Employee Experience vs. Engagement: 2 Sides of the Same Coin? 

Utility, productivity, engagement. There have been multiple movements in workplace philosophy in the last century with focus placed on everything from bare necessities to increased efficiency. But for as far back as most of us can remember, employee engagement has been the gold standard of the business world.

We’ve read it hundreds of times in articles, seen it spoken about at conferences, and learnt about it during courses. Keep your employees engaged, and everything will work out. The trouble is, knowing how to engage them is a different thing.

Corona virus certainly upped the pressure for employers with the great resignation highlighting the competition for skilled staff. The tables turned and the workforce spoke with their feet.

Welcome, employee experience (EX). Chatter across the HR space says employee engagement is old news, and employee experience is the golden child. Yet, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

In this article, we compare and contrast employee engagement and employee experience to answer the question, are they simply, in fact, two sides of the same coin?


Employee experience (EX) is an umbrella term that encompasses all the interactions an employer has with the organisation throughout their employment. It’s a journey that consists of multiple touchpoints, starting from the initial attraction of a potential candidate to their exit interview. In fact, over 77% would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job.


Employees are involved in multiple processes from the moment they enter a company’s workforce. Their impression of these forms their overall impression and employee experience. The most widely accepted journey consists of six stages:

  • Attracting
  • Recruitment
  • Onboarding
  • Engagement
  • Development
  • Exit


EX significantly affects levels of engagement and retention in organisations. Research indicates that individuals who have a positive employee experience demonstrate a remarkable 16x increase in engagement levels in contrast to people with negative experiences. These satisfied employees are also 8x more inclined to stay with a company.

That’s not to say that organisations should be providing EX for EX sake – it should go beyond ‘lip service’ and turn from traditional models toward a more employee-centred approach.

McKinsey & Company groups EX into three broad categories. The first focuses on the Social Experience and entails reinforcing positive socialisation, promoting effective teamwork, and nurturing a positive work culture. The second category, Work Experience, examines the organisation’s effectiveness in facilitating purposeful work and providing autonomy, control, flexibility, and opportunities for growth. Lastly, the third category, Organisation Experience, centres on aligning the company’s vision through a clear-cut purpose, improving technology for enhanced employee experience and greater productivity.


Deloitte’s research shows that a significant proportion (84%) of business leaders recognise the importance of EX. However, just 9% feel adequately prepared to address the subject. This highlights a clear gap between aspirations and reality – and clearly, a gap that needs to be bridged.

To address this issue, leaders can adopt a range of perspectives to consider the nuances of EX. By looking at things from multiple perspectives, a more holistic view can be developed.

Moments that matter

In the world of Human Resources, there are certain moments that contribute significantly to an employee’s overall experience of their workplace. For example, an employee’s first day. Known as “moments that matter”, “moments of truth”, or “wow moments”, these should be incorporated throughout an employee’s lifecycle to create unique and memorable experiences for workers.

The organisational approach

When examining employee experience through the organisational lens, the focus is on evaluating the overall impact it has on a company’s performance. Through a top-down approach, the employee experience is analysed and adjusted to increase productivity and enhance the bottom line. For example, companies may implement tactics such as offering the right incentives.


When leaders adopt the employee lens approach, they shift their focus to the individual. Examining the employee experience from the employee’s point of view involves asking a lot of empathetic questions like whether they’re happy, productive, motivated, supported, and what they actually care about.

what’s employee engagement?

Employee engagement is founded on the emotional connection that individuals establish with their organisation. It’s a measure of the level of loyalty, commitment, and emotional investment that employees have towards their work and workplace.

Engaged employees show a dedication to the company’s vision and mission. They want to contribute to its growth and feel a sense of personal achievement and fulfilment in their work.

what impacts employee engagement?

Social Connections

Those who have close friendships with colleagues are more likely to be engaged and happy at work. Not only do they provide support and a sense of belonging, but friendships also foster collaboration and communication within and between teams.

Being able to trust management

Establishing trust in leadership is key to engaging employees. Leaders must actively engage with their employees and be transparent in their operations. A survey of almost 6,000 employees found that just 29% of respondents felt that HR understood their wants and needs, highlighting the need for leadership teams to foster an environment where employees feel heard.

Work environment

Employee engagement is increased when they feel welcomed, supported, and valued in the workplace. In fact, those who don’t receive recognition for their contributions are almost twice as likely to seek employment elsewhere. This highlights the link to retention rates.

Opportunities for development and progression

Employees need to feel like they have a future with a company. Over half of employees would consider leaving their job if training and development opportunities were not on the table. Therefore, offering clear paths for career advancement, developing employee development plans, and providing training are all instrumental in employee engagement.

Relationship with the manager

A strong manager-employee relationship can act as a catalyst for employee engagement, promoting greater efficiency, higher productivity, and improved overall job satisfaction. In fact, over 70% of the variance in engagement scores was attributed to the manager in this Gallup report.

how are employee experience and engagement connected?

Employee experience and engagement are correlated. While employee experience refers to individual moments that an individual encounters during their tenure at an organisation, engagement pertains to the larger connection or bond that they develop with the company as a whole.

Employee experience isn’t limited to the individual. It encompasses multiple areas, such as the quality of technology and equipment provided for work, learning and development opportunities offered, and the company’s work culture. These organisational inputs impact the employee experience.

With this in mind, employee engagement is the output that organisations aim to achieve; increased employee engagement could be considered the impact of employee experience.

Engaged employees feel passionate about their work and are committed. In fact, when employees are engaged, there’s a 41% reduction in absenteeism, 10% higher customer loyalty/engagement rates, a 21% gain in productivity, and a 22% increase in profitability.

The alternative – employee disengagement – comes with a steep cost. It’s estimated that the UK loses £340 billion per year due to recruitment and training expenses, reduced creativity and innovation, and an increased number of sick days.


Although the two are distinct concepts, employee experience and engagement are very closely related. Employee experience refers to specific moments that an individual encounters during their tenure at a company, while employee engagement on the other hand is the larger, over-arching connection or bond they form with the organisation as a whole.

From a people perspective, it’s clear that employee engagement should be prioritised for organisational success and efficiency. However, creating a positive employee experience may just be the key to achieving this engagement gold standard. Therefore, companies should make use of both concepts in tandem to create positive experiences for employees, with the aim of increasing overall engagement.

The EFS UK Employee Engagement Survey 2022 further explores the impact of covid-19 on employee engagement across the UK. Download the report here.

Author: Millie Fuller – Freelance Creative Copywriter, and self-confessed coffee addict

Photo credit: iStock

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