Are employee engagement and experience two sides of the same coin or is there something that differentiates the two? HRKatha finds out.
While employee engagement has been a focus area for most organisations for over a decade, employee experience is the new buzz word. Not necessarily contrasting, the two may, at times, be seen as complimenting each other. There is still a lot of confusion around the clear definitions of the two and whether employee engagement and experience are two sides of the same coin. Is there something that differentiates the two in such a way, that they are independent of each other in ensuring happy employees?
HRKatha spoke to a few HR Heads to find out how these two play a role in making workplaces happy and productive. While they all agreed that there is a clear distinction between employee engagement and experience, they noted unique ways in which the two impact work environment and employee satisfaction.
“Employee experience is far more granular as compared to engagement. It is, in fact, a sum total of everything an employee goes through in his journey with an organisation, starting from much before one joins an organisation until, and at times, even after one has left the organisation.”
Makarand Khatavkar, group head-human resources, Kotak Mahindra Bank, noted that employee engagement and employee experience are two completely different things right from their conceptual roots, and it is important to understand the distinction between the two. He explains that while the traditional definition of employee engagement may include various elements, such as learning initiatives, talent development initiatives, having a competent and caring manager and so on, the emotional connect remains unchanged.
“Employee experience is far more granular as compared to engagement. It is, in fact, a sum total of everything an employee goes through in his journey with an organisation, starting from much before one joins an organisation until, and at times, even after one has left the organisation,” he says.
Adding to it, Ravi Mishra, regional HR head, South Asia and Middle East, Birla Carbon, explains that employee engagement and experience are two different things, such that organisations approach employee engagement with business end results in mind. On the other hand, employee experience has more to do with making employees feel good about the workplace, and letting them see what’s in it for them. “Engagement is connected with RoI, whereas experience is about having the employee in mind,” he says.
Khatavkar elaborates on the difference using an interesting example of someone, who joins an organisation—the simplest of formalities, such as opening a salary account or providing the employee code can make an impact on what the employee experiences, depending on how convenient or complicated these processes are.
“If the employee experience is positive, it creates employee engagement. If the employee experience is not positive, it leads to disengagement. Thus, the causation runs from organisation culture impacting employee experience, which, in turn, impacts employee engagement.”
It is these small elements and meaningful gestures that can create a lifelong employee experience. Mishra is also of the view that engagement may be forgotten after a while, but experience lasts forever.
Also, employee experience may, at times, be confused with employee lifestyle or employee value proposition. “However, experience is much larger than any of these. It has a huge impact on how an employee perceives an organisation,” Khatavkar opines.
Presenting a slightly different perspective, Kinjal Choudhary, senior vice president & CHRO, VE commercial vehicles, believes that employee experience is an outcome of organisation culture. He points out that the components of organisation culture, which impact employee experience are:
(i) The trust that the organisation places in its employees;
(ii) The relationships with co-workers at the workplace;
(iii) The extent to which employees feel that work is meaningful to them,
(iv) The kind of recognition, feedback and professional growth that the employee experiences at work, and
(v) The extent to which the employee feels empowered.
The above parameters of organisation culture impact employee experience, which has an impact on the following aspects of employee experience:
(a) extent to which employee has an experience of belongingness
(b) sense of purpose that the employee experiences at work
(c) sense of achievement that the employee experiences
(d) extent to which the employee experiences happiness at work.
Choudhary believes that engagement is an end result that comes from great experience. “If the employee experience is positive, it creates employee engagement. If the employee experience is not positive, it leads to disengagement. Thus, the causation runs from organisation culture impacting employee experience, which, in turn, impacts employee engagement,” he says.
“Organisations should have a genuine and candid approach towards creating meaningful experiences in the workplace. In the widely accepted saying – ‘speak what you do and do what you speak’.”
On the contrary, Mishra explains that even highly engaged employees, at times, may not necessarily have a great experience at the workplace. Engagement may turn out to be fake in the future, as most people are unable to share their concerns while still in the organisation. However, they may spill out their minds when they resign. It is then that many share their realities, citing several issues they have faced during their tenure with the organisation.
He says, “Great workplaces are those that provide good experiences to people and not just engage them well.” He also suggests that organisations should have a genuine and candid approach towards creating meaningful experiences in the workplace. In the widely accepted saying – ‘speak what you do and do what you speak’ – Mishra explains that ‘speaking’ denotes engagement initiatives, while it is the ‘doing’ or the real deployment part that reflects experience.
An example of doing things that ensure great employee experience is the ‘First Time Right or FTR’ practice at Kotak Mahindra Bank. It implies that tasks that involve employee satisfaction should be accomplished such that they are done perfectly the first time itself, avoiding revisions and ensuring timeliness and accuracy.
In addition, the bank recently digitised its pre-onboarding process, which, in turn, has streamlined its pre-onboarding tasks, making document collection and verification much easier and quicker compared to the manual process. “It certainly has a positive impact on the impression that incoming employees form about their new workplace. The internal onboarding survey at Kotak Mahindra Bank is yet another measure that reveals the level of employee satisfaction at the organisation,” Khatavkar says.
While there may not be a perfect way to measure employee experience and satisfaction, it is the smallest of gestures that makes a difference. Also, while the debate on how employee engagement and experience are different from each other does not have a single perfect response, it now seems apt to conclude, in Mishra’s words —“While engagement is thinking, experience is feeling something in real.”