The Employee Experience in 2019
Each month we curate a list of the top trends in the future of work, the employee experience, and the digital workplace.
July’s top 10 news stories come from HR Technologist, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and Entrepreneur. Topics include:
- The importance of mobile-centric strategies in reaching employees
- Prioritizing worker experience over engagement
- Building trust between employee and employer
- The impact of technology on the future of work
In an excerpt from a conversation at the Hacking HR 2020 Summit, Ben Whitter and Conny Kunert reviewed the importance of the employee experience and the ever-evolving nature of the workplace.
Organizations are shifting from corporate-centric practices to a more humanistic approach. Companies are prioritizing improving the employee experience. Senior leaders now think of employees in the same way they think of customers. Just like customers, employees have unique journeys, preferences, and needs. Investing in your workforce can increase engagement, which can have a positive effect on productivity and business.
Sonia Fiorenza, vice president of engagement and communication strategies at SocialChorus, highlights how good technology enables good engagement strategies.
As workforces are increasingly mobile and distributed, HR departments have been forced to do away with legacy systems and adopt mobile-centric strategies to reach all workers. For example, organizations that adopt a company app for their teams will see an increase in employee engagement, higher readership of important company content, and better connections among a large, distributed workforce.
If you want to create a healthy workplace culture, prioritize the worker experience, not employee engagement, says Forbes contributor Naz Beheshti, who writes about mindful leadership and corporate wellness.
Employee experience implies a more holistic approach, focusing on creating meaningful and satisfying jobs. When employees have positive experiences, they will be more productive; higher engagement levels will follow. Action steps include encouraging a work-life balance where work is not in competition with private life, investing in the skills of your workforce, and maintaining trust in management.
When it comes to issues of social justice, ethics, and even political issues, workers are demanding more of their employers. Consider the events of last month, when employees at online home-goods retailer Wayfair protested a furniture order meant to ship to a migrant detention center. And in May, around 7,600 Amazon employees signed a letter pressing for action on climate change.
Company values are now key factors in employee retention and hiring rates. Just as customers wield the power of the purse in where they choose to shop (or not), employees are now choosing to work companies that display values aligned with their own.
How are digital workplace predictions (including one from Alison Murdock, chief marketing officer at SocialChorus) for 2019 shaping up so far?
Digital Workplace trends included the importance of ROI and analytics, redefining the modern workplace, and an improvement in digital workplace technologies. Halfway through the year, these trends have been only partially met. Murdock says it’s too early to know how much of an impact analytics is having on measuring workplace communications (according to a SocialChorus study, 64% of communicators say they don’t have a good way to know whether employees have seen or read their published content). Workplaces continue to shift as more workers are remote or deskless. The adoption of digital workplace tools that positively impact the employee mindset still needs to improve.
The World Bank recently published its World Development Report for 2019 on The Changing Nature of Work. No surprise: The old, nine-to-five approach to the workday is obsolete. Technology is at the center of how we work, and the digital economy has created all kinds of new opportunities for freelancers, gig workers, and remote workers. People also want the personalized, consumer experience to transfer over to their workplace.
The quit rate of employees is at an all-time high. The quit rate, or the rate at which employees voluntarily leave their jobs, is at its highest in 15 years. Which is unsurprising, given that Gallup data also shows that 67% of U.S. employees are disengaged at work. To increase retention, organizations need to prioritize establishing a strong employee experience.
The Harvard Business Review notes that workers who trust their organization are more productive and more satisfied with their jobs. Understanding how much teams trust your organization is critical to improving their experience and connection to the organization. Maintaining constant contact and engaging your employees on a personal level is key to building trust.
Digital technologies are changing the future of work. Decentralized businesses now operate independently of constraints of time, traditional hierarchical structures, and location. Data and analytics now inform the majority of shifts in business practices, and digital natives are running lean, diverse teams. Automation and AI have made certain skills unnecessary or obsolete. While these shifts have increased the flexibility and productivity of organizations, investing in your workforce still needs to be a top priority.
Engagement levels often dip in summer. Yet, workplace flexibility has become the new normal and many employees work remotely. Remote workers pose particular c challenges when it comes to staying engaged during summer months, when the days are longer, people take vacations, and school schedules shift.
Employees expect and are happier when they are able to achieve a better work-life balance. Employers should make sure that telecommuters still feel connected to an organization. It is essential to keep workers in the loop and foster a sense of community in order to keep remote workers motivated at all times of the year.
