Jim Steinlage, President & CEO of Choice Solutions,
Do you ever think about how a successful user experience is related to software adoption, employee satisfaction, and retention rates? Most companies don’t, but that’s changing.
If you’re like most businesses, you compete primarily on the basis of customer experience. But the truth is that everything an employee experiences through his or her involvement with your organization affects your ability to compete as well. User experience is usually perceived as the province of IT, but today, ensuring HR processes are user-friendly as well is a must.
HR has always been—and still is—about putting people at the heart of the matter. In a world where that heart now relies heavily on digital, HR and IT must collaborate like never before to create a culture that not only attracts top talent, but makes the entire employee experience a rewarding one.
What is EX?
Let’s start with what EX isn’t. It’s not about perks that make employment more fun, though they’re always appreciated. It doesn’t involve branding or treating employees like you do your customers. It isn’t about employee engagement either, though that is the end goal.
Most importantly, merely improving HR functions themselves is also not enough. Recruiting, on-boarding, and reviews are as critical as ever, but EX involves much more, including processes that have usually fallen to other departments, including IT.
So, what exactly is EX? It’s creating a culture where employees feel excited about what they do and who they work for.
Why is EX important?
Today, all employees are digital employees. Their data-driven experiences as consumers has created high expectations of every activity they engage in, including their work experience.
Several factors have elevated EX as a top organizational priority.
- Companies in a wide range of industries are experiencing a war for top-tier talent. From high-tech to retail, it’s getting difficult for many organizations to attract and retain employees in a traditional setting. And the skills shortage remains an ever-present challenge. Offering a superior EX can give you a competitive advantage in not only attracting candidates but engaging them in innovative ways that instill a desire to stay with the organization.
- Websites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn have made it much easier for potential candidates to learn about the daily EX at a particular company. Your brand can no longer hide behind carefully orchestrated campaigns or rely on outside recruiters to “sell” what you offer. Just as customers surf the web for reviews and to comparison shop, potential employees use these sites to “shop” among likely employers. Only when they find the ones that are offering the EX they’re looking for are they motivated to proceed with applying and interviewing for a position.
- The latest human capital trends report from Deloitte points to a new social contract emerging between employer and employees. For example, where stability once ruled, the latest tendency is to change jobs more frequently. It falls to employers to provide an EX that gives employees the tools they need to manage their careers and move between departments and positions more quickly. Efforts must focus around the different needs and expectations that each employee has.
For HR, this means attracting, nurturing, and retaining employees by creating a culture where the lines between work and personal lives are blurred. And it requires adjusting an entrenched mindset of the role HR plays and finding ways to deliver the smart, modern experiences employees want.
In short, it falls to CHROs and other management to change long-established HR approaches to ones that emphasize personalization, flexibility, socialization, and analytics.
Often called design thinking, personalization means focusing on the individual and their experience, not the process. Instead of writing handbooks that lay down the law, personalization looks at how HR can tailor employee experiences to make them feel valued and ensure they receive the most relevant information for their role, while at the same time avoid putting them through a cookie-cutter system that wastes their time and feeds their frustration.
Brands like IBM, Apple, and Nike have experienced significant results with design thinking, often outperforming their competitors two to one. While design thinking has typically been associated with product development, it can be especially useful in HR. How? By bringing the “human” factor back into HR.
By integrating existing or developing new technologies, HR departments can transform from traditional process-oriented models to individual-oriented ones that focus on tailormade solutions for each employee.
Whether it’s increasing the convenience of HR services or keeping current with industry changes, HR and IT must work together to create a talent development, acquisition, and retention strategy that reflects innovative ideas that support competitiveness and growth.
Today, employees are looking for a career and a better life in the workforce. They want jobs that have a future and purpose, offer learning opportunities, experimentation, career movement, and flexibility.
One of the main enablers of a flexible work experience is, of course, tech. Mobile devices let employees access files and desktops remotely through cloud applications. And voice and video apps make staying in touch with leadership and peers simple. These modern demands are pushing organizations to put more into their overall employment package that emphasizes individual needs while encouraging buy-in to the company’s culture.
