Forum Institutional

New model of employee experience can help organizations drive growth, retention and resilience

Employee experience (EX) is becoming increasingly important to organizations.

Employee experience (EX) is becoming increasingly important to organizations. Image:

Chloe Hamman
Director of People Science, Product, Culture Amp
Jessica Brannigan
Lead People Scientist, EMEA, Culture Amp
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  • Employee experience (EX) is becoming increasingly important to organizations.
  • We have created a new model of EX – harnessing employee sentiment data.
  • Focusing on what matters most to employees can help organizations thrive.

With unprecedented changes to society and the economy, how employees experience work (EX) has become critical to an organization’s ability to navigate disruption, transformation, and economic uncertainty. However, many organizations feel ill-equipped to move the needle on EX.

The traditional conceptualisation of EX

EX is often spoken about as a linear journey, similar to a customer journey. This model works by identifying “moments that matter”, such as onboarding, promotion, and exiting the organization.

This conceptualization has been helpful because it presents a concrete problem. However, we notice that interventions attempted by organizations based on this perspective alone don’t work as effectively as hoped.

Through a combination of I-O research, as well as the vast amount of employee sentiment data we have in our data lake, we have been able to conceptualise a new model of EX.

Have you read?

A richer picture on EX: embracing the complexity

Employees face a broad landscape of influences when we consider work from their perspective (see below).

Employee experience map.
Employee experience map. Image: Culture Amp.

Firstly, their experience with the company: do they find congruence with the organisation's purpose, is their experience helped or hindered by being a remote employee, and what is leadership like? Second, their experience with the people they work and interact with: do they feel they belong within their team, is their manager supportive, and are they being recognized? Finally, their experience with the work itself: do they understand what success looks like for them, enjoy the nature of their tasks, and is there an opportunity to advance?

And if that’s not complex enough, we also know it’s not just their experience of things at work, it’s also how each individual perceives and experiences things that exist outside of the day-to-day. This can be their organization’s stance on social, political, and environmental issues, and how the individual experiences overlap with their personal life.

At the centre of this is each employee – a person with unique emotional needs. They need psychological safety, social inclusion, certainty, and positive emotions, to name just a few. Fundamentally, and of growing prominence, they need a sense of purpose.

Seen from this perspective, it’s clear that how we feel and ultimately perform at work boils down to how we make sense of our experiences and how well these experiences support our needs.

We know that a model can be impractical without direction on where to zoom in. This is why we conducted research to support understanding and application.

EX research: What the data tells us

In our research, we answered three questions:

1. What are the most important aspects of EX?

2. In what ways does EX shape outcomes which matter to organizations?

3. What is the interconnectedness between the linear and on-going EX?

In order to understand what aspects of EX are most important for driving outcomes, we first need to define great EX. We present here a collection of questions we believe best capture great EX:

  • Great place: “I would recommend my company as a great place to work”.
  • Retention: “I see myself working at my company in two years time”.
  • Belonging/inclusion: “I feel like I belong at my company”.
  • Wellbeing/positive emotion: “I typically feel very positive towards work at my company”.

Of course, like all thorny psychology topics, there is much debate in the literature and practice about the construct of EX, but for us, it boils down to the question: what’s it like to work here?

Having defined this construct, we looked at all our other questions across multiple data sources: engagement, well-being, and DEI surveys. We ran driver analyses to understand which questions most strongly correlated with this outcome, enabling us to isolate what matters most.

Focus of organizations' diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programmes.
Focus of organizations' diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programmes. Image: World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs Report 2023

The most important drivers of EX

In examining the highlights from this analysis; we note that seven of the top 10 drivers of strong EX are generally consistent with those expected for driving engagement scores also:

  • Growth and development: “This is a great company for me to contribute to my development”, and “I believe there are good career opportunities for me at this company”.
  • Leadership: “I have confidence in the leaders”, “the leaders demonstrate that people are important to the company’s success”, and “The leaders have communicated a vision that motivates me”.
  • Quality and resource distribution: “My company effectively directs resources (funding, people and effort) towards company goals”, “Day-to-day decisions here demonstrate that quality and improvement are top priorities”.

However, we do see three new, distinct areas for employee experience in particular:

  • Respect: “I feel respected at my company”.
  • Realistic role expectations: “I am happy with my current role relative to what was described to me”.
  • Feeling valued: “I feel valued for the unique contribution I can make to my company”.

This new finding validates our underlying conceptualisation of the new model; these questions sit around relationships with co-workers and ways in which the organization operates more broadly.

How EX shapes outcomes which matter to organizations

To illuminate how EX drives outcomes which matter to organizations, we tested how EX links to the retention of employees.

We conducted a longitudinal study of 4,000 employees and found that “low EX” employees (i.e. those scoring in the bottom quartile on our outcome measure) were 4.9 times more likely to regrettably leave (i.e. their managers indicated their exit was regrettable) than “high EX” employees (i.e. top quartile on the outcome measure) within a six-month timeframe, and 3.4 times more likely to do so within one year. This means that organizations who care about the retention of their talent can do so by focusing on EX.

Understanding the interconnectedness of the linear and on-going employee experience

To unpack this final topic, we explored “promotion to manager” as a key moment. This research controlled for tenure: comparing “newly promoted” managers to individual contributors from the same tenure groups.

In surveys that precede promotion decisions, we found employees who will be promoted are generally more positive in sentiment versus those that will not be, particularly in relation to decision-making, recognition, and the company being a good place for their development. However, after promotion, their sentiment drops in a number of key areas: well-being, commitment, communication with their manager and confidence in leadership.

Based on these insights, we ask organizations: have you thought deeply about what newly promoted managers need in your organization?

Wrapping it up

We continue to research and explore this topic, but based on our findings so far, we believe organizations who want to weather current and future storms would be well-served by measuring EX in their organization, zoning in on the facets which matter the most to their employees, and taking action.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Forum InstitutionalBusinessJobs and the Future of Work
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