The pandemic changed how organizations think about employee experience, how they connect with their employees and how they navigate work.
“It brought the focus not only on an employee’s own work life, but their families and extended families,” said Srinivasa Bharathy, MD & CEO, Adrenalin eSystems Limited.
The stress and anxiety that employees felt due to the unprecedented circumstances changed how organisations and more specifically HR functions approached work and life. “The primary shift was not just on productivity, but also whether employees are enjoying the work they’re doing,” he added.
Over the past year and a half, the composition of the workforce has also changed. “The term employee is becoming a bit fuzzy,” Bharathy noted. “Today, it could also mean a part-time employee, a contractor or a gig worker from any part of the world operating from any time zone.”
The race to remote work meant that companies had to offer the best of technology products to ease work. To ensure business continuity, companies also needed to find ways to leverage technology to keep employees engaged during an uncertain time.
The shift in technology priorities
The use of technology to boost employee experience is no longer restricted to MNCs. Many SMBs (Small and Medium Businesses) also had to adapt to technology mandates to ease their remote work culture – as companies navigated prolonged lockdowns and uncertain restrictions on non-essential travel.
“In the SMB market in the Asia Pacific region, there’s a huge potential for the growth of HR technology solutions,” said Saravanakkumar SR, Vice President - Global SI & Partners and Business Head - APAC. “Before the pandemic, many companies resorted to using Excel sheets to maintain employee databases and employer reports.” Now, there's a shift towards leveraging digital tools.
The first step for many companies in the SMB segment is to focus on the basics – ensure that there are core technologies that support organisation data and management, and then automate rote processes. More advanced technologies can be geared at building social connect, collaboration and tools to boost learning online.
“User experience has become critical as companies build on technology products that are available on the cloud,” said Asif Mohammed, Senior Vice President & Business Head, Middle East and Africa at Adrenalin eSystems. “Companies are looking at collaboration platforms as an integrated touchpoint with the solution. And that means going beyond transactions and ensuring that there’s learning and collaboration,” he added.
Design technology with empathy
Amid the shifts in the workplace ushered by the pandemic and its impact on technology, there’s a central feature that can help companies that are looking at making a lasting difference – Design Thinking.
“You need to put yourself in the user’s shoes,” said Dr. Ravichandran Kanniappan, Chief Product Officer, “Understand what’s really happening, and when you bring in a collaboration platform where exchange can happen, it can be transformational.”
Despite the ease that technology enables, multiple studies over the last year pointed to an increase in digital fatigue – as the lines between work and life blurred and many employees spent long hours in front of their devices.
“Apart from the need to be empathetic, there’s a need to educate people, to reinforce the idea, that there’s life beyond the digital world,” Bharathy said. “You need proper planning and skills to achieve the outcome at work, and it’s useful to communicate this with employees struggling to find a balance.”
“Empathy ultimately enables trust, and thereby it nurtures a sense of care and bond, and it’s important that there’s a relationship of trust and a bond between employers and employees,” Ravi noted. Policies and processes clearly help deal with increased fatigue.
Early pandemic trends like introducing technology-based workplace trackers etc. have only removed the trust that employees had in the system. And they had to be rolled back.
Among the lasting commitments that companies have made, they’re going to be increasingly focused on access to healthcare – including mental or physical health. And to build the right support mechanisms. From workplace Yoga to introducing counsellors to support employees, there’s far greater interest in supporting overall wellbeing.
The right technology
Choosing the right technology is central to the experience of the company. And in an HR technology market that’s continuing to buzz with new products, there’s a need to take a step back and ask fundamental questions about the company culture and the business needs.
From a technology standpoint, “Organizations need to ask questions on how will the data be maintained? What is the level of data protection? How robust is the system?” Asif noted.
Technologies like Adrenalin Max can boost employee experience by introducing lighter and faster applications, ease API-based integration with other solutions, designing UI and UX based on user journeys, introducing chatbots for deeper employee engagement and analytics for strategic decision making.
Take for example a tool like Social Connect by Adrenalin - it enables employees to do a number of things at once. Not only does it allow employees to share knowledge with their peers, but it also helps create discussion forums, and even streamline organizational goals on a single platform.
There is a need for awareness and information from both the service provider’s point of view as well as the HR standpoint. In order to make the most of the technologies available, both parties need to engage extensively to clearly understand what’s possible and what isn’t.
This article is part of a content partnership with Adrenalin eSystems Limited.