What is Employee Experience?

person on mountain with a view

Employees are your most important asset. Focusing on your employee experience is all about putting the experiences of your employees in the focus. This affects all of your human resources actions, and results in increased employee happiness and therefore performance.

Your employee experience is formulated in all the touch points with the company, all the way from the job application to the exit of the employee.

Developing a great employee experience means concentrating on creating a workplace where people want to show up, rather than having a workplace where they need to show up.

This guide helps you create a better understanding of what employee experience is about, and what are its building blocks, gives inspiration, and tells you how your company can benefit from this shift into a greater employee experience.

What is employee experience? – The definition

The definition of the employee experience varies. In its simplest form it is everything you learn, do, see and feel about the company during your whole employee journey.

Josh Plaskoff defines it as “the employee’s holistic perception of the relationship with their employing organisation derived from all the encounters at touch points along the employee’s journey“.

Encapsulating the whole journey is the key to your employee experience strategy. You can think about all the touch points during the employment, but also pre- and post-employment. Randstad talks about a this on a deeper level, and the touch points are divided as follows:

  • Attraction and recruitment
  • Onboarding
  • Engagement
  • Development
  • Performing
  • Exit
  • Alumni and referencing

According to Jacob Morgan, an author and keynote speaker, employee experience is formulated from three categories of touch points: physical space, technology and culture

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Main elements in creating an employee experience

Furthermore, these touchpoints can be found on three different levels of the whole experience, which are Technology, Culture and Physical space.

Let’s take a better look at each:


Technology in this context covers all the devices and other tools that your employees use to get their work done. This includes things like laptops, mobile phones and other equipment, but also all the software for working from home and communicating with the team. Technology can be seen as the central nervous system of the organisation and most concepts and themes related to the future of work are not possible without technology.

To be great companies need to ACE technology:

  • A = Available to everyone
  • C = Consumer-grade technology, meaning technology that employees are used to interacting with outside the work environment.
  • E = Employee needs versus business requirements, supplying the needs of an individual rather than the company


Culture plays a big part in the employee experience, as the whole experience is based on your employees having a workplace that they want to be in, not where they need to be in, creating this kind of an environment is crucial, and needs to be initiated from the CEO and executive levels, and from there be dribbled down to the organisation as a whole.

For companies to excel in creating an employee experience, their culture needs to be CELEBRATED:

  • C = Company is viewed positively
  • E = Everyone feels valued
  • L = Legitimate sense of purpose
  • E = Employees feel like they’re part of the team
  • B = Believes in diversity and inclusion
  • R = Referrals come from employees
  • A = Ability to learn new things and employees are given resources to do so and advance
  • T = Treats employees fairly
  • E = Executives and managers are coaches and mentors
  • D = Dedicated to employee health and wellness

Physical space

Physical space is about the location where your employees are working. Nowadays this could be the company office or the home office where many workers choose to work from.

In order to create an appealing physical environment, the company needs to concentrate on it being COOL:

  • C = Chooses to bring in friends or visitors
  • O = Offering flexibility
  • O = Organisation’s values are reflected
  • L = Leverages multiple workspace options

Also, intelligent workspace planning and creating work zones suited for a variety of tasks are key elements of having a great physical space for your employees to work in. You also shouldn’t forget about the employees working from home, but we’ll discuss this more in-depth further down this guide.

Man sitting in a smart office cubicle

What employee experience is not about?

In this field, there are a lot of terms, often used concurrently with each other. Here are five misconceptions about employee experience and what it’s not about:

Only improving HR function in your company

While the human resources department is responsible for the majority of tasks related to creating a better employee experience, it is not just about that. This also involves interactions within the domain of facilities, corporate communications and the IT department.

Having more perks and parties

Employee experience can and should include these perks. But it is not all about them, simply because these are short-term actions and not long-term initiatives. Employee experience is a long-term strategic initiative, aligned with your company’s desired culture.

Employer or employment branding

Standing out from your competition in the war of talent is important, and that’s what employer branding is about. It is about the stakeholders who are not currently within the company, while the employee experience initiative focuses on the experience the company provides to their existing employees on a day-to-day basis.

Treating employees as customers

While the employee experience initiative draws from the original idea of customer experience, the relationships between employer and employee versus brand and a customer are very different. Thinking about your employees as customers is an incomplete way of approaching the issues at hand.

Employee engagement

Employee experience should not be mixed up with employee engagement, as employee engagement is a part of the whole employee experience. Employee engagement focuses on the actions taken during the employment to retain a great workforce but does not take into consideration issues in recruitment for example.

Also, when done wrong, focusing on employee engagement can lead to using ways of temporarily boosting the workforce’s morale, which is not sustainable in the long run as usually these “adrenaline shots” do not work in the long term.

Instead, putting effort into the holistic employee experience creates employee engagement as your workforce wants to stay in a work environment where they feel needed and appreciated all the time. 

Our Content Marketing Manager Anniina Kaisanlahti discusses improving employee engagement and the secrets of success in the following article: 

improving employee engagement at Haltian office

Improving Employee Engagement

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History of employee experience

Employee experience theory has been evolving for quite some time. What started as giving out the bare-bone tools for the employees has transformed into a holistic HR approach over the years. The evolution can be explained in the following four phases:

  • 1) Utility: At first, employees were given the basic tools that they needed to do their job.
  • 2) Productivity: In the second phase of this evolution better tools were given to employees to get them to work better and faster.
  • 3) Engagement: This phase is about companies going out of their way to make their employees feel happy so that they perform better.
  • 4) Experience: The fourth and the current phase is about creating a culture in which people want to show up, and don’t just work for the pay-check.

