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Ryan Pendell


Employee Experience vs. Engagement

Seven critical stages that influence employee perceptions

Published: Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - 13:02

Due to a tightening labor market and a competitive global economy, highly talented individuals have a lot of freedom in where they choose to work.

Pay isn’t the sole criteria that attracts and retains the best people. Employees want jobs that fit their lifestyle, give them opportunities to grow, and connect them to greater meaning and purpose. At the same time, the workplace is more transparent than ever. Interactions at work can quickly go viral, and former employees can leave reviews about past employers on social media. The consequences for employer brands can be severe.

For these reasons, many employers have begun focusing on improving their employee experience. Employee experience constitutes the entire journey an employee takes with your organization. This includes everything from pre-hire to post-exit interactions and everything in between.

So what does that have to do with employee engagement? And how does that all fit into the employee life cycle?

Engagement within the employee life cycle

Out of all the interactions employees have with their employers, Gallup identifies seven critical stages that have the most influence on an employee’s perceptions of your organization.

The majority of an employee’s time with your organization will be spent in three stages:
• Engage
• Perform
• Develop

Engagement describes the basic psychological needs that must be met in order to perform your work well. This includes things like knowing what’s expected of you and having the materials you need. But it also includes emotional and social needs, like doing work that you are good at and connecting your work with a higher purpose.

Engagement comes mostly from relationships

Engagement is not an event, an incentive program, or a fun perk. While being engaged at work does feel good, it’s not a feel-good, team-building activity. It is created on a daily basis through one’s work environment and relationships.

In Gallup’s framework, engagement comes before performance because it is foundational to consistent excellence.

Even a highly talented but disengaged worker may outperform her peers, but she will never truly reach her full potential until she feels supported at work.

Not surprisingly, managers play a central role when it comes to employee engagement. In fact, 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement is due to the manager. With the right training, managers can provide the conversations, recognition, and feedback that drive employee engagement, which in turn drives a great employee experience.

How engagement influences the employee experience

Your employees’ level of engagement—their mindset and behavior when they come to work each day—has a major effect on how they view your company. That may sound simple, but the truth is that many employees don’t have their basic psychological needs met.
• Only three in 10 employees strongly agree they have the materials and equipment they need to do their work right.
• Four in 10 employees strongly agree that when they are at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day.
• Three in 10 employees strongly agree that in the last seven days, they have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

Globally, only 15 percent of employees are engaged at work. In the United States, 33 percent are engaged.

Clearly, highly engaged organizations have a competitive advantage when they can get significantly more out of their workers.

Beyond engagement

Modern employee-employer relationships are complicated. Leaders have to think about everything from culture to well-being to purpose and meaning—and make it all come to life in a personalized way for employees, both in person and through digital channels.

Naturally, employee engagement alone is not enough to address all these aspects of the workplace—but it also shouldn’t be overlooked.

You can spend a lot of money on internal branding, but if an employee has no friends at work, he is likely to feel disconnected from your culture anyway. You can create a beautiful office space, but if people don’t see how they can grow with you, they are still likely to leave. It may be tempting to skip the obvious (but perennially challenging) basics and focus on something more exciting. But if you don’t meet the minimum expectations of today’s employees, nothing else matters.

Ultimately, highly engaged workplaces feel different. And that contributes significantly to how employees choose their employers, why they stay, and what they say about your organization long after they’ve left.

First published Oct. 12, 2018, on the Gallup blog.


About The Author

Ryan Pendell’s picture

Ryan Pendell

Ryan Pendell is a writer at Gallup.