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13 Min Read

What Is Employee Experience and Why Is It Important?

Genevieve Michaels

Is your workplace a great place to work?

That question describes employee experience in a nutshell. From before you hire them to well after you part ways with them, ”employee experience” defines the feelings, thoughts, and opinions an employee has about your organization. It encompasses all the interactions between employees and the organization, and whether these have been positive or negative overall.

An organization can’t choose to not have an employee experience—unless it has no employees. Passivity in this field doesn’t negate the need to manage employee experience; it just creates a negative one.

In this guide, you’ll learn how employee experience can affect everything your organization cares about. You’ll also find strategies for making it overwhelmingly positive for everyone.

Why is employee experience important?

The employee experience is the lens through which everyone, from the most junior collaborator to the CEO, interacts with the organization at large. It’s their day-to-day. It’s how their long-term goals mesh with the organization’s objectives. It’s how they feel when they show up to work and when they leave.

That’s why having a defined employee experience strategy—aimed at making it more positive for everyone—is so important. Employee experience affects just about everything that happens in your business in one way or another, including:

  • Recruiting
  • Employee retention
  • Employee performance
  • Business goals
  • Customer satisfaction

Let’s dive in with more detail.


Employee experience starts before you even hire someone, sometimes even before they see a single job listing. Applicants who have to go through a phone screen, three rounds of interviews, an in-person meeting, and a pilot project before being rejected will have a very different experience than those who go through a single interview before getting hired. Your employee experience directly impacts how successful your recruiters are.

Another way employee experience affects recruiting? Referrals. Existing employees are one of your best sources for reliable candidates—but only if they have a positive employee experience. If they don’t, they’re more likely to tell their contacts to stay away.

Employee retention

Without employees, there is no business, which is why employee retention is so important. Organizations invest a ton of time and resources into each employee and it can cost between 30-50% of their annual salary to replace them.

Employee experience ties directly into retention. According to the PEW Research Center, almost as many employees leave a job because they feel disrespected or they don’t have enough flexibility in how they work as those who leave for better pay and advancement. A poor employee experience can make you lose out on your top performers almost as much as not paying them enough.

Employee performance

Employee experience doesn’t just keep people from walking out the door; it can also make the difference between having a squad full of high-performers and…not.

Most employees do their best work when they’re treated well. As soon as their experience at your organization starts getting negative, their performance slips. It often only takes a single event to seriously impact an employee’s performance, especially if you don’t have systems in place to follow up a negative event with a positive one.

Business goals

Employee experience is part of a chain that ultimately ends at every single goal your organization cares about.

Employee experience → Employee engagement → Employee performance → Business results

A positive employee experience leads to more engaged employees. Engaged employees perform better. Higher employee performance across the board leads to better business results.

Customer satisfaction

If your employees don’t think your organization is a great place to work, customers will feel the impact. Customer-facing teams might not go the extra mile to keep your customers happy, but this isn’t the only way your customers will feel the hit from a negative customer experience. 

If you’re in software, developers might miss more bugs if they’re working under so much pressure that they’re questioning your organization’s intentions.

For a marketing agency, your copywriters might go through two iterations for that paid ad instead of four, leaving your client feeling like the ad copy they wanted is still out in the aether somewhere.

If nothing else makes you worry that negative customer experience will impact your business, the effect on your customers should.

So let’s dive in and go over what you can do.

Everything you need to know about employee experience

Employee experience vs. employee engagement

Employee experience and employee engagement definitely affect each other, but they are distinct concepts. Employee experience describes the overall relationship between an employee and your organization, and whether that relationship is positive or negative. 

Employee engagement is more specific to how an employee feels about your business. Meaning, are they excited to come to work? Do they believe your mission is aligned with their values? Or are they browsing job postings during their lunch break? 

Businesses with higher employee engagement see positive impacts on customer loyalty, profitability, turnover, productivity, and more, according to Gallup.

Not sure how to measure employee engagement? Here’s how 15Five’s platform can help.

How do you measure employee experience?

Since employee experience covers just about every part of an employee’s tenure with your organization—and even what comes before and after—there’s a lot to measure.

Performance management platforms

A performance management platform like 15Five gives managers and HR leaders constant, up-to-date data to gauge employee experience and employee engagement throughout the organization. Built-in engagement surveys let you get the pulse of your workforce regularly with results that lead to tangible impacts and initiatives. Robust, customizable dashboards track the metrics that really make a difference, from manager effectiveness to performance and turnover.

For organizations serious about improving employee experience across the board, a performance management platform is essential.


Surveys can be easily dispatched throughout the organization to get quick, relevant data about specific areas of the employee experience. 

For example, if you’re noticing that your recruitment process isn’t up to par, or you have a concerning spike in turnovers in the first 90 days of an employee’s tenure, you could send out surveys asking for feedback on that process.


If you want to get a ton of data about a specific employee’s experience with your organization, there’s nothing better than interview. You can tailor your questions specifically to the area of the employee experience you’re trying to explore and use dedicated one-on-one time to get all these questions answered.

There are two challenges with this method, however:

  • Time: It takes significantly more time to interview employees—both for the interviewer and the interviewee—than it would to send an engagement survey or use a performance management platform.
  • Applicability: While an interview will give you lots of information about that employee’s experience with your organization, the insights derived from it might not apply to the broader workforce. There are tons of factors that can make a specific employee’s experience unique to them, meaning you’d have to get a significant amount of interviews done to get insights that apply to everyone.

Focus groups

Instead of getting input from individual employees, focus groups get multiple employees in a room together to represent a wider group, whether that’s your entire workforce or a specific department.

