employee working in a warehouse

Employee experience management: creating positive workspaces from acquisition to retention

August 3, 2021

A holistic approach towards employee experience does not start with the onboarding process nor does it finish with the offboarding process. Instead it actually starts with attracting your employees - the candidate experience - and possibly ends with re-engaging your alumni - alumni experience. Employee experience involves a broad and extremely varied range of many different areas and levels of employee journeys and each of these journeys deserves dedicated attention.

Looking into your organization, you will likely already find many ongoing projects that are distributed across teams and departments. However, these are often overlapping, forgotten and/or simply missing the connection to the bigger picture of your employee experience. Without seeing the big picture it can be difficult to track the outcome of a particular employee experience initiative (Are you fixing the right pain points?), provide standardized employee experiences across teams (What do employees in other teams experience?) and prove the value of employee experience to management (What are the business outcomes related to employee experience?).

This article will provide you with some answers to common questions and pain points when scaling and working on employee experience, especially within larger organizations. It will also guide you on the best approach to bring employee experience to life.

What is employee experience management?

Employee experience management is the strategic approach and practices used by organizations to enhance and optimize the overall employee experience. It involves designing and implementing initiatives, policies, and processes that focus on improving various aspects of the employee journey, from recruitment and onboarding to development, engagement, and offboarding.

Employee experience management recognizes that a positive and fulfilling work experience contributes to higher levels of employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity. It involves understanding and meeting the needs, expectations, and aspirations of employees, and aligning them with the goals and values of the organization.

Some questions that are commonly faced by teams engaging in employee experience:

  • How can you pay attention to a multitude of different journeys and keep track of all projects?
  • How can you ensure your initiatives solve the right problems?
  • How can you make the success of your initiatives more visible to management?
  • How can you ensure a standardized employee experience across teams?

By actively managing and investing in employee experience, organizations aim to create a positive and engaging work environment that attracts and retains top talent, fosters high levels of employee satisfaction and commitment, and drives organizational success.

What is employee journey management?

Employee journey mapping and management involves understanding the various touchpoints and interactions employees have with the organization throughout their employment and identifying opportunities for improvement and enhancement.

The employee journey typically includes the following stages:

  1. Recruitment and Onboarding
  2. Development and Training
  3. Performance Management
  4. Career Growth and Progression
  5. Recognition and Rewards
  6. Employee Well-being and Support
  7. Offboarding

Effective employee journey management involves understanding the needs, expectations, and preferences of employees at each stage and tailoring strategies and actively managing all experiences accordingly, creating an engaging and fulfilling employee experience throughout the employee's time with the organization.

How to manage employee experience?

This is the sequetiel of our employee journey mapping basics; Now let's look at how to take the next step and manage all initiatives that result from the mapping insights.

1. Build a high level employee journey map

Start with getting an overview of what experiences your employees are going through and building this into a high level journey map. The high level journey map should involve the main phases of the employee journey and should not yet get caught up into too much detail. Start for example with the step of attracting your future employees, followed by the application process and the job offer. Your employees might then step into the onboarding phase, followed by their professional development, their compensation or rewards, the team’s internal communication and feedback culture etc. At this point you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There is a lot of literature on employee engagement, employee life cycle and other tools out there that you can easily use as a help to start with.

While you continue mapping your employee experience, make sure to constantly iterate and feed your map with real research insights. Use terms that represent your employee’s experience rather than your managing experience, e.g. instead of ‘recruiting’, use ‘application’. This helps you focus on your employees’ needs first.

employee journey map created in smaply showing the high-level journey of an employee
High-level journey of an employee
(click to expand)

2. Zoom in on pain points and build sub-journeys

To fill your high level journey with more information, dig deeper into your employees’ pain points and zoom in on one particular step. Zooming in on a step means building sub-journeys that are more detailed and might differentiate on the specificity and time frame. For example, when you zoom in on the application step, you can build a sub-journey of the online application process, of the test assignment or the interview for example. Depending on the granularity you would like to map you can even zoom in and build a journey for a very specific step such as the first assignment of the assessment center. With each step you are able to zoom in, and out to view your journey map at different scales. However, keep your capacity in mind and prioritize your journey maps along your employees’ most crucial pain points and start digging there.

employee journey map created in smaply visualizing the experience of an employee in the application phase
Experience of an employee in the application phase
(click to expand)

3. Visualize a hierarchy

Now that you have your first maps with different zoom levels, it’s time to create a journey map hierarchy so you can keep an overview of your employee experience projects and simultaneously trace back certain insights by focusing on the respective projects / maps.

