Article: Exploiting technology to enhance employee experience

Employee Relations

Exploiting technology to enhance employee experience

HR leaders are starting to use technology to personalize the design and delivery of HR solutions to improve the employee experience and increase productivity.
Exploiting technology to enhance employee experience

Consumer expectations from companies and brands have changed drastically over the years thanks to the emergence of new technologies consumers are getting to experience today.  The consumers who are also employees expect the same level of experiences in their workplace. 

So much so that In India, technology ranks among the top reasons employees will leave their current role, and join a new company, according to Gartner’s Global Talent Monitor. They expect their employer to provide the latest in modern technologies to help them get the job done. India is the only country in Gartner’s survey where ‘technology level’ consistently appears on both the list of attraction and attrition drivers. This makes it imperative for organizations to find a way to address the needs of modern workers as employees grow increasingly frustrated with workplaces that expect them to work with outdated, slow and complex technology.

New digital innovations are making personalization easier, and HR leaders are looking for ways to use them to engage the technology-enabled workforce. However, despite HR’s current focus on supporting employee needs, Gartner research shows that less than 30 percent of employees agree HR effectively helps them perform better. Faced with these pressures, HR leaders look to modern tactics and external vendors to personalize the design and delivery of HR products and services to meet both employee and business needs.

Gartner research shows that less than 30 percent of employees agree HR effectively helps them perform better

It sounds difficult, but it needn’t be. At its basic level, personalization is a process that creates relevant interactions between two parties based on personal and behavioral data, designed to enhance the experience of an individual.

Why personalize?

Marketing leaders long ago realized the benefits of personalizing the design and delivery of products and services for their consumers. The benefits are similar for HR, allowing HR leaders to:

  • Meet specific employee needs: Different employee segments can receive individualized access to information or HR solutions designed for them. For example, a person applying for paternity/maternity leave has very different expectations to someone applying for standard annual leave or paid time off for a holiday.
  • Deploy effortless experiences: HR can make it easy to nudge specific employee segments to access and consume relevant HR solutions.
  • Increase awareness and adoption: Employees are more likely to pay attention to and use HR solutions that are relevant to them.
  • Drive productivity: Employees have access to simplified experiences and HR processes, reducing time and effort to complete tasks. Organizations need to declutter. Reducing the number of steps involved in reviewing and signing-off on annual leave or expense reports, reducing reporting or automating workflow are just some of the small changes organizations can make to help workers have a productive and satisfying day.
  • Increase engagement: Employees who feel their specific needs are met in their organizations will be more engaged and more likely to stay.

While technology undoubtedly makes it easier to personalize to individuals and groups, there are many challenges for HR leaders, particularly privacy. HR leaders must be wary of sharing or using all the data at their disposal when personalizing HR products and services. For example, personalizing communications around health-related events may spark apprehension rather than comfort for some employees.

Three principles for personalizing HR

As HR leaders start thinking about personalizing HR services, they should follow these three principles as they view and select different technologies to personalize and enhance the employee experience.

1: Prioritize helping over “wowing”

Some employers try to delight their employees through personalization and provide unique experiences to “wow” them. For instance, employees who receive a personalized message from HR on their birthday could experience a moment of delight.

However, it can go too far. For example, one vendor uses employee data to track employee moods and then personalizes messages based on this information. Without understanding why employers are sending these mood updates, employees quickly realize how much data the organization has collected and are more likely to react negatively and be less inclined to use HR solutions.

Personalization of HR solutions is most effective when it helps employees meet specific needs by making the solutions simple, relevant and beneficial. For example, one organization personalizes its learning content to help managers by nudging them to the most relevant training and rewarding them for completion, resulting in improved employee perception of managers. HR leaders should focus on providing valuable assistance or support while using a limited number of data dimensions to balance relevance against privacy concerns.

2: Prioritise personalization of delivery

There are two strategies HR leaders can use when leveraging technology to personalize: personalizing the design of HR’s various offerings or personalizing how those services are delivered. Both methods provide ample benefits. 

Currently, some HR functions personalize the design of their offerings by creating, for example, bespoke benefits platforms, employee development plans or even pay solutions for employees. However, personalizing the design of HR services can be costly and time consuming to build for each employee segment and certainly more difficult for individual employees.

HR leaders should first consider personalizing the delivery of offerings as a more cost-effective solution that still meets employee needs. The delivery of offerings involves how HR solutions are communicated and used within a wide variety of channels. Similar to airplane boarding passes, which can be received via email, text message or printed, HR products and services should also be delivered in ways that make it easier for employees to access and consume them.

3: Humanize the digital experience

When considering what channels to deliver solutions through, HR sometimes eliminates important human interactions in favour of digital experiences. In an attempt to automate transactions aligned with the organization’s digitalization strategies, HR implements new processes (many of which may involve new technologies) that change the way employees work. 

While more employees of all ages want digital experiences, there are still some occasions where people prefer human interactions. For example, when employees must interact with HR due to a sudden short-lived event such as a death in the family, severe weather or a minor injury at work, 42 percent of employees would rather speak with an HR specialist than utilise self-service HR systems.

HR leaders today look to modern tactics and external vendors to personalize the design and delivery of HR products and services to meet both employee and business needs

It’s possible to add a human touch to digital interactions. Digital experiences could mimic human interactions to make employees feel more comfortable and simplify and streamline access to information and completion of tasks. Some organizations are already offering a multitude of channels to connect with employees, such as voice assistants and chatbots. Using machine learning, natural language processing and employees’ individual data, chatbots and VAs can provide genuinely relevant responses (such as information on remaining days of annual leave or the location of requested policies and documents on a company intranet).

HR leaders need to look at new approaches for retaining talent. Start by tailoring HR solutions to different employees’ needs by giving employees the help they need, rather than creating enjoyable experiences. Personalizing the delivery of HR offerings before personalizing their design, and humanizing digital experiences where needed by examining which HR interactions require a human touch.

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Topics: Employee Relations, HR Technology, #FutureIsNow

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