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Where did this concept of employee experience come from and why is it at the forefront of so many discussions today? We didn’t get here overnight, as with anything in the business world things evolve and shift over time. The evolution we are seeing today continues to shift organizational priorities more towards focusing on people and bringing humanity and experiences into our organizations.

Let’s take a look at the evolution of employee experience and the stages we went through to get to where we are today.


Utility: It all started many decades ago (think 1920s to 1950s). Most organizations were focused purely on utility. They provided the basic tools and resources needed in order for the organization to function–chairs, desks, phone, etc…The employees were given these tools and then they were expected to go and get the job done. There wasn’t any talk of experience or engagement or happiness or leadership styles.

Productivity: As the decades went on and competition became more of a reality, companies moved to a focus on productivity. They wanted to find ways to make their employees work harder, smarter, and faster. The focus was on everything but the employees–how can we make the process more efficient, how can we get a better end result, what can we automate to be more consistent. They really didn’t consider what employees would want or need as individuals.

Engagement: From there we moved into an era focused on engagement. This is when the annual surveys really took off. Organizations started paying attention to employee happiness and well-being. Employee perks became the norm–free food, slides, ping pong tables, bring your dog to work day, event nights, etc…This worked well for awhile, but organizations came to realize this was not sustainable. Even after they threw a ton of money into perks the engagement scores were staying the same or even going down. So organizations realized they needed to do something different.

Experience: This was the beginning of the era of employee experience. Employee experience is not simply about making employees happy. It is about changing core workplace practices inside of our organizations around our people. Do employees have up to date resources, tools and technology to get their jobs done? Does your company culture have meaning and does it reflect the people who work there? And do you have functional workspaces that work for your employees and what they need to accomplish?

This is where we are at today and the era of employee experience is still new. We still have a long way to go. But this will continue to be a trend and a hot topic for at least the next 5-10 years.

We all deserve to work for an organization that invests in employee experience, get my free training series here: