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What Is EX? Your Guide to Understanding Employee Experience

By the end of 2023, Gartner forecasts that nearly 40% of knowledge workers will hold hybrid roles. Meanwhile, McKinsey points out that nine in every 10 employees feel having control over where they work is a top priority—but only 33% describe their current overall well-being as “thriving.”

The truth is stress levels are high, engagement is low, and employees across the board do not feel their employers care enough about their well-being

Because well-being and employee engagement go hand-in-hand, the onus is on employers to foster equitable work environments that prioritize employee experience—or EX—across all organizational levels. In doing so, organizations can attract, engage, and nurture talent throughout every stage of the employee journey, resulting in more fulfilled workforces, enriched people metrics, and constructive organizational growth. 

With that said, here’s everything you need to know about EX, including what it is, how it’s measured, and strategies for creating meaningful and engaging experiences for employees.

What is EX and How Is It Measured?

While most organizations have a customer experience (CX) strategy in place and invest heavily in customer satisfaction, more businesses are recognizing that the people they employ are their greatest assets. As they come to that realization, they're also investing in employee experience management.

EX is a comprehensive view of an employee's journey, from discovering a job listing to hiring, onboarding, development, and departure from an organization. It includes everything workers do, see, hear, and learn as they navigate their roles and explore career opportunities.

Jacob Morgan, author of The Employee Experience Advantage, highlights three environments that make up the majority of EX:

Company Culture

Environment #1: Company Culture

This is what employees understand a company's mission, values, and practices to be. Company culture is best recognized as the vibes employees feel when they come to work, which can sometimes have the ability to motivate, energize, stifle, or even discourage workforces.

Technology Environment

Environment #2: Technology

This environment dictates the actual tools that enable employees to complete their work efficiently and confidently. Having digital tools that match the speed and required competencies of work tasks has become especially pivotal in hybrid work environments and as automated technology solutions continue to evolve.

Workplace Environment

Environment #3: Workplace

Workplaces inevitably provide a variety of different factors that impact how an employee thrives or does not thrive. For example, an employee who works in a windowless, colorless office with segmented cubicles possesses a vastly different employee experience than an employee whose office or home work environment has adequate airflow, plenty of sunlight, a kitchen with healthy snacks, and a wellness program.

Why Ex is Integral to Wellbeing

Employee experience has more to do with human experiences than it does structural processes. Organizations that focus on the human element of EX are better positioned to build and foster a more meaningful workplace experience across the organization and the employee journey.

Consider these dichotomies as examples of how human-centric experiences can make or break an employee’s journey:

  • For an organization, a streamlined and quick hiring process can be appealing. But going one step further to ensure prospective employees are also a good culture fit can lead to long-term work satisfaction.
  • Having competent management is important, but leadership that takes an active role in coaching employees can increase their engagement with their positions.
  • Presenting a mission statement is a good first step, but actively working towards those goals by tapping into the abilities and contributions of employees can greatly enhance their individual sense of purpose.

Satisfying employees’ basic culture needs, incorporating hands-on leadership, and fostering a sense of purpose help drive well-being and champion an authentic employee experience. When well-being is prioritized through all facets of a company, employees are better positioned to accomplish goals and feel satisfied with their work. 

7 Stages of the Employee Journey

The following quote encapsulates EX from all angles:

“Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat people well enough so they don’t want to.”

- Richard Branson, entrepreneur

Employee experience is directly affected by an individual's journey through an organization. A positive employee experience throughout each stage can directly affect performance metrics and even how others perceive a brand.

According to Gallup, the 7 stages of the employee journey—which is also referred to as the employee lifecycle—are:

7 Stages of Employee Journey (4)

Stages four through six—engage, perform, and develop—are often cited as the three most important stages of the employee journey, as they represent a majority of the daily employee experience. 

For this reason, leadership plays an integral role in EX as they are responsible for:

  • Helping employees engage with their team members
  • Coaching and facilitating high performance
  • Driving long-term growth—both professionally and personally

A hands-on approach to leadership lends itself to a more consistent mentorship experience for employees. Without proper guidance and coaching, employees may feel lost and lack clear direction as they try to progress through the ranks of their organization.

Nurtured vs. Unnurtured EX

There’s a difference between employee experiences that are nurtured and those that aren’t. 

For example, a prospective employee may be aware of an organization's mission and values, but when they’re carried out in real time and actively involve employee participation and feedback, employees feel a greater sense of purpose. 

Another example, as highlighted by Gallup, is the difference between a good manager and a great coach. An employee may enjoy and get along with a manager, but when leadership goes above and beyond to provide coaching, employees are not only in a better position to achieve their career goals, but improve their overall well-being and performance.

To effectively nurture employee experience, McKinsey suggests the importance of understanding the relationship between an employee’s individual purpose and their work:

  • Purpose outside of work: family, hobbies, volunteering
  • Purpose from work: making progress on work activities that are meaningful
  • Purpose from an organization: company culture and employee experience—the only part that an organization can control directly

The goal here is to grow organizational purpose to match the sense of purpose an employee gets from work. This starts with learning what employees want, finding out if they’re currently receiving it, and developing a strategy to increase the sense of purpose they're experiencing.