June’s top 10 news stories are from Forbes, Entrepreneur, The New York Times (NYT), The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), and Harvard Business Review (HBR). The most notable trends include:
- How to promote gender diversity in the workplace
- The importance of a Chief Experience Officer
- How AI can increase the productivity of HR teams
- Improving the digital experience of employees
As the modern workplace continues to change, organizations will begin to prioritize different skill sets. A recent study found that HR leaders reported feeling 57% less prepared than their peers with regard to their ability to operate in a digital environment. Forbes says HR strategy needs to shift towards strategic partnerships in order to lead corporations into the future. By understanding the function of different departments, HR can outline strategic goals and support employee happiness.
Without the assistance of IT, HR would be unable to effectively improve the digital experience of employees. According to Gartner, “By 2022, 75% of organizations will include employee experience improvement as a performance objective for HR and IT groups.” This emphasis on employee experience means technology decisions will continue to play a key role in shaping internal communications.
Employees expect workplace technologies to be as easy to use as those at home. According to The Wall Street Journal, prioritizing the user experience when purchasing and developing IT systems is key to retaining and attracting employees. To understand how employees are using and enjoying your new digital tools, test your new systems and processes, and track their performance.
Actively encouraging and supporting women in the workplace is integral to fostering an inclusive environment. The New York Times emphasizes that business executives must communicate why their companies are a great place for women to work. This often involves elevating women to senior roles and developing policies that allow for flexible working schedules.
Transparency is important in effectively signaling that companies are actively prioritizing gender diversity. Companies can show their workforce matches their promises by collecting and releasing data on hiring practices.
The employee experience often goes overlooked in favor of customer experience. Having a Chief Experience Officer dedicated to attraction, engagement, and retention is vital to ensuring a positive employee experience. Research by Gallup indicates that companies in the top quartile of employee engagement outperformed the bottom quartile by 10% in customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity. Strong leadership in the C-suite is needed in order to align employee experience with customer experience.
As investments in AI continue to grow, companies will begin to prioritize finding innovative solutions to meet HR needs. In a study by Harvard Business Review, companies that give “employees access to consumer-grade technologies” enjoy four times higher profits on average. Key areas for automation include 1) candidate screening processes, 2) training programs, and 3) employee satisfaction surveys.
The right set of tech tools can help keep employees productive and happy. Yet technology can also disconnect employees from interpersonal relationships and collaboration. Beginning with onboarding, automated communications tools can assist in keeping employees connected. Training, through webinars or online classes, is another area in which employers can use technology to their advantage.
What types of workers will the job market of the future demand? To understand the changes AI and emerging technologies will bring to the workplace, first understand the skills of your workforce of today. That way, you can predict the expected output and see where you still need to help employees develop their capabilities. As more jobs begin to be automated, companies can strategically plan for how they are going to meet the changing demand for different workers.
Managers play an integral role in establishing the culture of a company. HBR notes that “approximately two-thirds of managers are either not engaged or actively disengaged in their work and workplace.” In order to encourage a tuned-in workforce, maintain constant communication and stay committed to developing your company culture. Introduce new tools in the workplace to promote these objectives. This will keep your managers engaged.
According to Forbes, AI offers three key benefits: insights, automation, and personalization. Insights can help you gauge employee sentiment and make better decisions about how to keep your workforce engaged. Automation relieves the burden of mundane, repetitive tasks on employees and frees them up to work on more complex, intellectual tasks. Personalization reinforces engagement and helps create a strong company culture. The more you use AI, the more highly developed and enhanced each of these three benefits will be.
May’s 10 top news stories are from Harvard Business Review (HBR), The New York Times (NYT), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), CMSWire, Forbes, and the Financial Times (FT). And the trends include:
- Building culture to retain the best talent
- How CIOs will enable culture change with technology
- The evolution of the digital workplace
- Why new tech will shape the future of work
The Employee’s Digital Experience is Linked to Company Growth, Competitive Position, and Employee Sentiment
According to a new report, there’s a distinct relationship between a positive digital experience for employees and revenue growth, employee sentiment, and competitive position in the market.
The report, conducted by VMware, was based on a global survey of employees, information technology decision makers, and human resources professionals across multiple industries. The report also showed employees are far more likely to recommend their company to potential job candidates and customers if it provides a great digital experience.
A recent survey conducted by Harvard Business School and the Henderson Institute explores the “various forces shaping the nature of work.” According to the report, the following factors will shape the future of work:
- rapid advancements in various technologies,
- growing demand for technical skill,
- changing employee expectations,
- shifting labor demographics,
- transitioning work models, and
- evolving business environment.
The article also provides information on what employers can do to bridge the gap between the perspectives of managers and employees.
