Employee Experience vs. Engagement: What's the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 24 August 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Organisations wanting to reduce employee turnover and increase productivity can benefit from examining what it's like for employees to work for them. This can involve understanding how organisations engage their employees and what employees experience with them. Understanding the difference between employee experience and engagement is important for you as an HR professional or leader, as it can impact how effectively a business targets its employees from both an engagement and experience angle. In this article, we compare employee experience vs. employee engagement, outline elements that affect both and provide ways to improve both aspects for employees.

Related: 12 Employee Engagement Tools (With Definition and Guide)

Employee experience vs. employee engagement

You can differentiate employee experience vs. engagement as experience being what it's like for an employee to work for an organisation and engagement being how the employee feels about working for that organisations. Both can be negative or positive, and one can't replace the other, as workplaces need both to function. Experience and engagement influence each other, with both starting when the employee joins the organisation and ending when they depart. A major difference between experience and engagement is that an organisation creates the former for the employee in a one-way manner, while engagement involves a two-way approach.

Employee engagement and experience involve more than human resources, although an organisation's HR department can impact both aspects. They both also involve more than physical aspects of the job, such as having a large office and getting time off work. An organisation can also expect an employee's engagement and employment to change as an employee's daily circumstances and perceptions change. An employee can have a poor experience and engagement because of external factors the organisation can't predict or control. For this reason, an organisation can benefit from adopting a long-term, strategic approach to improving experience and engagement.

Related: What Is Culture in Business? (Definition and Examples)

Elements of employee experience vs engagement

Organisations can produce, facilitate or control various elements that can influence an employee's experience. Here are a few of them:

  • industry and nature of work

  • team members and leaders

  • organisation capacity and support mechanisms

  • available resources and technology

  • physical and digital workplace and its design

  • workplace policies and practices

The following elements can positively or negatively influence an employee's levels of engagement:

  • communication

  • social responsibility

  • recognition and rewards

  • workplace culture

  • opportunities for growth

  • accountability

  • vision and values

Related: What Is Employee Connection? (With Benefits and Tips)

4 ways to improve employee experience with examples

While an employee's needs can differ depending on their industry, job title or seniority level, leaders can improve their experience in the following ways:

1. Improve the environment

Employees can have a positive work experience if a work environment better meets their needs and helps them perform required tasks to the organisation's expectations. This can mean creating a comfortable workplace that's free from distractions and equipped with all the tools required to get work done. This can take many forms depending on the employee. For example, employees might find working in an open-plan office disruptive and distracting, while others might thrive on interacting with others and discussing work. Some employees may prefer to work from home without tools, while others might require office space and equipment.

2. Update workplace policies

A workplace's policies and accepted practices can impact an employee's experience. Again, this can depend on the type of work the organisation requires. An example of a workplace policy that can be harmful is requiring employees to clock in and out of work multiple times a day, even if they don't leave the workplace. This kind of policy can encourage employees to focus on the time they spend working instead of the quality of work they produce. Removing this type of policy can encourage employees to work flexibly to complete tasks instead of abruptly ending work according to the time.

Related: Important Things to Know When Working in Office Environments

3. Clarify team structure

A clearly structured workplace with many departments and team members can avoid confusion and mixed messages when allocating work and taking responsibility for various tasks. Employees can benefit from having clearly defined teams where each person plays a distinct role and answers to a certain leader. For example, an employee struggling to get a team member to perform their tasks can use a clear line of command to escalate their concerns to the right person. This person can then take steps to ensure the employee is aware of what their responsibilities are and how to meet them.

4. Provide necessary resources

Employees can benefit from specialised software, technology and equipment to perform tasks. Even if team members can get work done without them, these tools can help employees perform tasks more accurately and easily. An example is ensuring an accounting professional has access to accounting software and that someone renews their licence as necessary. This can dramatically decrease the chances that the accounting professional makes calculating errors when generating financial statements for the business or its clients. Providing the right resources can also involve taking employee recommendations into consideration by using a different tool that better meets the organisation's needs.

Related: Workload Management Tools: Definition and Examples

4 ways to improve employee engagement with examples

Here are four ways to improve employee engagement, with examples of it in action:

1. Encourage and implement feedback

Leaders who listen to what employees want to say and take their feedback into consideration can improve their employee engagement. Doing this can show employees that the organisation values their input and can trust their recommendations for improving workplace processes. An example of this can be to ask employees if the number of meetings they attend each week is sufficient or if they would prefer to reduce or increase the number. If employees communicate that they'd prefer fewer meetings and the organisation allows this, it can increase the employee's productivity and keep them more engaged with their work.

2. Create fair incentives and rewards

When an employee understands what's required to get rewarded for doing something, they can work towards the reward. A transparent incentive and rewards process also shows employees that the organisation isn't favouring any employees and gives every person an equal chance to participate in any challenges presented. An example could be creating incentives that centre around something other than alcohol or a person's physical stamina, which can be inappropriate or challenging for some employees. Another example might be avoiding incentives that employees can meet using financial advantages, such as rewarding the most ticket sales to a workplace event.

Related: Understanding Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

3. Help employees empower themselves

When an employee empowers themselves in the workplace instead of receiving a limited solution to a single problem, they develop skills to solve problems by themselves in the future. Helping employees do this can show that leaders believe in them. An example of helping employees empower themselves is allowing them to suggest what educational courses they can benefit from at work and helping facilitate this education. For example, a graphic designer who increasingly takes on management responsibilities and hopes to lead their own team can request access to a leadership course instead of a design course.

4. Help employees plot their career

Employees can have goals and dreams that involve their personal life. By giving them the opportunity to share their goals with the organisation, leaders can help them work towards their objectives and remain engaged and loyal employees. An example of this might be a junior IT employee with a partner in another country where the business has offices. This employee's goal might be to become a cloud database engineer so that they can join the business's cloud computing department in the country where their partner resides. Helping them to meet this goal benefits the employee and the business.

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