45+ Employee Experience Terms you have to know
Employee Experience (EX) is getting more and more attention. For example, it’s ranked as the #1 topic in LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2020 research. I am a great believer in the added value good EX can provide organizations. This belief is based on, among other things, research conducted by Starbucks in 2011, which AnalitiQs repeated for a retail organization, with similar results. Let’s dive into the findings!
One of the more challenging aspects of the topic of Employee Experience is the amount of jargon used. Think for instance of employee journeys, moments that matter, continuous listening, and the voice of the employee.
I believe some of these words may be more confusing than clarifying. That’s why I have tried to make an overview of these terms and explain them. This is partly for myself, but also to help people who, like me, sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees.
The terms are in alphabetical order.
Employee Experience Dictionary
Insights that come from analyzing data and can be immediately translated into action. For instance, in an absenteeism analysis we saw that the chance of a long absence strongly increased after the second instance of absenteeism. However, the client we analyzed didn’t have a meeting with the employee about the absenteeism until the third instance. Using this insight, the absenteeism process could be optimized immediately.
This is the promise an organization makes to its employees indicating what they can expect during every interaction between the organization and the employee. The more consistent an organization is in living up to the brand promise, the more value a brand develops. A good brand promise focuses on what’s important to employees, realistic, and distinctive. Ideally, the employer and customer brand promises are aligned, so that the organization presents a unified image both internally and externally. Patagonia, an outdoor clothing company, and Four Seasons, a luxury hotel chain, are great examples of a consistent brand experience.
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Commitment is a construct: a concept that comprises multiple elements. The elements that determine commitment can vary. Allen and Meyer‘s definition is the most commonly used, and comprises 3 elements:
- Affective commitment (the sense of connection with the organization and the desire to belong to the organization),
- Normative commitment (being loyal and feeling an obligation to the organization), and
- Continuance commitment (the degree to which it feels difficult to leave the organization).
Some employee surveys award a single commitment score. This is a composite score based on the answers to the questions belonging to the three elements.
Gauging employee sentiment (very) frequently. Although the term insinuates that the organization is constantly listening, this is usually not the case. Also, ‘listening’ can insinuate that information is gathered passively. This is possible but is also often not the case. Sentiment is often gauged through online surveys or an app. Voice of the employee and continuous listening are often used interchangeably.
Data-driven is a way of working. Obviously, data takes center stage. Data is used to generate insights based on facts. Therefore, data-driven is the opposite of intuitive or emotion-driven. In addition to data, a structured approach is also key to this way of working. In other words: defining a problem, creating (sub)questions about the problem, answering questions (using data), taking action, and monitoring whether the actions have the desired outcome (using data).
A perspective and toolkit used to understand the users of certain products/services, so that products and/or services can be developed further with a focus on the user experience.
Employee centricity is a corollary of customer-centricity (focusing on customer wishes and using this to generate turnover, instead of generating turnover in the short term without using customer wishes as a starting point). After all, in order to serve a customer in the long term (increasing turnover in the process), we want to enable employees to offer the best possible service to customers. With employee centricity, the employee experience (EX) is used as a starting point for implementing and optimizing interactions between employees and the employer, with the goal of increasing the employee lifetime value.
Employee Effort Score (EES)
A metric that measures how much employee effort is required to get an issue resolved, a question answered, a change implemented, or to use an HR service. It is calculated by dividing the sum of all individual scores by the number of respondents. A five-point scale is frequently used. The lower the score, the better.
Employee Experience (EX)
All moments and ways that an employee is in touch with the organization they work for, which directly or indirectly inform their experience. Note that an employee can also be a candidate or an alumnus, but also an independent contractor. In short, it’s not just about the traditional employee with a permanent contract.
The various phases of an employee at an employing organization. Think for instance of:
- 1: getting the organization’s attention
- 2: recruitment
- 3: onboarding
- 4: retention
- 5: ending the employer-employee relationship
- 6: staying in touch
Of course, each of these main phases can be split into several subphases if you wish.
Employee lifecycle management
The instruments, processes, and structures set up to optimize the employee value for the organization throughout the entire employee lifecycle.
Employee satisfaction (score)
Employee Satisfaction, or ESAT, indicates how satisfied employees are. Depending on how the question is formulated, this can be about working at an organization or the employee’s role. A five-point scale is commonly used, ranging from very satisfied to very unsatisfied. As satisfaction can fluctuate based on events, the weather, and many other factors, it’s recommended to regularly gauge satisfaction.