According to Forbes, many companies in the United States are looking for ways to “redefine the workplace experience.” Companies are rewiring their approach toward advancement, retention, and talent acquisition. The article lists examples of companies that are developing shared value through different workforce practices such as McDonald’s, Tyson Foods, and Gap, Inc.
San Francisco-based startup Scoutible is using its own pioneering artificial intelligence-based gaming software to improve its hiring practices and employee retention rates.
As The Wall Street Journal explains, there are limits to conventional recruiting practices s and AI can potentially bypass those issues. Through the use of Scoutible’s gaming solution, companies can evaluate an individual’s future performance through certain psychological attributes, personality, and soft cognitive abilities.
CMSWire lists the factors driving enterprises and constantly shifting the digital workplace. The factors include the implementation of artificial intelligence in enterprise platforms, centralized communications, managing data problems, and the technological means of connecting people with their work.
More and more CIOs believe culture can enhance digital transformation rather than pose as a barrier, according to Gartner. A new survey revealed that 25% of CIOs “perceive culture as an enabler” while 64% consider culture to be a barrier. Gartner analysts predict CIOs will be just as responsible as HR officers for culture change by 2021.
Companies across multiple industries are using new technologies to improve overall productivity, motivate employees, and assist HR professionals with various tasks. Many companies are currently adopting software platforms to enhance employee experience in terms of engagement. Along with employee experience platforms, the article also explains the future of artificial intelligence and the importance of workforce data analytics.
Want better overall performance at your company? Try developing a fulfilling and meaningful work environment for your employees. Companies that operate in competitive industries such as natural products and technology are fostering leadership that is both caring and kind and enjoying greater revenue success as a result. The article explains the importance of living core values, nurturing authentic value for employees, developing employee skill sets, and building culture to retain good employees.
According to the Financial Times, governments of various countries, including the United States, are working toward helping low-skilled workers retain their jobs during the “age of automation.” The advancements made in artificial intelligence will impact the future of people’s careers and jobs. The article explains the various factors to support future changes in the workplace, such as employment protection initiatives and reforms.
Often digital transformations can be hindered by a “mindset gap” in a company. To compete in the digital economy, enterprises have to overcome various blind spots and embrace the technological effects of networks and platforms. The article provides five insights, including—
- “technology changes faster than organizations do,”
- “a mindset gap can hamper digital transformation,”,
- “digital savvy leads the way,”
- “consumers can be digital innovators, too,” and
- “digital brings both promise and pitfalls.”
(In case you missed it, here are some recent posts: Your Employee Experience Roundup: Virtual Assistants, the Rise of Gen Z Workers, and Automation for HR and Top 10 Employee Experience Strategy Trends in December)
Deloitte Insights dives into the evolution of workforce dimensions, addressing three key questions:
- Who can do the work?
- What work can be automated?
- Where is the work done?
The article explores the “talent spectrum,” which encompasses a variety of worker types and arrangements, including full-time employees, contractors, freelancers, gig workers, and others. It evaluates how work can be automated with smart machines, such as robotics and AI technologies, and explores how shifts in physical workspaces might impact company culture and employee engagement.
Currently, Lyft has 1.4 million drivers who earn, on average, $17.50 per hour with no benefits or organizing power. They’re also not considered full-time employees by Lyft. This is also the case at rapidly growing companies like Uber and Postmates. What does this mean for the U.S. workforce? In the latest edition of Marketplace’s “Make Me Smart with Kay and Molly,” hosts Molly Wood and Kai Ryssdal speak with Kristin Sharp, executive director of the Shift Commission at New America, a nonpartisan think tank. They discuss how the gig economy app will affect workers. Will this new model of work replace jobs as we know it?
The emergence of technologies, such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have reshaped the workforce space. CMSWire describes five trends that will shape the future of work:
- Automation in service work
- Work location becoming neutral as a result of aggravated skill shortages
- Symbiotic man and machines
- Right data, right systems
- Contextual and conversational tools
According to The Wall Street Journal, the gig economy is the perfect solution for finding and retaining tech workers with specialized skills—GigTech workers—especially considering there’s currently a big gap between demand and supply in the U.S. when it comes to finding workers who can handle jobs related to cloud, data science, AI, deep learning, and more. Although GigTech work is still in its early stages, some key structural factors will advance this model to the next phase.
Employees expect easy and quick access to helpful technology tools that will help them collaborate effectively with their colleagues, according to a recent CMSWire article. Businesses are embracing trends old and new, including bring your own device (BYOD), the internet of things (IoT) and indoor location-based services (LBS), as well as optimizing existing business applications, all in an effort to improve workforce engagement and the employee experience.