You can connect them with each other and build a journey map hierarchy by linking all sub-journeys to the specific step of your high level journey. For example, link the “retirement” journey to the step “leave” in your high level journey. If you already have journeys from previous projects or workshops, try to understand on what level they are and arrange them within your hierarchy.

visualize a hierarchy in a journey map through linking the detailed journeys in the highl-level journey
Visualization of a hierarchy in Smaply
(click to expand)

4. Create a management dashboard

Having a journey map hierarchy and using your high level journey as a management dashboard enables you to track your employee experience, your employee’s pain points and relevant projects, all of which can lead to a better clarity of understanding and puts your teams on the same page.

To create an insightful dashboard, come back to your high-level map and fill it with more information such as your employees’ main pain points, ongoing EX projects and KPIs/OKRs. Make sure to always link the information to the relevant sub-journey in order to be able to trace back your insights.

Over time your high level map will grow in value and become an important management dashboard with the centralization of insights, projects and research data.

journey map showing the work day of an employee
Journey map showing the work day of an employee
(click to expand)

5. Assign coordinators

To continuously update your management journey maps with data, break down the work load into small, easily digestible pieces and assign coordinators to them. Having dedicated coordinators and regularly updating your maps will help you and your team keep an overview of new and existing initiatives, outcomes, research data, numbers and goals. Clear roles and responsibilities will also help to avoid overlaps, contradictions and additional work. Basically it will keep your team aligned, making use of existing work and address the right pain points.

The employee experience manager can be responsible for the high level journey map. Workshop maps or project maps that are already finished do not need to be regularly updated. However when starting new projects or journeys, keep connecting and arranging them in your journey map repository.

Visualization of the links to detailed journeys in Smaply.
Links to detailed journeys
(click to expand)

Example project: People life cycle

How to start with employee experience management?

Break down responsibilities

Confronting your team with a huge list of to-dos on top of their daily work load can lead to resistance - justifiably. Make sure to break the work down into smaller pieces and delegate these to multiple teams and team members. This way it can be easily implemented into people's daily work schedules. In the end it should actually reduce their workload, make their work more easeful and provide them with useful information.

Build consistency in levels

While building new journey maps, make sure to build consistent and standardized zoom levels – for example, along the time frame they are visualizing. Some journey maps might visualize a month, some journey maps might visualize a week or just one day. For your high-level maps, for example, rather try to visualize a long term period and continue with shorter time periods for your sub-journeys (detailed-level).  

When you have existing maps from previous projects or workshops, try to understand the zoom level first and then arrange them within your hierarchy.

Avoid assumption-based maps

We can not highlight this enough: Avoid assumption-based maps as much as possible. Instead feed your maps with real data. Starting with an assumption based high level map is a good starting point but make sure to iterate your maps and feed them with real data and input from your employees.


When improving your employee experience there are many things you must consider, each of which are valid and deserving of attention. However when employee experience projects become fragmented and lack ownership the results can be double-ups in work, non-traceable outcomes and inefficiencies. Ultimately, you can end up wasting a lot of time and energy for very little result.

What is required is a well structured approach that is able to be implemented into your daily workflow that is easily updatable and able to coordinate employee experience projects and insights on a range of different scales. Journey maps offer us this opportunity and when arranged into connected hierarchies can become powerful, centralized management dashboards.

Having well structured journey maps allows you and your team to be on the same page, avoid redundant work, communicate more effectively on employee experience issues and standardize your employee experience across teams.

And now, what's next?

Now the best thing is to practice what you've learned: Use Smaply to visualize your own employee journey maps, and create a real journey map repository. A simple wizard will guide you through the process.

Oh yeah, it's free.

Manage your EX with Smaply!