Employee lifetime value
See ‘Lifetime value’.
Employee satisfaction survey
Satisfaction is one of the many factors that can be researched. This is usually done using quantitative research that is carried out once a year, or even less frequently. It’s interesting to note that the average employee satisfaction survey doesn’t just cover satisfaction, but also asks about matters such as strategic alignment (do employees understand and apply the strategy), leadership (how do employees rate their managers and leaders), health, appreciation, inclusion, etc. By using the employee satisfaction survey as a catch-all, it is no longer effective. There is a trend, with surveys going back to the essentials (satisfaction) in combination with research into topics.
Employer Net Promoter Score (eNPS)
A simple way to measure employee loyalty. This isn’t the same as engagement or commitment. The eNPS can be calculated by asking the employee a single question: How likely are you to recommend Organization X as an employer? To answer, the respondent can give a score from 0 to 10. The scores are divided into 3 groups:
- Promoters: respondents who gave a score of 9 or 10
- Passives (passively satisfied): respondents who have a 7 or 8
- Detractors: respondents who gave a score between 0 and 6
The score is calculated as follows: NPS = % promoters – % critics.
Please note: In some cases, employees who gave an 8 are counted as promoters, and those who gave a 6 are counted as passives. This is the European eNPS.
Another note: Whether a score is good or bad depends amongst others on the sector. That’s why it’s important to benchmark the score against other organizations in the same sector.
The image (reputation and popularity) of an employer among (potential, current and former) employees, with a focus on that which differentiates them from other employers.
There are many definitions of engagement. The most commonly used scientific definition is the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES). This quantifies the relationship between employee and employer in a score based on three dimensions: vigor, dedication, and absorption. Engagement can be seen as a consequence of EX.
An economy where the product and service experience is key, not the product or service itself. The transition to the experience economy first resulted in more focus on the customer experience, and now the employee experience.
Using statistical methods to analyze, interpret and use insights from data sets to improve EX. Examples of how the insights can be used include personalizing communication, including KPIs in dashboards and creating self-managing processes.
Designing the employee experience. This is often done using modern methodologies such as Design Thinking and Journey Mapping.
The cycle of planning, implementing, checking and acting (Plan-Do-Check-Act) around interactions with employees. The ultimate goal is to meet (or better yet, exceed) expectations to positively impact the EX.
Giving employees the chance to give feedback, and making this feedback (almost) immediately available to the organization (HR, line management, employees) so that they can also immediately act on it.
A qualitative form of research where several people are brought together to share their thoughts about a topic (such as inclusiveness) or a product/service (such as the onboarding process). This form of research can be used to find out which topics need to be covered in quantitative research, or to dive deeper into results from quantitative research.
Suggestions are welcome!
Happiness at work
There are many, many definitions of happiness at work. I like to use the definition coined by Ap Dijksterhuis, professor at Radboud University in the Netherlands. Happiness at work is the sense of happiness that employees experience, and it is comprised of two components:
- Usefulness and meaning (understanding why you do something and its added value)
Using data to answer questions relating to employees and the organization. Also known as workforce analytics, people analytics, or data-driven HR. There are also HR analytics subdomains: reporting & dashboarding, employee research and analytics. So EX analytics is a topic within HR analytics.
The activities that enable employees to act as effective brand ambassadors. In other words: employees know what the organization stands for and are able to let this shine through in their behavior towards colleagues and customers. As mentioned earlier, the employer and customer brand should align, so that internal behavior is identical to external behavior.
The path employees follow during their employee lifecycle. Not every employee follows the same path. This depends on the employee’s phase of life and role, among other things (see ‘Segments’ and ‘Personas’). It’s also good to know that other authors outline employee journeys on varying levels of abstraction. For example, onboarding a new employee is a commonly discussed journey. At the same time, you could also say that this journey consists of different parts, such as the journey between signing the contract and the first workday, the period from the first workday to the 100th day, and so on.
A (preferably visual) analysis of a journey (such as choosing a company car) that an employee embarks on at an employer, focusing specifically on the touchpoints, moments that matter, and experiences. A visual representation is important because it helps convey the journey to those who offer the journey and/or can improve it.
Metrics that have a target value. The organization uses a plan to ensure that the target values are met. Analytics can be used to determine how to manage certain matters (what causes a phenomenon?) and predict if/when a target will be achieved.
