​Rather than focusing narrowly on engagement and culture, many leading organizations aim to improve the employee experience as a whole, supported by a multitude of pulse feedback tools, wellness and fitness apps, and employee self-service technologies.


In a digital world with increasing transparency and the growing influence of Millennials, employees expect a productive, engaging, enjoyable work experience. Rather than focus narrowly on employee engagement and culture, organizations are developing an integrated focus on the entire employee experience, bringing together all the workplace, HR, and management practices that impact people on the job. A new marketplace of pulse feedback tools, wellness and fitness apps, and integrated employee self-service tools is helping HR departments understand and improve this experience. Through new approaches such as design thinking and employee journey maps, HR departments are now focusing on understanding and improving this complete experience and using tools such as employee net promoter scores to measure employee satisfaction.1

  • Organizational culture, engagement, and employee brand proposition remain top priorities in 2017; employee experience ranks as a major trend again this year.
  • Nearly 80 percent of executives rated employee experience very important (42 percent) or important (38 percent), but only 22 percent reported that their companies were excellent at building a differentiated employee experience.
  • Fifty-nine percent of survey respondents reported they were not ready or only somewhat ready to address the employee experience challenge.

A productive, positive employee experience has emerged as the new contract between employer and employee. Just as marketing and product teams have moved beyond customer satisfaction to look at total customer experience, so is HR refocusing its efforts on building programs, strategies, and teams that understand and continuously improve the entire employee experience. Our research has identified 20 elements that bring this together, each of which requires focus and attention from HR and management.2

The problems of employee engagement and productivity continue to grow. Overall employee engagement, measured by Glassdoor data across thousands of companies, is flat year over year.3 This year’s Global Human Capital Trends research shows that organizations’ ability to address these issues of engagement and culture has dropped by 14 percent since last year, illustrating how complex the work environment has become. In several important areas, there is little or no improvement at all. (See figure 1.)

Percentage of companies that feel they are highly effective in each area
Employee experience: Percentage of respondents rating this trend “important” or “very important”

This year’s survey found both challenges and opportunities for improvement across multiple dimensions of the employee experience (figure 3).

Respondent ratings of sub-capabilities related to employee experience

Several factors make employee experience a challenge today:

  • First, many companies have not yet made employee experience a priority for HR leaders, often delegating this problem to an annual engagement survey.
  • Second, while some companies have created the C-suite role of employee experience officer, most companies have not assigned responsibility to a senior executive or team to design and deliver the employee experience.
  • Third, siloed HR departments often find it difficult to obtain the resources needed to address an integrated set of priorities, which range from management practices to the workplace to benefits and, often, the work culture itself.
  • Fourth, companies need to update their tools to engage employees on an ongoing basis (with pulse surveys at least) to help HR teams and line leaders understand more fully what the talent they employ expects and values. An employee net promoter score is another important tool in this effort.
  • Fifth, many companies remain focused on “point-in-time engagement” and have not yet pulled together the disciplines of performance management, goal setting, diversity, inclusion, wellness, workplace design, and leadership into an integrated framework.
  • A growing challenge

    Understanding and improving the employee experience is critical for companies operating in a highly competitive global economy. Providing an engaging experience will help companies succeed in attracting and retaining skilled employees. A strong employee experience also drives a strong customer experience.4

    As organizations shift to a networked, team-based structure, the employee experience becomes both more important and more complex. People today often have multiple roles with multiple managers. A recent study Deloitte completed with Facebook found that only 14 percent of companies believe their internal processes for collaboration and decision making are working well, and 77 percent believe email is no longer a viable tool for effective communication.5

    The challenge is not getting any easier. Productivity in the United States is rising by only about 1 percent annually, even as employees are working more hours.6 Research shows that the average vacation time taken is down to 16 days in 2016 from 20 in 2000, putting even more pressure on employees seeking a healthy work-life balance.7

    Companies need a new approach—one that builds on the foundation of culture and engagement to focus on the employee experience holistically, considering all the contributors to worker satisfaction, engagement, wellness, and alignment.

    The growing need for a holistic solution

    Traditionally, HR has addressed issues such as employee engagement, culture, rewards, and learning and career mobility development as separate, independent programs in individual silos. Each program has a senior HR leader, a set of tools and diagnostics, and solutions to drive and measure change.

    The employee sees the picture differently. Starting as potential hires and recruits, employees look at everything that happens at work as an integrated experience that impacts daily life in and outside the workplace, including overall physical, emotional, professional, and financial well-being. Candidates assess future employers from the very start of the talent acquisition experience and make quick judgments about what life will be like for them in the organization, based on how they interact with the enterprise during the recruiting cycle.

    This integrated view increasingly leads to employees demanding a holistic, end-to-end—recruitment-to-retirement—experience from their employers, whether they are full-time employees, contingent workers, or even crowdsourced talent. This also requires a radical change in emphasis on the part of employers.

    HR and business leaders face both the demand and the opportunity to rethink the roles, structure, tools, and strategy they use to design and deliver an integrated employee experience. Models such as the one in figure 4 represent a starting point to address a variety of issues: meaningful work, the purpose of the organization, employee talent development and growth, rewards and wellness, the work environment, fairness and inclusion, and authenticity among management and leadership.