It’s important to remember though, while it may be digital that is transforming the workplace, the human element will always be essential to growth and success. Does that mean caving in to every request by every employee? No, but it does mean granting management more discretion in how they use technology to empower and satisfy their talent’s unique needs.
In the past, socializing was part of the onboarding process that familiarized new employees with an organization’s culture. Today, the term has a broader meaning, including digitizing the employee experience.
For younger workers, social media is their preferred communication method. It makes sense, then, to provide a social platform that allows them to engage with management and their peers, maintain a constant dialogue with management, offer feedback, and receive reinforcement.
An in-house social platform lets employees share their achievements and experiences while learning from other employees. It builds a sense of online community and helps forge connections between departments, something that’s vital in today’s more fluid workplace.
Outside social media can also have an impact in the recruitment process. For instance, putting your organization’s best face forward on major and niche social platforms is a critical tool for attracting and recruiting top talent, including passive candidates.
Key to creating personalized experiences is people data. Together, IT’s tools and HR’s understanding of personnel can reveal new avenues for talent acquisition, engagement and retention.
Comprehensive data analysis gives you the insight you need to give employees the truly personal experiences they crave. You can also track social results, give and receive feedback, and identify development and growth opportunities.
Using people analytics not only assists in improving the employee experience, it helps you retain only the relevant processes and use them to create a seamless process that brings real value to employees and your brand.
Finally, analytics gives you the ability to look at each team member as a real person with singular ideas, aspirations, accomplishments, and challenges. When you understand who an employee is you’re better able to support their individual needs and nurture their specific talents. And letting employees bring their voice to the table when making decisions about company priorities and goals not only streamlines collaboration, but also lets them know they are valued and empowered.
The results EX produces
Organizations that prioritize EX have discovered it has a positive impact on business performance:
- Employees are motivated through regular coaching and feedback to do more purposeful work for greater, more meaningful rewards and recognition.
- Empowered teams make better decisions and find user-friendly ways of working and incorporating HR processes.
- A positive workplace environment translates into a company culture that attracts and retains engaged talent.
Companies that invest in EX are also included nearly 12x as often in Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work,” twice as often on Forbes’s list of the world’s most innovative companies, over 4x as often on LinkedIn’s list of North America’s most in-demand employers, and almost 30x more often listed on Fast Company’s most innovative companies.
Perhaps most importantly, organizations dedicated to improving EX have up to 4x the average profit and more than 2x the average revenue than companies that don’t.
How IT can help HR meet user expectations
Knowing how employees feel and promoting a culture of feedback helps increase efficiency, productivity, and employee satisfaction.
Buy-in to new HR technology from IT, leaders, and employees is critical for success. That means the HR and IT strategies must be aligned. Part of the problem may be that, traditionally, IT professionals have lacked the working HR knowledge to effectively configure HR apps.
While it’s the role of HR to champion the cause of the employee, it’s the responsibility of IT to look for and develop automation tools and technology that better equip HR to be more flexible, scalable, and predictable when meeting employee demands and expectations.
Working with HR, IT can help develop systems and software that meet employee needs.
For example, we know that one of the most consistent expectations of today’s employee is the freedom and ability to control one’s time. Enabling flexible work schedules can provide that, but it requires more than an internet connection. A solution, then, might be enterprise-grade video collaboration so that employees are just a click away from face-to-face meetings.
Training and development is another area where IT can help HR tap into the very best in each and every employee. Using the data gathered from HR leadership and employees to see what changes would improve their lives, targeted learning courses can be developed that help retain key talent.
Now is the time for IT to assist HR in finding ways to take the massive amount of data at their disposal and turn it into something of value: information that’s used to create individual employee experiences.
The Bottom Line
Companies can use EX to increase employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention as well as brand equity, competitive advantage, and sustainable growth.
For brands that want to integrate a modern, digital-driven EX, HR and IT will need to collaborate to create a workplace that attracts a diverse range of talent and provides an inclusive, flexible environment in which employees are respected, nurtured, and valued for their individuality.