When using focus groups, you’ll usually want to bring something very specific to them. This isn’t the method for broad questions about the employee experience as a whole. If you have a specific initiative planned to improve the employee experience for a department, you might have a focus group. Similarly, if there’s an area of your employee experience you’re looking to improve on—like how people are recognized for their work—you might bring it to a focus group.

Focus groups are more personal than surveys and allow you to surface insights that might escape the more rigid structure of a survey. They also give you more perspectives than one-on-one interviews in less time, since you’re getting feedback from multiple people at once.

How to improve employee experience

So if the employee experience encapsulates every part of an employee’s relationship with your organization, even before and after they’re actually employed, where do you start? Seems overwhelming, right? Not to worry. There are some things you can do to see positive change across the board.

Focusing on employee engagement

Employee engagement is a key factor in the employee experience, and it has a profound impact on the business as a whole, too. From improving the way you recognize work to how leadership communicates with the rest of the organization, employee engagement is essential. Gallup research, comparing teams with high average employee engagement with teams with low engagement, found massive differences:

  • 81% gap in absenteeism
  • 43% difference in turnover (for low-turnover organizations)
  • 10% gap in customer loyalty
  • 18% difference in productivity
  • 23% difference in profitability

Not only does improving employee engagement lift the entire organization, but it makes the employee experience better for everyone.

Create a supportive work culture

Few are the leaders who’ll come out and say they don’t want a supportive culture at work. But it’s not going to happen unless you go out of your way to create that supportive culture.

Employees don’t usually need as much support when they’re performing at their best, or when their personal lives are skating on flawlessly. But it’s when things start to take a turn that your organization has an opportunity to show up and be the support system that employee needs. And if they don’t? That absence will be felt.

Here are some questions you can ask to determine whether your work culture is supportive or not:

  • How likely is an employee to reach out to their manager to ask for a mental health day?
  • Can an employee come to HR with any problem?
  • Are there worries about reprisals at your company?

Build a work environment that balances productivity and health

If your workforce works in the office at least some of the time, then you’ve likely already experienced the challenges that come with setting them up for success in that physical space. Cubicles, once thought to be the solution to the chaos and noise of the open office, have largely been replaced by…more open offices, which were thought to promote spontaneous collaboration and camaraderie, but actually just reduce productivity and face-to-face interaction.

That’s not to mention all the health risks that come from working in the office, from back pain to eye strain and that tenacious flu that keeps spreading around the office. So what’s a leader who cares about employee experience to do?

Try. Do some research. Find ways to improve every aspect of your work environment and implement them slowly over time. Get feedback from your workforce and change things as needed. React to new research.

You put consistent effort into keeping compensation and benefits packages competitive. Why not do the same with your work environment?

Keep leadership connected with your workforce

Few things are as toxic to an employee experience as feeling like their leadership looks down on them from an ivory tower. While some degree of separation between the two groups is inevitable—a CEO can’t have a personal relationship with every single employee in most organizations—this is something you should try to mitigate.

Your leaders have a direct impact on the employee experience, and not just through the decisions they make. Their actual presence at the office can be a motivating factor or bring morale down. Find out what you have to do to make it the former. Some ideas include:

  • Organizing volunteering days where leaders volunteer side-by-side with employees.
  • Involve leaders in more front-line initiatives.
  • Encourage leaders to join happy hours and similar team-building events.

Creating an employee experience strategy

Your employee experience strategy isn’t something you’ll kick off, work on for three months, and sunset once you’ve seen the impact you wanted. It’s a continuous process, meant to keep uplifting your workforce. Much like you expect employees to aim at improved performance year over year, you should do the same for your employee experience. Here’s how:

  • Regularly gather employee feedback: Too many organizations plan every stage of their HR initiatives except this crucial aspect. Feedback is the data you need to know how effective existing initiatives are and what you should plan next.
  • Act on that feedback: Collecting feedback isn’t going to do much if you don’t use it. There’s a temptation to keep feedback that supports your hypothesis and discard the bits that don’t. Resist this. Feedback that seems completely at odds with what you’re trying to do can sometimes surface serious problems that would otherwise go unnoticed.
  • Put extra focus on the onboarding process: Your onboarding process has a huge impact on the employee experience at every stage of an employee’s tenure. It sets expectations for the rest of their time with you and can be a strong predictor of their overall performance.
  • Use eNPS surveys: Employee net promoter scores measure an employee’s engagement and opinion of your organization. It’s not the only metric you want to measure, but it’s a great catch-all to start from.

The ideal positive employee experience

So how do you know you’ve created a positive employee experience for everyone at your organization? While employee engagement surveys and eNPS can give you a good sense of this, there are some less intuitive, more abstract elements to a positive employee experience you can instantly recognize:

  • Positive opinions of leadership: When your workforce thinks your C-Suite is worth following and believes they make the best decisions, you’ll see a massive uplift organization-wide.
  • A focus on employee well-being: Employees know when an organization cares more about its bottom line than their well-being, and it’ll show in their work. If your initiatives ask “how does this make our teams’ lives easier?” before “how much will this make us?” you know you’re building a positive employee experience.
  • Support for hybrid and remote workers: While fully remote work for all employees might not work for all organizations, supporting at least some hybrid work is a sign of a strong employee experience. It gives employees flexibility, allowing them to do their best work in the way that works best for them.

Make your employee experience a gamechanger

Since employee experience encapsulates everything from before you hire an employee to after they part ways with you, your organization has a ton of opportunities to make that employee experience a positive one. Just keep well-being and employee engagement in mind, and you’ll have a strong guiding principle that’ll help your leaders work out the decisions that make your workplace the best place to work.