The caveats of the first two are quite obvious. Employees were seen as resources; as pieces of a larger machine without caring about how they felt. In the engagement phase, they were given random bursts of happiness, for example, upgrading their tools if they voiced their unhappiness about their work environment.

However, this was not sufficient in the long-term, as the employees’ underlying dissatisfaction cannot be solved by short-term happiness bursts, but needs more of a fundamental reconstruction of the company’s way of working. Focusing on the whole employee experience increases engagement in the long term.

The most recent developments in employee experience are the Employee Experience Platforms or EXPs in short. According to Microsoft’s Jared Spataro, Employee Experience Platforms are becoming more in demand, as the global pandemic has forced us to shift into a remote working mode. These platforms, such as the recently announced Microsoft Vita, are the next steps in creating more empowering work-life solutions, as they bring together communications, knowledge, resources and insights allowing people and teams to perform at their best levels.

Why focus on it?

Investing in your employees is one of the best investments you can make. Good managers enable their employees to perform better by removing obstacles that prevent them from doing their jobs and employee experience thinking allows them to do that.

Organizations who invest the most in the whole experience, are finding great results, such as:

  • 5x more likely to appear in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list
  • 4.4x more often listed as Most In-Demand Employers by LinkedIn
  • 5x more revenue compared to competitors who invest less in employee engagement

Employee experience is based on the idea of empathy, as is the design thinking on which it is based. It is all about understanding the root issues within the organization, straight from the source. Once these issues have been dealt with openly, it makes sense that the job performance of your employees increases, driving your bottom line in the end.

Companies that invest heavily in employee experience are 4x more profitable than those that do not

Jacob Morgan, Author, keynote speaker

Read more about it in our article here:

Two men working in an office

Why focus on employee experience?

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What are the benefits of Employee experience?

The benefits of employee experience for companies are vast. Employee experience will improve employee engagement, and engaged employees feel an emotional connection to their jobs, are willing to go the extra mile and will uphold and promote your company brand. Companies with good employee experience perform better, attract the best talents, offer higher possibilities for innovation and have better customer experiences.

Infographic on the benefits of good employee experience

Why does the employee experience matter in a work-from-home world?

The employee experience is not just formulated at the physical location you might work in. The shift into a remote working mode has forced a change in our working lives, as up to 88% of companies have encouraged or enforced working from home during the pandemic. This leads to that many of the great benefits and perks we were used to at the office are no longer valid.

This is why companies have to innovate and create new ways of onboarding new employees, creating the feeling of belonging and enabling the employees with all the support they need remotely.

There are three main drawbacks in this current climate for the workforce: increased working hours, pandemic tiredness and the loss of emotional connections.

This is where creating a great employee experience helps, read more about it here:

Woman on computer, work from home

EX and the changing working world

EX matters everywhere, read more.

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How does COVID-19 transform the employee experience?

As the pandemic hit and we shifted into a remote working mode, short chats around the coffee machine and the spontaneous 1-to-1s decreased. The COVID-19 pandemic is a good time for your company to create more personal responses to workplace-related issues, expanding on the goodwill and feeling of belonging in earlier phases. Building trust during challenging times is one way of helping your employees cope, and feel safe.

Read how the pandemic transforms the employee experience and what you can do to get the best out of it:

How COVID-19 is changing the employee experience

COVID-19 and the EX

Learn how COVID-19 is changing the employee experience.

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How to create a better workplace?

We have created a video on how to create a better workplace. In the video our Senior Marketing Manager Paulo Lopes gives some insights and tips on what you should consider when thinking about how to create a better workplace:

We have also written a supportive article for the video, which can be found here.

Designing a great employee experience

Creating a great employee experience starts with your company culture. As the employee experience is shown on all touch points with your company, it is important to consider all the factors from high-level company mission all the way to the daily communications. Read our article how to design a great employee experience here: 

team designing a great employee experience on a whiteboard

Design a great EX

Learn to design a great employee experience.

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How to design an employee journey map?

The employee journey map helps you visualize the steps and action plans you might be struggling to take when starting your journey towards a greater employee experience. See our infographic and read how to design an employee journey map:

How to design an employee journey map

Design an employee journey map

With this infographic, you’ll learn how to design an employee journey map.

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Examples of great employee experience

We have listed a few examples of great employee experiences. Get some inspiration and read how other companies have focused on creating great employee experiences and what benefits they have found with it:

employees in an office with a view, an example of great employee experience

6 examples of great EX

Inspire yourself with these examples!

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Final thoughts

Employee experience should be the main priority in your company if you want to be more successful. As we have mentioned, it is all about the company and its people working together to generate better working-life experiences, empowering people to find their purpose, and therefore strengthening the whole company. 

Start with small steps, on each touch point where your potential and current employees interact with your company.  Then you can expand from that thought of creating a place people really want to show up, and surely you end up finding great benefits from this. 

We at Haltian are experts in delivering solutions to improve the employee experience. Read how our smart office solution, the Empathic Building, helped VR Group improve their office layout and simultaneously improve their employee experience:

VR Group headquarters in Pasila, image @VR Group

VR Group & the Empathic Building

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