Is employee experience the key to employee engagement?

7 October, 2019
Employee engagement

Give your employees the Disney experience

Engaged employees tend to be those who love their work. They have a great employee experience that makes them look forward to each day. If you create a great employee experience, you should be able to improve engagement. To do this, it is crucial that you understand the nature of experience.


Why do some people have a great employee experience, while others don’t?

Employees expect their employers to live up to their expectations. These expectations are created by the employer, through elements such as the employer’s core values. If an employer declares themselves to be honest, respectful, and to treat people with integrity, employees will expect these values to be exhibited in their employee experience.

Organisations that create an organisational culture that is bound by their core values develop employee experiences in line with those core values. The employee is not disappointed by their experience: rather their perception is confirmed by reality. For example, an organisation that proclaims itself to be highly engaged in their employees’ personal development, should ensure their managers do more than discuss career development with employees only at their annual review.

Developing a positive culture that supports vision and purpose empowers the creation of meaningful moments – the peaks that help to define positive experience. People tend to remember these peaks – those singular events that are extraordinary to the run-of-the-mill. For example:

  • The time you were given praise from a respected colleague for work well done
  • The team meeting in which your promotion was announced
  • The day you found out that you’d successfully completed a professional qualification

You tend to forget the weeks of hard work and hours of revision it took to gain that qualification. The mistakes you made on your way to promotion are parked – learned from, and forgiven. The disagreement you had with that respected colleague is now buried in the past. You forget all this because it is what you do every day. There is nothing unusual or memorable about this. This phenomenon has a name. Psychologists call it ‘the Disney Paradox’.


Let the Disney paradox shape your employee experience strategy

For those of you who have visited Disneyland (or Disneyworld), the chances are that you had an amazing time. You rode the roller coaster. You met Mickey Mouse. You were tossed around on the Tower of Terror. You posted the photos of your fab vacation on Facebook. The smiles say it all – you had an amazing time at Disney.

Yet these experiences are no more than moments in an eight-hour slog in high humidity, around a crowded and expensive theme park. These downsides are forgotten, because of the peaks of those magical moments. You don’t get to meet Mickey every day.

This realisation of how our memories work provides the secret to how organisations can create an exceptional employee experience. Amazing experiences pivot on peak moments.


Move away from the mundane to provide peak moments

If your car runs as it is designed to, you aren’t ecstatic about it. If you visit a restaurant and get the meal you expect, you don’t jump for joy. If your household waste is collected on Monday morning at 10am, like it is every week, you don’t commit the event to memory.

Most of what your employees do during their working day, week and year is forgettable. Like standing in a queue at Disneyland for two hours. Now and again though, your employee may have something remarkable to do. Like that two-minute roller coaster ride.

So, how does an employer create the peak moments that help to define the employee experience? Firstly, leaders and managers should stop worrying about every single moment of an employee’s journey, and instead focus on identifying and improving the key moments – those that are important to employee and employer.

These moments can be defined as transitions, milestones, and pitfalls:

  • Transitions are moments of significant change. Professional transitions might include the first day in a new role; starting or completing a project; receiving a promotion; leading a team meeting, etc. Employers should seek ways to make these moments resonate. For example, could a promotion be accompanied by a team lunch at which the promotion is officially and publicly announced? Or, perhaps, the CEO could send a congratulatory email.
  • Milestones are different to transitions in that they do not necessarily include change. For example, the fabled gold watch for long service. Other milestones could be created to show recognition and appreciation. For example, these might include the 100th day in the job; the fifth successful project lead; passing of professional qualifications; the 25th positive customer review; a piece published in the company newsletter etc.
  • Pitfalls are painful moments, and leaders and managers should ensure that they support employees through these. Professional pitfalls may include missing out on a promotion, failing a professional qualification or receiving negative feedback.


If you provide your employees with remarkable moments, it is these that they will remember. These will define their employee experience. These moments of magic – the peak moments – will determine how engaged they feel with their work and your business strategy.

Such moments don’t just happen. Organisations must invest in their creation. These moments will overwhelm the mundane, and energise your employees to engage with your purpose and business strategy.

To understand how our Learning Map could help you improve your organisation’s effectiveness in engaging employees with its business strategy, get in touch with The Big Picture People today.

(To see how putting people in the picture creates a shared vision and helps set a concrete destination, read this case study.)

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