From employee engagement to employee experience

Despite heavy spending on employee engagement programmes, many organisations still struggle with unsatisfactorily low employee engagement scores. In fact, Aon Hewitt1 found a 2% drop in global employee engagement scores between 2015 and 2016.

It’s not surprising, then, that employee engagement continues to be a key focus for many HR leaders2. However, what’s different is the shift in the way engagement is addressed. Instead of focusing on employee engagement in isolation, HR leaders are moving towards an integrated view that combines various aspects of organisational culture, engagement and employee brand proposition into an entire employee experience.

Employee Engagement

According to Aon Hewitt1, employee engagement is defined as “the level of an employee’s psychological investment in their organisation.” Having been linked to productivity, profit, customer satisfaction and retention4, employee engagement has received much attention from senior managers who pour millions of dollars into engagement initiatives in hopes of a positive impact on their bottomline.

While these perks are effective – they do in fact yield higher engagement scores – their results do not last. Like adrenaline shots, each new initiative introduced causes engagement scores to shoot up, only to fall back down over time. Ultimately, these are just short-term fixes that address only the outcomes of how an employee experiences the organisation, and not the root cause.

Employee Experience

Employee experience, on the other hand, is a more holistic approach that takes the long-term perspective. As with customer experience, the discipline of employee experience considers an employee’s entire journey with the organisation and carefully designs all the internal touchpoints to create a place where people want, and not just need, to work each day.

According to Deloitte’s Simply Irresistible Organisation™ Model2, such a positive employee experience begins with Meaningful Work, Supportive Management, Positive Work Environments, Growth Opportunities, Trust in Leadership, and Cross Organisational Collaboration.

Unlike employee engagement programmes, a holistic employee experience design deals with the root cause of employee disengagement – the experience itself – providing a more sustainable solution. Moreover, studies also show that organisations that invest in employee experience outperform those that don’t by four times in average profit and more than twice in average revenue3.

In today’s highly competitive business landscape where concerns over talent acquisition and retention are on the rise, it is imperative for organisations to craft a compelling employee experience – or as we call it, the Real Organisational Experience – to meet the rising expectations of today’s valued talents and increase the chances to attract and retain them. Developed to help organisations meet this growing challenge, PACE’s Real Organisational Experience (ROE) assessment is a research-based diagnostic tool designed to provide organisations with insights into their internal state by capturing authentic voices from organisational members regarding their experience being part of the organisation. Doing so requires organisations to consider an employee’s journey with the organisation and carefully designing all its internal touchpoint to provide the necessary positive experience that would increase the chances to retain these valued talents.

- Dr. Lily Cheng, Founder & Chief Catalyst, Pace O.D. Consulting and The OD Academy -


1 Aon Hewitt. (2017). Global anxiety erodes employee engagement gains. Trends in Global Employee Engagement 2017.

2 Bersin, J., Flynn, J., Mazor, A., and Melian, V. (2017). The employee experience: Culture, engagement, and beyond. Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2017, 51-62.

3 Morgan, J. (2017). Why the millions we spend on employee engagement buy us so little.

4 Quantum Workplace. (2017). 2017 employee engagement trends.

5 Scott, R. (2017). Employee engagement vs. employee experience.