to be reassured about where the company is headed and reminded of the vision.

A high level of mutual trust also eliminates the perceived need to micromanage employees. Some leaders may feel that in micromanaging employees, they are just making sure the work gets done on time, but it can be a costly style of management and have a significant negative impact on the employee experience. In fact, the impacts are so intense that it has been identified among the top three reasons employees resign from their jobs.

In high-trust environments, micromanagement is unnecessary because trust empowers employees by giving them a sense of autonomy, equipping them with the tools they need to achieve their goals without constant monitoring, and making them feel more capable of and confident in doing their jobs. 

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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