Qualitative research is about words, not numbers. It often grants deeper insight than quantitative research. The insights can be gathered through interviews and focus groups. It is the starting point for quantitative research (e.g. what topics are people asking about?), or follows quantitative research (e.g. why do women between 34-39 years old have a lower engagement score at department B?). Quantitative research provides numerical insight that can be used for analyses. A common tool for this is an (online) survey.
When looking at employees, this is often done from a cost perspective (what does an employee cost?) rather than a value perspective (what value does an employee add?). Lifetime value calculations look at an employee’s added value during the (phases of the) employee lifecycle. Ideally this value is expressed in money, so that investment decisions in employees can be compared with other investment decisions.
Metrics are quantifiable measurements that are tracked to determine development and/or success for a specific topic. For EX, popular metrics are employee net promoter score (eNPS), employee satisfaction score (ESAT), and employee effort score (EES).
Moments of truth
Opportunities for organizations to make a difference in experience. This term is often used interchangeably with moments that matter (see next entry).
Moments that matter
Moments in the employee journey that are important in determining the experience of the journey. For example, the moment a new employee enters the office on their first day on the job.
Suggestions are welcome!
Onboarding is the journey many organizations focus on when they get started with EX. Onboarding is about familiarizing a new employee with the organization. The goal is to help the employee literally and figuratively find their way, and become engaged and productive as quickly as possible.
A group of people sharing opinions about a product, service, policy or topic. An internal panel consists of employees working for an organization (employee panel). They can be asked about their opinion about a reorganization or strategy. An external panel consists of people who do not work for the organization who may have a valuable opinion (how attractive is the organization as an employer among young people with a technical degree?). In this case, it is a job market panel. With the growing popularity of data-driven working, panels are being used more and more. Proposals and plans need to be backed up. Another driver for the use of panels is the continuous change that organizations undergo. One major survey a year is no longer enough. A third reason for the increasing use of panels is the fact that young people want to contribute and be heard. A great benefit panels offer is that employee buy-in for changes and actions is increased, and the survey pressure is limited because you do not need to approach all employees all the time.
A persona is an archetype that stands for a group of employees from the personnel file that share certain characteristics (segments).
Personalization is a technique where analysis and technology are used to offer a person targeted communication messages and offers. Think for instance of benefits, or a menu of preventative absenteeism interventions. The personalized proposition is created based on an employee’s defining characteristics (such as motivation to work, life phase, and work location).
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This is a specific employee journey. This concerns employees who temporarily left the work process (due to absenteeism, for instance) or are being relocated temporarily (exchange with another organization or an expat assignment), and are now returning (reboarding). This is a journey that is getting more and more attention, because of the growing realization that a suboptimal experience in this journey leads to turnover, and therefore avoidable costs.
Assigning employees to mutually exclusive groups with similar characteristics. The goal is to communicate with and activate employees more effectively, and offer optimal value by responding to each group’s unique needs.
How employees feel about the employer brand and their experiences during their employee journeys. Sentiment can fluctuate greatly over time.
Keeping track of messages on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Websites like Glassdoor are also very relevant for employers.
Text analytics (or text mining)
Automating the translation of unstructured text into quantitative data. In the context of EX, this is specifically about text written by employees. The goal is to identify major topics (such as workload or workplace bullying), or gauging sentiment among employees. Social listening is a domain where text analysis is applied.
The points where the employer brand comes into contact with candidates, employees and alumni. Think for instance about a student receiving a flyer for a job fair, or a visit to the careers page.
For customer and employee centricity, digitization is used as a tool to improve the experience. The quality of the experience provided depends strongly on the layer that takes care of the interaction between the machine and the user: the user interface (UI).
A customer or employee that uses a product or service has an experience while doing so: the user experience (UX). UX is a part of the CX or EX. Interaction with a help desk or a recruitment campaign isn’t part of the UX, but it is part of the EX.
Voice of the Employee (VoE)
Taking a structured approach to gathering employee expectations, experiences and preferences/aversions and using analytics to translate this into actionable insights to positively influence the EX as efficiently as possible.
The workplace environment has three components:
- Culture (purpose, norms, values, behaviors)
- The physical workplace (building, workstations)
- Technology (the software and hardware employees use to do their work).
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Suggestions are welcome!
That’s our Employee Experience Dictionary! Please let us know if you think we missed any terms, we would be happy to add them.
If you have any questions, or have a different take on a term, I would love to hear from you.