The Employee Experience Revolution: A Manifesto

Table of Contents

What is the employee experience, and why does it matter? Kazoo’s Employee Experience Manifesto plants a flag in the sand. We’ll walk you through why the employee experience matters, how it’s evolved in the workplace, and how the four pillars of the employee experience are vital to an inspired, aligned workforce.

Understanding the employee experience

What is the employee experience?

The employee experience is the connection that an employee has with a company. It is shaped by their interactions with people, policies, processes, and technologies during significant moments in their journey with your company.

(For a deep dive, check out our Ultimate Guide to the Employee Experience.)

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The Employee Experience Revolution: A Manifesto

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How has the employee experience changed?

In the old days (think 30 years ago), there was a certain way of doing things. We were born, we went to school, we got a job. And we worked there until we retired or died.

As PBS reports, “More than 40% of America’s Baby Boomers stayed with the same employer 20 or more years.”

In this period, the relationship with work was fundamentally different. Workers were seen as employees, not people. It was common, and expected, that they’d make personal sacrifices for a stable paycheck. Many of those sacrifices had a negative impact on quality of life, like:

  • Long hours
  • Little or no parental leave
  • Limited vacation time
  • Inflexible schedules and long commutes
  • Hostile or intolerant work environments, particularly for women and people of color

And people didn’t really expect much more from their employer than a paycheck and the promise of long-term employment.

Clearly, those days are gone.

A table describing the way work has changed in the past several decades, including the shift from employee loyalty to employee experience

What is the employee experience today?

Employees want more than a job. They want a full experience.

Today, people spend most of their waking hours at work, so they want to be part of a healthy culture that recognizes their individual needs and ambitions. They’re willing to go the extra mile to be successful and help their team and the company hit goals, but they need, and expect, more from employers than previous generations of workers. They want to feel inspired and know the greater impact of the work they’re doing.

When the experience is good, they’re all in. When it’s bad, they’re out the door.

How to create a great employee experience

Employers who create a positive employee experience do so with great intention. They take an expansive and holistic view of the employee experience and work to create incredible experiences at every step in the employee journey.

The employee experience cycle -- beginning with recruiting, and cycling through the four pillars of the employee experience before offboarding

The employee experience is shaped during the entire employee lifecycle. That means the experience during the pre-hire phase is just as important as the employees’ experience working for a company, as well as when they leave an organization.

Need an example? Think of it like consumer brands, and how they work hard to create great customer experiences whether in the store, on the website, returning a product, or calling a customer service representative.

Just like with consumers, great experiences across multiple moments come together to create an overall experience. Each bad experience chips away at the bond, and each good experience strengthens it.

Put enough bad experiences together, and your employees will start evaluating their options.

What your employees need from you

Want to make a great employee experience? We’re going to dive into some high-level theory in the next section. But first, here’s a super-simple breakdown:

At a high level, these individual needs fall into four major categories that we call the four pillars of the employee experience.

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The four pillars of the employee experience

There are four deep psychological needs broadly shared across most people in most organizations: connection, appreciation, performance, and growth.

Companies must address these pillars to build an inspired and aligned workforce. We’ll walk you through them.

Thumbnail image for connection -- two links on a blue circle


Connection is another way to say belonging. Humans need connection not only to survive, but to thrive.

If you look at Blue Zone communities — areas in the world where people live the longest, like Okinawa, Sardinia, and Costa Rica — data shows that strong connection to other people contributes significantly to an overall sense of happiness, a desire to be productive, and a high level of engagement in the community.

93% of employees say connection matters to their employee experience.

The same is true at work. When people feel connected to their colleagues, their team, their managers, and their communities, they feel engaged, productive, and have a positive experience. This may happen organically in some companies. In most, it forms as the result of intentional effort.

Thumbnail image for appreciation: A heart on a red background


This one is common sense: People who feel recognized for their effort in meaningful ways are more likely to apply additional effort and produce higher quality work in the future. (They’re also likelier to be happy, and feel they’re having a great employee experience.)

81% of employees say they’re motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation.

Appreciation can come from many sources in a company, not just other people. Policy, process, and technology have a significant impact on how people handle appreciation.


Your policies should clearly prioritize employee recognition. Your processes make sure it happens. And finally, the technology you use can, and should, make giving and receiving recognition a more enjoyable and efficient experience. This helps create an infrastructure of appreciation that has a lasting, positive effect on your employee experience.

Thumbnail image for performance: a meter on a purple background


It’s not enough to just hear that you’re doing a good job. Employees need clear expectations and accountability for their performance at work, as well as visibility into the impact of their effort. This inspires confidence and innovation, and is a cornerstone of a great employee experience.