How EX Impacts Your Bottom Line

There's a clear link between employees, CX, and revenue, according to research from Harvard Business Review.

By breaking down silos between employee and financial data, research shows that if an average organization could progress into the top quartile in each EX metric measured in the study, they would increase their revenue by more than 50%.

KPIs and People Analytics to Measure EX

Employee experience is not an ambiguous measurement of satisfaction. Organizations can take advantage of five key metrics that will help inform actionable strategies to improve the employee experience across all stages of the employee journey.

1  Employee Satisfaction Levels

This metric provides a general idea of how employees feel at work and can be collected as part of an annual survey. Consider asking questions that provide leadership with actionable data that can be used to optimize the employee experience, such as:

  • Do you enjoy your company’s culture?
  • Do you feel valued for your contributions?
  • How often do you feel stressed at work?
  • Do your managers value and implement your feedback?
  • Does our company provide the tools needed to do your job well?

Answers to these types of questions can give organizations a clear view into the experience of their employees. They’re direct, anonymous, and can be used to inform company-wide employee experience strategies that help employers better meet the personal and professional needs of their workforce.

2  Internal Referrals

An effective measurement of a great employee experience is the frequency and volume of internal referrals.

When employees enjoy the environment they work in, they’re more likely to refer someone they know for a job opening. Because internal referrals have much higher employee retention rates than other hires, organizations can utilize them to get a better understanding of which cultural factors are working and which require improvement.

3  Employee Productivity

According the Saïd School of Business at Oxford University, happy employees are 13% more productive than their unhappy colleagues. In other words, measuring productivity can actually give organizations a closer look at the quality of their employee experience strategy and how to improve it.

4  Retention Rates

Employee retention rate is an effective KPI that heavily reflects employee experience. For example, a high turnover rate and low employee satisfaction can indicate poor employee experience management. 

To calculate retention rate, divide the number of current employees by the number of employees on the first day of a given period of time. Convert that to a percentage by multiplying by 100 to determine what percentage of employees have left in a given time period.

5  Employee Wellness

If day-to-day work is not properly managed, employees are more likely to experience increased stress and burnout, especially in workplaces that do not prioritize employee experience. 

However, organizations can successfully motivate employees to engage in initiatives aimed at enhancing their overall EX by implementing a comprehensive wellness program that addresses all aspects of well-being and tracks engagement data.

Manager-led wellness challenges provide leadership with the tools they need to help employees set weekly goals, launch peer-recognition programs, and more.

How To Create a Meaningful Employee Experience

Employee experience initiatives can engage workforces at every level of the employee journey. From early hiring to eventually moving on from a company, here are a handful of strategies employers can use to create a positive experience for employees.

Institute a Fair and Engaging Hiring Process

Hiring processes that provide a good employee experience are transparent and engaging. This means including as much important information in job descriptions as possible, being unbiased in hiring practices, and prioritizing communication and empathy.

Transparency and honesty in job descriptions means including information about:

  • Salary
  • Benefits packages
  • Organizational DEI efforts
  • Hiring priorities
  • Brand purpose and mission
  • Workplace flexibility requirements
  • Required and preferred qualifications
  • Career development opportunities

There are multiple strategies for keeping a candidate engaged. However, being mindful of candidates’ time by not making the hiring process longer than it has to be, responding to emails and other communications in a timely manner, and providing clear, specific instructions on next steps are all effective ways for organizations to improve their hiring process.

Empower High Performance

According to Gallup, only 20% of employees feel that their organization's performance management is conducted in a way that motivates and inspires them to do better work. 

When leaders provide regular and constructive employee feedback and focus on company culture development as it relates to relationships, communication, decision-making, individualism, and change, employees are more engaged and can more realistically meet their goals. This means understanding employees’ needs, checking existing culture against the ideal culture, and putting emphasis on employee well-being.

Focus on the Manager-Employee Relationship and Career Growth

In today's ever-changing work environment, the manager-employee relationship is more effective when leaders focus on ongoing growth and career coaching with a clear path to success. This is accomplished by focusing on employees’ natural strengths, building team enthusiasm, and facilitating continuous learning opportunities.

Monster states that 80% of employees believe their current employers don’t provide enough growth opportunities—and a lack thereof is one of the largest contributors to employee attrition.

Developing a clear career path or ladder—complemented by parallel learning and development opportunities—can help organizations communicate to employees that their growth is noticed, recognized, and supported.

Give Regular Praise and Employee Recognition

Recognition is regularly cited as one of the most powerful influencers of behavior. Providing regular praise and recognition for jobs well done and milestones met can empower employees’ sense of purpose and instill the drive needed to grow personally and professionally.

Weekly email shoutouts, dedicated celebratory message threads, and employee features on social media are all great ways to praise and recognize hard work.

Wellbeing and EX Go Hand-in-Hand

Employees who receive clear growth opportunities and coaching will enjoy a more positive employee experience. As a result of positive EX implementation, organizations stand to see less attrition, increased employee well-being, higher engagement, and more sustainable productivity. 

Contact us today to find out how WellRight can help.


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