According to a new HR Dive article, in order to retain skilled talents, HR must embrace emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, and HR chatbots. These solutions are flourishing, and new automation is being used to improve operational efficiency and employee experience. Also, many organizations are slowly adopting SaaS (software as a service) solutions, which can improve employee engagement, provide access to best practices and innovation, reduce HR administration costs, and improve the employee experience.
CMSWire writes about the new trends in designing the employee experience, which are:
- learning by doing, and
- holistic thinking.
It also provides an element in designing employee experience programs such as “overall set of employee perceptions, a collection of environmental factors (cultural, technical, and physical) and a broadening of traditional HR functions.”
Daniel Newman writes in Forbes about how technology trends are driving the digital transformation of supply chain, specifically in the food supply. He argues we must deconstruct the concept of the food chain the same way we’ve deconstructed the concept of the customer experience. The trends affecting food chain and supply include digital twinning, blockchain, and data and microbiology. Newman also gives insight into trends in the digital transformation of the supply chain in other industries.
Organizations must foster innovation to drive digital transformation rather than buying and building digital talent, according to Gartner. Organizations are innovating to remain competitive in two ways: improving existing products and services and creating new products and services. “When HR can improve the innovative effectiveness of the organization, annual revenue can increase by as much as $8,800 per employee,” states Gartner. AI, smart workspaces, and talent markets “will boost employee digital dexterity in future digital workplaces.” Emerging technologies, such as AI, IoT, and augmented analytics will be the greatest source of competitive advantage for 30% of organizations.
According to Forbes, the makeup of company workforces has shifted. Many companies no longer just have full-time employees; now, they employ a mix of employees who work onsite, a virtual pool of freelancers, and robots. The requisite job skills have also changed; companies now require that employees to be well-versed in “deep business and digital literacy” as well as have the “five C’s” soft skills (critical thinking, cultural fluency, collaboration, communications, and change management). Also, there’s a demand for employees to be creative and innovative.
Automation will become a mainstay of the future workplace; however, it will augment the responsibilities of employees rather than replace them. Furthermore, trends such as continuous learning and new skills development will become very important to employability. In time, four generations will be in the workplace, and this is bound to have an effect on organizations. The rise in demand from employees to work from home will require organizations to develop policies that specifically deal with working from home.
The changing workplace is affecting HR departments. A new Harvard Business Review article offers a few examples of workplace trends driving this change, which include work digitization and a focus on “enterprise creation and inclusive workforce.” HR leaders need to be alert and proactive to assess and understand the impact of digitization on work, especially the way employees will interact and work with digital tools. The article also notes that HR leaders should ensure their organizations are creating an agile work culture, in which employees have a myriad of skills and talents.
Jack Kelly writes in Forbes that the future workplace will be shaped by a few key factors, such as AI, an aging population, and globalization. He predicts that Universal Basic Income (UBI) will become mainstream due to millions of people being displaced by digital tools such as robots, especially older employees. Also, the article concludes that the rapid growth of “global connectedness, “digitization and automation, and other factors will make the future workforce almost unrecognizable.”
Digital transformation has changed how organizations recruit, train, pay, and retain employees, and that change is also reflected in the HR department. An example of this change is how companies now headhunt prospective top talents from social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Companies are also not restricted to face-to-face interviews and are now more predisposed to holding video-based interviews, which, among other benefits, saves time. The article also notes that companies looking for digital savvy employees should look to hire more millennials as they are members of the most digitally-savvy generation. Also, existing employees can be upskilled and trained to learn new tools, so they can also adapt to technological changes.
According to Brent Gleeson in Forbes, technology is transforming company culture through three factors: 1) access to actionable data, 2) transparency and accountability, and 3) personal value. New Cloud-based technologies will inspire employees to ask the right questions and solve problems using accurate data. He also stresses that technology encourages engagement, ownership, and contribution among employees.
One of the features driving digital transformation in the workplace includes the “adoption of Cloud-based software and services with embedded artificial intelligence,” according to Harvard Business Review. By design, these tools make it possible for non-experts to use AI tools, which increases the adoption rate in the workplace because the need for training and retraining is minimal. Two ways in which Cloud services are bringing AI into the mainstream include Cloud-based AI services and embedded AI.
Paul Hagen of CMSWire writes that companies that have happy employees see about 81% happier customers. He offers three ways to focus on employee experience, which will improve the customer experience. The first is to define a higher-level purpose (or “north star”) for your employees. A good example is Patagonia. Not only are they producing warm jackets customers love, but they are also helping the planet. The second is to map the employee journey (much like marketers map the customer journey), and third is to emphasize human-centered change rather than just buying into new technology.
