“Employee Engagement” is no longer enough. Why today’s workforce is looking for organisations to deliver a compelling “Employee Experience”

It has widely been acknowledged that younger working generations are driving a shift towards more flexible career paths, the gig economy and non-standard working arrangements. In 2019 the CIPD reported that 68% of UK employees “would like to work flexibly in at least one form that is not currently available to them”. As a result of this shift in employee expectations, organisations are being forced to accommodate a more varied set of needs as part of their workforce offering. 

There has also been a change in how employees view work. Compared with previous generations there is a more pressing desire to do work that provides personal meaning whilst working for an organisation that respects their individuality and understands their societal responsibility.

This shift in the perception and narrative around what work means has led to increasing expectations for organisations to provide more than financial reward or even professional opportunities. Employees are now assessing future employers on the value they place on things which are important to them as individuals, including self-development, health and wellbeing, and social contribution. 

These trends have led to a change to the traditional dynamic between employee and employer, with staff having an increasing shopping list of needs when assessing employment options as well as an increased sense of agency and ownership over their prospective career paths.

Moving away from “one-size-fits-all” employee engagement 

With the workforce now seeking a different value proposition from employment, organisations need to change how they view and interact with staff in order to attract and retain the best talent. Traditional ‘employee engagement’ initiatives comprised of blanket offerings and financial (or product) based ‘benefits’ are no longer a differentiator for attracting and retaining the best talent and do not reflect the employee’s search for meaningful work.

“Unlike one-size-fits-all employee engagement programmes, the creation of an engaging work style requires the active participation of all employees in reinventing business processes and personalising the work experience in order to make it cognitively, emotionally and socially meaningful and engaging.” 

How can organisations adapt to provide a credible employee experience?

Companies should seek to move away from the traditional approach to employee engagement. Organisations need to impress employees and perspective candidates with a complete proposition that demonstrates an awareness, understanding and flexibility to accommodate different needs between employees or even the same employee at different stages within their career

To create an attractive employee experience and value proposition, it is essential to build an organisational-wide approach and culture that prioritises serving the needs of employees with the same value it places on creating a positive experience for its external customers.

The theme for last month’s World Economic Forum was “stakeholders for a cohesive and sustainable world”. Organisations such as Paypal, Walmart and JP Morgan Chase demonstrated how exactly they were seeking to actively identify with the day to day challenges of their employees and investing in their workforce to empower them. The Financial Time report on the event highlights the issue that “too many at the top seem incurious about the realities of life for people lower down their org charts” advising that “as they recalibrate their priorities, the executives in Davos need to reflect on whether they are putting as much effort into hearing their employees’ voices as they are into engaging with investors.”

For companies looking to re-define their employee proposition, we have identified four areas worth exploring to enable a more holistic and engaging experience for employees that will attract, reward and retain the right talent to drive company performance:

1. Clarifying your organisational strategy and purpose: It is essential that you are clear on what your organisational objectives and measures of success are before you begin to design a meaningful people strategy and employee experience. A clear organisational strategy will define what you stand for and therefore what talent you want to attract; this will in turn inform what a meaningful employee experience means in the context of your organisation. Without having a clear organisational strategy there is a risk that your employee value proposition becomes disconnected and inauthentic. 

2. Understand your colleague’s needs: To design a relevant and effective People Strategy, organisations need to understand their employees and their current experiences and expectations. Companies should review their end to end employee journey and all associated touchpoints, engaging with existing staff to fully understand their experience at different stages and how these can be optimised or changed. Including employees in journey workshops and human centered design is a powerful and effective approach.

3. Taking a holistic approach to redefining the employee experience: To address the shift in employees’ expectations, organisations need to move away from delivering discrete employee initiatives and focus on curating a holistic approach that provides a meaningful colleague experience across all touchpoints, looking at daily experiences alongside more formally defined interactions i.e. performance reviews, rewards and training. This will require companies to look beyond existing structural boundaries to view and address topics such as career pathways, ways of working and work environments as one value proposition rather than as disparate employee ‘benefits’ that each require a unique solution. 

4. Embedding a new employee experience: Redefining and re-prioritising employee experience across an organisation will require a significant change in culture. To achieve this, a clear understanding of responsibilities and effective communication to all stakeholders will be key; senior leadership buy-in is essential as investing in a holistic employee experience requires more than HR-owned initiatives. Furthermore, as with any organisational change initiative it is essential to have ‘champions’ at all levels to communicate and educate colleagues, and deliver organisational-wide benefits. A recent piece we have published goes into more detail on how organisations can deliver successful culture change. 

Increasing demands for flexibility in the way employees work combined with a growing desire to have a personal connection with the values and purpose of the organisations we work for, have redefined the employee value proposition. To attract the right talent, companies need to review how they have traditionally sought to engage with employees; catch-all benefit ‘programs’ will no longer suffice with a workforce seeking purpose, opportunities and options. In order to meaningfully address this shift in the employee-employer dynamic, organisations should move away from offering lots of discrete, unrelated benefits. Instead, they should seek to fully understand their employees and consider how they can accommodate a variety of needs to provide the right environment, experiences and options that reflect and respect the individuals who make up their organisations.


[1] (Excerpt) UK Working Lives Report: 2019 - CIPD

[2] “Why meaning is the key to employee experience and customer satisfaction” - The Economist Intelligence Unit 

[3] “Davos business leaders discover the value of workers”- The Financial Times



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