Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What's the Meaning of All of This Employee Lingo?

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Confused by some of the employee experience lingo you're hearing? You're not alone!

A couple weeks ago, I participated in a webinar with Kyle Antcliff of Intradiem. We talked about the employee experience, employee journey mapping, and solutions that drive or impact workforce efficiency.

During the presentation, a lot of employee experience terms were used, and I attempted to clarify with some definitions. I thought those definitions were worthy of sharing.

Let's start with Employee Experience. I define it as:
The sum of all interactions that an employee has with his employer during the duration of his employment relationship. It includes any way the employee "touches" the company and vice versa in the course of doing his job.
It needs to be understood (using tools like personas, journey mapping, and surveys and other listening posts). And it can be designed/redesigned.

Employee Engagement is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, so it's important to understand what engagement means and how it comes about. This definition of engaged employees comes from Gallup.
Engaged workers stand apart from their not-engaged and actively disengaged counterparts because of the discretionary effort they consistently bring to their roles. These employees willingly go the extra mile, work with passion, and feel a profound connection to their company. They are the people who will drive innovation and move your business forward.
Engagement cannot be forced upon employees or mandated, dictated, or declared. No one can make an employee engaged. It comes from within, and yet the company has a role in it, as well. When  there's some confluence of: (1) emotions, commitment, passion, sense of ownership, etc. on the part of the employee about the brand and (2) what the organization does (purpose, brand promise, who the company is and why, etc.) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment - then we have employee engagement.

…you have to want to be engaged. There has to be deep-seated desire in your heart and mind to participate, to be involved, and to make a difference. If the desire isn’t there, no person or book can plant it within you. -Tim Clark

What, then, is Employee Satisfaction? Is it the same thing? It is not. Sorry for the circular argument, but...
Employee Satisfaction refers to how satisfied employees are; it doesn’t address or include motivations or emotional commitment
To further clarify: some employees are satisfied because they get paid every two weeks, because the employer provides childcare, or simply because they have a job. That doesn’t really tell us much, unless we know what drives it. That puts the measure into context, but it's not the ultimate goal - for employees or for the business.

How is Employee Happiness related? There are a lot of definitions of Employee Happiness out there, but this one struck a chord with me:
Happiness at work is a function of engagement, morale, and satisfaction.
That almost makes it sound like an "umbrella metric." Does that mean it's a good measure of the overall employee experience? Or is it a chicken and egg story? Does happiness come before (drive) or after engagement, morale, and satisfaction?

What is Employee Morale? According to Wikipedia, it is...
Employee morale, in human resources, is defined as the job satisfaction, outlook, and feelings of well-being an employee has within a workplace setting. Proven to have a direct effect on productivity, it is one of the cornerstones of business.
And finally, how does Employee Experience differ from Culture? People often confuse the two. What is Culture? Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, defined it as...
...what employees do when no one is looking
I love that. I think it's...
...the set of values and norms that guides how the business operates. Culture happens when we operationalize the values.
I also agree with these six components of culture, as outlined in an HBR article: vision, values, practices, people, narrative, and place.

You may have other definitions or thoughts on the differences in these terms. I'd love to hear them!

It’s sad, really, how a negative workplace can impact our lives and the way we feel about ourselves. The situation is reaching pandemic heights – most people go to work at jobs they dislike, supervised by people who don’t care about them, and directed by senior leaders who are often clueless about where to take the company.” - Leigh Branham and Mark Hirschfeld, Re-Engage: How America’s Best Places to Work Inspire Extra Effort in Extraordinary Times


  1. Great clarifications, Annette. In addition, to determine the ideal context for employee engagement, one could say: follow the money. There's rah-rah for the sake of it, and there's engagement with a purpose that benefits multiple parties.

    Customers are the source of salaries, budgets, dividends. That line of thought leads to customer experience excellence as the context for employee engagement that's meaningful for everyone.

    A bonus to this is employees' inherent desire to work for a company that's loved. Employees have a lot on their plates, but they want to be successful. Help them see their jobs in the context of impact to customers' well-being, and you'll see stronger engagement that pays off for everyone.

    1. Thanks, Lynn. I appreciate your insights, as well. Great points. When employees have a clear line of sight to the customer and the experience they deliver for the customer, I believe, too, that they'll feel a stronger connection to what they do day in and day out. Knowing how they impact business outcomes is huge - being appreciated for that impact is even bigger.

  2. "Engagement cannot be forced upon employees or mandated, dictated, or declared."

    So true, but not always obvious to leadership.

    "I said sing the happy song. NOW!"

    Great post!


    1. Thanks, Sarah! I agree... sadly, not always obvious.

  3. Slightly tangentially I always think employee engagement is like any other relationship. If I didn't think much of my wife I wouldn't go out of my way for her (fortunately not the case). The same is absolutely true for my boss.

    1. Great point. In any relationship that is meaningful to you, you will put forth the effort for it to succeed.

  4. These definitions are essential. Take employee engagement for example. Gallup's definition doesn't match BlessingWhite's and neither matches mine. It's okay to disagree on the definition, but we won't get anywhere if we're talking about different things!

    1. Great point. There are varied definitions for all of these terms... I'm sure mine are different from yours. But let's just all be on the same page. And let's all do what's right for our employees!

  5. You'r right dear Annette Franz, but One thing by me what I think about to engage employees is also very much depends on the management and theirs selection because this is ultimately effects on the the organization , I really agree too with Jeff Toister as well.. keep sharing dear , I'd love to read more articles by you !

    1. Thanks, John. As they say, "people leave managers, not companies." That's an important perspective to keep in mind.