A friend who works for a financial institution recently confessed something to me. No, it wasn’t embezzlement. She admitted there were times in the pre-pandemic days when she would tell people that she was on an airplane traveling for work when she wasn’t. It wasn’t because she wanted them to think she was a jet setter. It was so she could work undisturbed when she really needed to focus. To be more effective at her job, there were times when she needed to unplug from it.
As HR professionals, we’re well aware of the importance of the employee experience and its impact on effectiveness. Beyond a loss of smell or taste, it seems one of the side effects of COVID-19 is that it has affected that experience by upsetting our work-life balance. Now, many of us are working from home, and we’re expected to be available 24x7 to answer calls, emails, Slack messages, and more. My friend’s airplane excuse would – if you pardon the pun – no longer fly.
Over the last decade or so, employee expectations have been moving faster than the ability of many HR organizations to respond. The impact of COVID-19 in the workplace has only exasperated these issues.
These rapidly growing expectations have been shaped by our digital experiences as consumers. We shop online, bank online, book travel, etc. – all with incredible ease. These experiences create expectations about what we should be able to do as an employee – as a customer of HR. Yet for many, the employee experience feels like it’s at least a decade behind. As a colleague of mine once put it: at home we’re the Jetsons but at work we’re the Flintstones. Now that so many of us are doing everything from home, the contrast couldn’t be starker.
It’s not for lack of technologies. There’s been so much technology available over the last decade or so, that it’s difficult to find an HR organization that doesn’t have at least several of them. They may have started with a core solution, then bolted on something to handle recruiting, another to help with learning, another to take care of provisioning new equipment, and so on.
But the siloes don’t stop there. They often extend down to the individual transactions employees have with HR. They have one way to change their address, another to request or approve time off, still another to adjust a 401(k) withholding, etc. – each with a different user interface, many with completely different channels of engagement.
Together, these solutions may indeed check most or even all of the boxes for employee interactions with HR. But the “bolted together” combination often creates a new problem: a fragmented, confusing and difficult to navigate experience for employees. If there’s a common failure in HR, it’s that when it appears that all the boxes are checked, many don’t step back and look holistically at the entire experience.
And so our advice is: Stop focusing on the technology and start focusing on the experience.
Consider something as simple as enabling employees to change their address. HR organizations often turn to technology to automate such transactions, then mold processes around it, which then create the final experience for employees.
But rarely does a change of address occur in isolation. Employees change their address because they’ve moved. And that change can have broad effects on everything from taxes to keycard access. It may mean an entirely different set of colleagues they’ve never met, which can be stressful for even the most social person. If we’re considering the entire experience, wouldn’t it be nice if we could help them get know their new office mates?
Starting with the transaction is entirely backwards. To create a consumer-grade experience, we must start with the complete experience, not end up with it. We need to understand employee needs, and where and how they work – their “natural spaces” and the “natural flow” of work. Our goal should be to design experiences that integrate seamlessly with that flow to serve their needs – frictionless experiences. If you’re already on Slack, for example, wouldn’t it be great if you could approve an employee’s request for time off by responding to a Slack message?
Moments that matter
This starts by examining the moments that matter most to employees: onboarding, career development, performance reviews, relocating, and other life-changing events such as getting married or having a child.
You must also take into account that employees are not a monolithic block. Digital experiences must be designed for distinct personas across the enterprise, which consider not just their job or role, but also where they are in their career and in life. Putting these personas at the center of design, we can identify the services, channels and technologies required to deliver more personalized and consumer-grade experiences for each of these moments, creating a seamless, frictionless journey for each individual employee – and ultimately, increase their effectiveness.
Thankfully, there’s a new generation of HR tools designed to help with this task, including the recently released Oracle Journeys. They can help you identify those personas and develop personalized, cross-functional employee experience journeys – all within a unified delivery model.