Focus On Employee Engagement, Not Employee Experience

We are finally seeing a movement by the general business world to seriously focus on the role and value of employees, which is why “Embracing Employee Engagement” is one of our 2017 CX Trends. Temkin Group has viewed employee engagement as a critical foundation for customer experience since our inception. It’s one of our Four CX Core Competencies.

While the trend is great, there’s still a long way to go. I’d love to see many more human resources organizations recognize that employee engagement is one of their strategic objectives (see my post, HR Execs: Wake Up To Employee Engagement!).

As this area has gained attention, there’s been a troubling misunderstanding creeping up in the dialogue. People are confuscating Employee Engagement with Employee Experience. They are not the same.

It’s important to understand the distinction, because only one of them is the foundation to success. So let’s look at each of them:

  • Employee Experience deals with how employees enjoy their job or environment. It deals with making things fun and enjoyable. People often say things like “let’s treat the employees’ experience like we do the customers’ experience.” They think of ways to make the work place more exciting and fun, by adding things outside of work like pizza parties and gift swaps. Employee experience can be measured by questions like “how much fun do you have at work.
    • My take: This is a very nice thing to do for your employees, but it is insufficient to drive success.
  • Employee Engagement deals with how committed employees are to the mission of their organization. It deals with human beings’ intrinsic needs for a sense of meaningfulness, choice, competence, and progress. People who want to affect change in this area must focus on the design of the work environment using what we call the Five I’s: Inspire, Inform, Involve, Instruct, and Incent. Employee engagement can be measured by the three questions in the Temkin Employee Engagement Index.
    • My take: This is a requirement to drive long-term success.

If you want to build a high performing organization that consistently delivers great customer experience, then you need to focus on employee engagement. If you happen to improve employee experience along the way, then that’s an added bonus.

The bottom line: Focus on employee engagement, not employee experience.

P.S. Based on some great comments to this post, I want to clarify something. Improving employee experience is not a bad thing. But a company should not be focusing its energy on improving employees experience just for the sake of that improvement. The ultimate goal should be in creating an engaged workforce, not just ensuring that employees enjoy their work experience. See my post: Are You Creating Engaged or Entitled Employees?

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

5 Responses to Focus On Employee Engagement, Not Employee Experience

  1. Ammon Nelson says:

    Doesn’t the employee experience lead to employee engagement in the same way the customer experience leads to customer loyalty?

    • Hi Ammon: Great question! And the answer is “not necessarily.” It’s true that it is difficult (not impossible) to build engagement if the experience is really bad, but improving employee experience does not necessarily lead to high levels of engagement. If the employee experience at the American Cancer Society is really poor, you might still end up with highly engaged employees. Improving employee experience without developing an increase in commitment to the organization’s mission can lead to entitlement, not engagement. See my post: Are You Creating Engaged or Entitled Employees? With customer experience, we don’t want companies sinking money and effort into making the experience better and better unless it’s connected with delivering on their brand promises. The key is not just better customer experience, but customer experience that reinforces the value of the brand and the company, which is what builds loyalty.

      • Ammon Nelson says:

        That makes sense. I guess I see the same qualifiers as being applicable to both customer and employee experience. In both cases, the experience has to be improved in the direction of generating customer loyalty and employee engagement. A positive experience for both customer and employee are means to an end, not ends in themselves.

      • Ammon: Very well said!

  2. Just to say, I enjoy reading this blog. I just subscribed to your newsletter, I’m a fan. Thank you for sharing the five I’s, something we can definitely try here at work. As an employee myself, I love the activities and treats at work. A bit of fresh air in a very exhausting industry like sales. Which I (personally) think helps me to be motivated and be engaged. The drive to work better (engagement) comes naturally if employees are happy with what they do. Keep it up!

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