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What is Employee Experience?

Santiago Jaramillo
Santiago Jaramillo

(May 4, 2017) — Several years ago, The Container Store was making headlines in virtually every major news outlet when co-founder and chairman Kip Tindell made a bold statement:

“We focus on the employee the most,” he told CBS. “Not even the customerthe employee.”

And then, to Inc. Magazine:

“If you put the employee first, she will really take care of the customer better than anyone else.”

Now that Tindell’s company has spent 17 years on Fortune’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, his words are a reminder of what it really takes for a company to be successful.

You already know that successful organizations invest heavily in the customer experience.

But how many are devoting as much attention to the employee experience?

If you’d like to turn your company’s attention to the latter, you’ll be glad to know that the customer experience and employee experience are grounded in the same basic principles.


What is Employee Experience?

Employee experience is exactly what the name infers: It’s what happens when an employee interacts with your organization. It begins the moment someone starts your onboarding process, ends the day they leave, and includes all of the moments in between.

In our experience, the employee experience always goes hand-in-hand with employee engagement. This is because an employee’s intellectual and emotional connection to an employer is heavily influenced by the environment and culture, with day-to-day experiences playing a critical role in how motivated someone will be to help drive long-term company success.

However, it’s important to note that employee experience is not related to job satisfaction. An employee may be satisfied with his salary, benefits, and hours at work but can still be uninterested in the organization’s vision and goals. This is particularly true if he finds the day-to-day experience to be largely uninspiring.

While it’s not something you have complete control over, employee experience is definitely something companies can influence—even if you don’t have an Employee Experience Department or a Chief Employee Experience Officer to get the job done. (Yes, that’s a real title.)

Creating an environment where people are genuinely excited to be at work may require restructuring company policies to focus on employees.

It’ll involve some work, but it’s worth it. Companies that practice conscious capitalism—a guiding philosophy at The Container Stores’ 80+ locations—perform 10x better than those that don’t. People who are part of an employee-first work environment are more engaged, productive, and likely to stay.


How do you revamp the experience for your employees? It helps to think of the process as you would your customer’s journey.


Designing the Employee Journey

For inspiration, look at how your organization treats its customers:

  • What are their experiences with your company?
  • What motivates them to take action?
  • How are their issues addressed?

Those same processes and principles of the customer experience can be applied to human resources practices.

For example, you might map out the employee experience and chart the various ways employees will engage with your company at various stages of their careers. According to one exercise cited in Harvard Business Review, it might look something like this:

  1. Sourcing and recruiting
  2. Pre-boarding
  3. Onboarding
  4. Compensation and benefits
  5. Ongoing learning and development
  6. Ongoing communication and community involvement
  7. Rewards and recognition
  8. Performance planning, feedback, and review
  9. Advancement
  10. Retirement, termination, or resignation

As you can see from this example, the employee journey goes well beyond just one week of onboarding. When the “honeymoon” stage starts to wear off for new employees after the first six to nine months, you’ll need a series of steps to continue providing an engaging employee experience.

To do that, you’ll need to put employees’ needs at the center of your program.

And to do that, you’ll need to first gain an understanding of what those needs are and how they differ from one department, team, or location to another. This can be easily accomplished by regularly measuring and analyzing employee feedback.

It may be a process that’s engineered by HR, and that’s fine. But I’d argue that no one department should “own” the employee experience and journey. This is an important process that starts at the top and involves all levels of leadership.


If you’re looking for ways to recreate the employee experience at your company, I highly recommend downloading our free guide on Developing a Strong Company Culture. It’s filled with best practices from Todd Richardson—bestselling author and speaker who’s known for his groundbreaking employee engagement strategies. And if you have any questions as you work your way through it, just ask!

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