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Annette Franz

Quality Insider

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

Five terms that drive business

Published: Monday, April 13, 2015 - 13:24

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 affect workforce efficiency. During the presentation, a lot of employee experience terms were used, and I attempted to clarify them with some definitions.

Employee experience

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, during the course of doing his job.

Employee experience needs to be understood, using tools like personas, journey mapping, surveys, and other means of listening to feedback. Also, it can be designed and redesigned.

Employee engagement

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 can’t be forced on employees or mandated, dictated, or declared. No one can make an employee engaged. That comes from within, and yet the company has a role in it, as well. When there’s some confluence of emotions, commitment, passion, and sense of ownership on the part of the employee about the brand; and what the organization does (i.e., through purpose, brand promise, who the company is, and why) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment, then we have employee engagement.

“You have to want to be engaged,” says author and consultant Timothy R. Clark. “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.”

Employee satisfaction

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.

Employee happiness

How is employee happiness related? There are a lot of definitions of employee happiness out there, but this one by Adam Stoehr 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 definition? Does happiness come before (i.e., drive) or after engagement, morale, and satisfaction?

Employee morale

What is employee morale? According to Wikipedia: “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 the article “Six Components of a Great Corporate Culture,” by John Coleman (Harvard Business Review, May 6, 2013): 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, authors of Re-Engage: How America’s Best Places to Work Inspire Extra Effort in Extraordinary Times (McGraw-Hill, 2010)

First published March 31, 2015, on the CX Journey blog.


About The Author

Annette Franz’s picture

Annette Franz

Annette Franz, CCXP is founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. She’s got 25 years of experience in both helping companies understand their employees and customers and identifying what drives retention, satisfaction, engagement, and the overall experience – so that, together, we can design a better experience for all constituents. She's an author (she wrote the book on customer understanding!), a speaker, and a customer experience thought leader and influencer. She serves as Vice Chairwoman on the Board of Directors of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), is an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council, and is an Advisory Board member for CX@Rutgers.


Since you asked, here are two comments

Comment 1 - It may be sad how a negative workplace can bring people down, but not unexpected.  Of course a person's workplace can be a big influence on their life overall.  We all should live by the same mantra here - don't let "THEM" drag us down.

Comment 2 - the last sentence - I don't agree with any of those three things (Most people hate their jobs, supervisors don't care about them, leaders are clueless).  Sure there may be isolated cases of this but I don't buy for a minute that its true in the majority.  Seems like a journalist looking for attention, which of course is a viable thing for a journalist to do.  I just don't agree and I bet a lot of other people would not agree with that statement.