I attended the HR Tech World conference in Amsterdam (which has rebranded to UNLEASH) last month. The logical consequence of the trends observed during the latest editions in Paris in October 2016 and London in March 2017, employee experience emerged in the shows as a major issue, hoping the idea will be less oversold.
I’m writing a series of reflections about my takes but, before all, and I’d like to summarize the cases, the insights from analysts, and what I learned from vendors in order to frame what employee experience consists of. As a matter of fact, if everyone defined what employee experience is and that employee experience matters, not everyone would not be in total agreement. Regardless, we can find visions that range from well-being to more productivity-oriented approaches (the two not being incompatible).
We can say that employee experience is built on 4 cornerstones.
1) The journey
It may sound obvious but the employee journey is the key cornerstone of employee experience. How can one manage the many touchpoints between the employee and the enterprise if they are not listed and positioned along a journey?
The very notion of a journey reminds us that consistency and seamlessness are mandatory as employees are moving along the journey while they currently experience a series of jolts being moved from one box to another. It comes with a consequence: there are people and functions within the HR department (and above all outside of HR) that never used to talk to each other; that never shared information or data the one another. In order to overcome this for a positive experience, there will have to be learning and collaborating across silos.
2) The business
Employee experience must serve the business, otherwise, it’s useless. Of course, this can be achieved directly or indirectly by serving a business function, HR, and employees, but that’s the ultimate purpose.
As Josh Bersin reminded us, while the focus has been put on the transactional side for a long time, the new step is to make work life more engaging and productive. The engagement aspect tends to be already in mind and is being worked on it. The productive aspect was never done because each and every corporate initiative used to generate more complications than solutions on the employee side.
What will ultimately result, still according to Bersin, is the emergence of a new kind of “People Management” applications that will be more focused on work and not only on talents and performance measurements as done today. We’re moving from people management to people enablement.
Another session I attended at the show did not focus on chatbots but workbots. The purpose is not to converse with an app but to have an impact on operations.
3) The interface
Employee experience is mostly delivered by people (don’t forget that the main touchpoint between an employee and the company is human: managers and people) but most of these interactions happen through interfaces. Regarding this point, we’re clearly witnessing a revolution happening in the way employees interact with all the systems available to them. Just remember that, except when related to management, these interactions are through a human using software, which makes very little sense in a world that will eventually become “self-service”.
Like on the consumer side, chatbots are a hot topic for HR, but beyond that, there’s a larger trend about “natural” interfaces that focus on more human-like interactions. No matter if it’s a person or a machine hiding behind the system, the interaction will be natural, conversational and humanized.
I’ve been writing about enterprise consumerization for more than a year and I’ve seen many speakers mentioning the concept on stage this year. Globally speaking, employees are consumers that will consume services made available to them in the same way and with the same expectations like in their personal lives.
The most obvious example is learning, where findability, content consumption, personalization and individualization of journeys are essential. The times where employees had to find their way in a huge catalog where they could not find what they needed but technically perfect from an HR administration perspective are over.
We can also mention HR marketing and hiring processes that are getting closer to the good old sales funnel with concepts like experience and conversation. The truth is that if today’s e-commerce websites and journeys were designed like recruitment websites, most e-merchants would be bankrupt. This situation can’t last since candidates now give their preference to enterprises offering them the best experience.
Forget data, chatbots etc…at least for the time being
You may have noticed that I mentioned a couple of technologies as examples, but I did not elaborate much on matters like robots and data that were in every conversation and presentation at the conference. Why? They’re a means to an end, not an end by themselves.
Start your employee experience project with a data or chatbot project and you can be sure you will be off topic. Use them to serve a vision and then you’ll bring value to employees, to the business, and eventually to the client.
Passionate about all things Future of Work? Catch an UNLEASH show in 2018 to learn more about where the industry is headed:
UNLEASH London 2018, ExCel London, 20-21 March 2018
UNLEASH America 2018, The Aria Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, 15-16 May 2018
UNLEASH Amsterdam 2018, Amsterdam RAI, 23-24 October 2018