Technology is often the missing puzzle piece to the employee experience. How does your tech stack up? A new Inc. article outlines key ways to implement new technology effectively. Start with recruitment and onboarding. Next, offer flexibility to your employees (like with Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) policies so they can use their own smartphones). Help your employees with financial wellness tools. Finally, technology must connect your employees to each other in order to improve their overall experience.
A new report by Research and Markets says the “convergence of technologies is reshaping the future of the workplace, workforce and work processes.” As such, different technologies with their individual strengths are integrating so as to provide maximum value and benefits to users. The report also notes that digital transformation will be a key competitive advantage in the future.
Top 10 Employee Engagement Trends in the Digital Workplace
What are Human Resources and internal communications professionals talking about early in 2019? So far, we’re seeing articles and blog posts about the following topics.
- Managing digital transformations
- Improving the employee experience
- Digital initiatives (machine learning and automation)
- Engaging with employees the same way we engage with customers
As companies adopt more advanced technology tools, teams, organizations, and working systems will have to change substantially. The HR Trend Institute explains that employee experience will be a big part of that change. In order to improve employee experience, employers must “flip” their mindset and think from the perspective of workers. They will have to look for technology solutions that align with the way employees prefer to work.
The best way to increase productivity in the workplace is to address basic human needs—and that includes our emotional needs. How well do you understand the feelings, beliefs, thoughts, and perceptions that impact both employees and consumers? According to Gallup, the three ways to improve employee experience include: emphasize on the strength of every individual, empower workers by creating an exceptional workplace culture, and create a customer-centric business model.
Every employer undertaking a digital transformation must figure out ways to implement intelligent workflows, adopt platform approaches, and master data that apply to both consumers and employees. Deloitte writes that firms need to understand the “full employee” not only at the professional level but also at the personal. This would help address work-related factors that may lead to decreased engagement levels, undesirable attrition, and lower productivity.
Which factors affect the way we approach employment practices? IE Insights Magazine provides us the following list: new technologies, major shifts in cultural assumptions and attitudes, millennial workers, mobile devices, and globalization. In fact, these factors are having such a strong influence that companies are now having to adapt to how talented employees prefer to work (or decide how work should be done). This is the opposite of the traditional paradigm of companies commanding or expecting workers to work in a particular way, according to a particular set of terms. Both HR and IC professionals will need to adapt to or address these factors in order to remain relevant in a competitive employment environment.
According to Mina Morris of Entrepreneur, some key trends will irreversibly shape the workforce in the coming decades. These trends include how work is delivered include: the workforce has become more “fluid” (with more focus on problem-solving skills rather than transactional skills), increased productivity and efficiency thanks to automation, a higher demand for data, and increased expectations among employees for companies to deliver a well-rounded employee experience (in addition to a paycheck).
Lauren Horwitz of Cisco acknowledges the future workplace will change drastically due to technological innovations. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will disrupt everything from visual presentations, to meeting scheduling, to the co-creation of new ideas. Some of the future trends that would influence the workplace in 2025 include modernization by intelligence, virtual assistant employment marketplaces, and AI displacing human resources.
Employment experts from Columbia Business School Pan Euro Reunion noted that there are three key developments that will impact the future of work. First, AI capabilities will be leveraged to make predictions and suggestions, but this will be aligned with the human capabilities of moral and ethical decision-making and creativity. Recruitment will also likely involve searching for people to fill new job titles, including roles to address change management and international growth. Finally, your company culture (rather than salary or scope of duties) may be the deciding factor when candidates decide whether or not to accept your job offer.
Due to the high priority leaders are placing on digital transformation, the high-tech industry is experiencing rapid growth. Such companies are dealing with a variety of new realities, including increased penetration of AI (related to both machine learning and deep-reinforcement learning), rising adoption of cloud computing, a move towards data-driven decision making, introduction of blockchain, AR, VR, and MR, and increased connection due to Internet of Things (IoT).
Today, digital technology is affordable and ubiquitous, which means many organizations have adopted it without using any business models or adapting to any learning curves, according to Deloitte. To ensure successful integration of tech tools, consider several crucial drivers: connectivity, experience innovation, risks, cybersecurity, real-time data intelligence, and automation.
According to Harvard Business Review, some organizations find it difficult to adapt to the rapid technology changes associated with digital transformation. Such difficulties have has become common due to organizational inertia, failed attempts to find a common focus, technical complexities, and moving beyond operational upgrades incrementally. Leaders who consider the long-term view while spending a low percentage of future R&D spending will be best able to maximize digital transformations.
If you missed last month’s roundup of the latest in employee experience and the digital workplace, read Your Employee Experience Roundup: Virtual Assistants, the Rise of Gen Z Workers, and Automation for HR.