Posted by EmployeeChannel on 8.31.2016
Short of replacing Human Resources with an Employee Experience department, how can HR leaders better serve a contemporary workforce?
Monumental changes in the world of work, including the explosion of cloud and mobile technology and the rise of a highly connected, mission-oriented workforce that doesn’t shy away from job hopping and career experimentation, have demanded massive strategic shifts from HR.
Companies like Airbnb have abandoned the title “Human Resources” in favor of “Employee Experience,” a name they consider more aligned with the department’s most critical business function. These organizations focus on strategies and programs that drive employee engagement, empowerment, and enjoyment, and reap the rewards of higher employee approval ratings, lower turnover, and ultimately, greater profit margins.
These organizations understand that administrative, process-oriented HR functions must be overhauled by more strategic, people-focused responsibilities. Employees must look to HR as a resource and an agent of engagement and company culture.
It is time for HR to adapt to a new world of work driven by employee experience.
It’s easy for us to look to the world’s most progressive and influential organizations for employee experience inspiration, but back in the real world, change often happens slowly. HR’s shift from process-driven to experience-driven can be a struggle to implement, but is critical for the department’s sustainability.
After a two-year inquiry involving CHROs, CEOs, and other thought leaders, John Boudreau, Research Director at the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, cautioned SHRM's senior leaders that the HR profession “is in danger of simply not being relevant to the demands that are going to be there for it and the opportunities that are going to be there for it.”
Where there's a problem, there is opportunity, and there are great opportunities for HR leaders willing to evolve.
Short of restructuring (or renaming!) your HR department, what can HR do to better serve the demands and expectations of a modern workforce and become a more effective business unit?
Giving employees the resources they need to be more productive, to engage meaningfully with the organization and their peers, and to develop in their careers will go far in demonstrating the company’s commitment to their future and wellbeing. Your company will also become an all-around better place to work.
Nitro, another company to recently adopt an Employee Experience department, has centered the EX function around three pillars, "categorized in relation to employee wellbeing and satisfaction on a scale ranging from must-have (the fundamentals), to important (the fringe), to nice-to-have (the fun).”
COO Gina O’Reilly argues that while the fundamentals cover the basics like a competitive salary and health benefits, the other pillars are just as important, and provide employees with resources and perks vital “to the ongoing personal and professional growth of each employee.”
Programs in these categories may include continuous learning, career development, corporate volunteering, hosted lunches, and regular company social gatherings. We would also add tech to this mix, and emphasize that easy-to-use, employee-focused technology offerings will go far in aiding employee productivity, growth, and satisfaction on the job.
By providing a mix of must-have, important, and nice-to-have incentives, your employees will be more engaged and more personally fulfilled.
Traditionally, the HR function adopted technology and processes that supported the needs of HR, focusing on enhancing departmental efficiencies over any concept of improving employee experience.
We’re now seeing an explosion in the adoption of employee-focused technology—tools designed first and foremost to support and delight employees, but that also help streamline HR processes. The rise of mobile employee apps is one such example.
HR thought leader Steve Boese writes that HR tech “solutions must meet, or even exceed, popular consumer technologies in terms of layout, appearance, ease of understanding, and "time to value", i.e., the length of time it takes to provide value to users.” If employees don’t see the value or easily understand the solution, they won’t willingly use it, and they’ll probably be irritated you even offered it to them. Employee-facing tools should be optimized for the employee experience.
When HR provides a tool for employee use, that tool is operating as an extension of your department. Make it contemporary, make it easy-to-use, and make it instantly valuable.
Every HR process that can be automated should be. As we all know, the days of requesting and filing PTO by paper, for example, are long over. Automating these administrative processes will delight employees and free up HR’s time to focus on more strategic initiatives.
There’s a place for automation in employee communication as well. In a survey we conducted earlier this year, over 90% of HR leaders indicated that employees still opt to email or call HR when they have a question or need information. HR professionals spend an astonishing amount of time fielding employee requests and questions, which often prevents them from pursing other initiatives.
While we don’t advocate a complete removal of the human element from employee communication, even the most hands-on department can’t be available to employees 24/7. Tools that provide anytime, anywhere access to information and a robust self-service focus will help automate and streamline HR communications.
While employee engagement covers an extremely wide range of topics, let’s focus on just one: communication.
Communication channels are constantly evolving. Apart from in-person, face-to-face connections, we rely on an ever-changing variety of technologies to communicate with colleagues, friends, and loved ones. If employers can engage with their employees using popular communication channels, engagement efforts will have far greater success.
We surveyed full-time employees across the U.S. and learned that a staggering 87% would use a mobile app for employee communications if provided one. Employees want to connect and engage via the channels most comfortable and accessible to them, and those channels are currently tied to mobile technology.
The rise of HR tech doesn’t mean we should disregard the human connection. In fact, quite the opposite is true—personal connection is at the heart of engagement and may be the most influential element in the battle for the hearts and minds of top talent. All other factors being equal (salary, benefits, advancement opportunities, etc.), an employee will choose to work for a company where she has developed a meaningful emotional investment.
This kind of emotional fulfillment originates in a substantial degree with genuine human connection, and an engaged, truly employee-focused HR function is prime for this role.
The demands and opportunities for HR are changing quickly and HR departments risk obsolescence or outsourcing if they can’t evolve to better serve the needs of employees.
Helping employees to be more productive in their work, more fulfilled at the office, and more comfortable engaging with HR, the organization, and their peers will initiate a foundational shift in the department’s focus from process-driven to people-driven.
Be a champion for employee experience and watch your employees, your department, and your company flourish.
Look no further than the EmployeeChannel app for mobile solution that provides a direct channel between your organization and employees, puts personal and professional information at your employees' fingertips in their moment of need, and revolutionizes the employee experience.