72% of employees said knowing how their work matters enables them to deliver a high quality customer experience.

This pillar is supported by trusting relationships between employees and managers, great communication from leadership, real-time multidirectional feedback, and personal goals that clearly tie to greater company goals.

It’s also important that employees have a sense that their efforts are making things better — even in some small way. This could be through the products their company brings to market, positive feedback from managers and leadership, customer reviews, or even the charitable work the company does in the community or around the world.

Thumbnail image for growth, a pillar of the employee experience -- a plant on a peach background


Finally, we come to growth. People crave opportunities to master roles and subjects. They want to advance in their positions and to grow their status within their communities in their professional and personal lives.

87% of Millennials rate professional or career growth opportunities as important to them in a job.

To facilitate growth, leaders must provide continuous feedback and ongoing support for the career aspirations of their team. By regularly setting goals, increasing learning & development opportunities, and creating clear expectations around career advancement, companies can create an employee experience that leads to higher employee engagement and retention.

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Putting it all together: Inspiration and alignment

The presence of all four pillars in your organization leads to the Holy Grail of employee experience: a workforce that is both inspired and aligned. Here’s what that looks like on a practical level:

Employee experience basics: An inspired workforce

Inspiration is when employees have the desire to achieve at their highest levels. A simple way to sum up inspiration: Are your employees thrilled to come to work, and proud of what they, and you, do?

Organizations know their people are inspired when:

  • Employees feel bought into the company mission
  • Change takes place in a positive, effective manner
  • Employees find meaning in their work
  • There is high participation in company and HR programs
  • Employees feel psychologically safe
  • Employees feel appreciated and recognized for their work

You’ll notice a sprinkling of all four pillars of the employee experience in there, with a special emphasis on connection and appreciation. So, let’s look at the flip side:

Employee experience basics: An aligned workforce

Alignment is when everyone in the organization — from top to bottom — shares and works towards goals and a common vision and purpose. Alignment is the hallmark of highly productive companies. Another way to think of it is: Is your company an optimally functioning, well oiled machine?

Organizations know their people are aligned when:

  • Employees collaborate with each other across branches, departments, and age groups
  • Communication flows freely and efficiently between departments and locations, and from HQ to remote workers
  • Leaders and colleagues exchange frequent feedback on performance
  • Employees feel equipped to excel in their work with effective policies, processes, and technologies
  • There is a positive perception of leadership and management
  • Employees clearly understand how their day-to-day work furthers team and company goals

Again, all four pillars are present here, with a special emphasis on performance and growth.

Balancing inspiration and alignment

Now the trick is to make sure all four pillars are present in equal measure, creating a workforce that is both inspired and aligned. Depending on how your organization is balanced, you’ll land in one of these four categories:

We go into greater depth about this in our Thrive Index, so check it out to learn more about the four company types. You can even find out where your own company lands on the Thrive Index by taking our 21-question Employee Experience Assessment. (It’s free!)

Whether you land in Surviving, Off-Course, or the Bare Minimum, or your company is already Thriving, we’ll give you tailored tips to get your inspiration and alignment balance on track and create an amazing employee experience. (Plus, you can plug your assessment results into our Employee Experience Impact Calculator to calculate the ROI of your company’s employee experience.)

Assess the state of your employee experience
The Thrive Index: Employee Experience Assessment

Kazoo Employee Experience Thrive Index feat image -- white text over a red checkmark on purple background

Why invest in the employee experience? A business case

Creating a thriving workforce by investing in the four pillars of the employee experience isn’t just good for your employees — it’s also good for your business.

Graphic representing statistics related to employee engagement and the employee experience

Improving your employee experience delivers more engaged employees. And employee engagement is a top contributing factor to high-performing cultures and an undeniable producer of productivity and payback.

So, want to learn how much your company could save by investing in EX? Check out our Employee Experience Impact Calculator.

Your employee experience: Next steps

The future state of your company’s performance — and the performance of all companies grappling with their employee experience — hinges on which side of the revolution you support.

So, will you defend decades-old attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs that discount the emotional experience of employees? Or will you lead your company into the future by creating a culture where people feel they belong, their performance has meaning, their efforts are appreciated, and their opportunities for growth are unlimited?

And if you’re interested in the latter, let’s talk.

Because at Kazoo, we’re passionate about bringing together all the tools you need to make work work better for everyone. That’s why the Kazoo Employee Experience Platform brings performance management and recognition and rewards — including Goals, Feedback, Conversations, Recognition, Incentives, and more — into one simple, easy-to-use platform.

If you’re ready to align, connect, and engage your workplace, check out our Kazoo overview. Or, schedule a personalized demo today.

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