Improve Employee Experience With Consumer-Centric HR

October 29, 2018

Contributor: Jackie Wiles

To drive both performance and productivity in the digital age, HR needs a consumer-centric mindset and approach to employee experience.

It’s a Brave New World — or rather a Smart New World — at least in the world where employees live outside the workplace. Then they arrive at the office and it’s like taking a step back in time, where even the simplest of tasks can seem effortful and frustrating.

“Employees want their 9-5 to look like their 5-9,” said Brian Kropp, Group Vice President, Gartner HR practice, at Gartner ReimagineHR 2018 in Orlando, FL. And their 5-9 lives are full of seamless, effortless experiences, largely enabled by digital technologies.

Why is employee experience so important? Because HR is — and will continue — playing a key role in enabling the organization to pursue and capture digital opportunities. Gartner research shows 67% of business leaders say the company will no longer be competitive if it doesn’t become significantly more digitalized by 2020.

Chief human resource officers (CHROs) will need to tackle five macro HR priorities to support digital ambitions, and employee productivity is a critical driver of those ambitions. And yet, employee effort is dropping dramatically.

“CEOs expect more performance and productivity at the same time that employees aren’t working as hard as they did before,” said Kropp.

Read more: Are Your Employees Quitting in Their Seats?

Technology has its limits

Many HR leaders are embracing technology as an enabler. Eighty-eight percent of CHROs say their organization needs to invest in three or more technologies over the next two years. In the process, HR is adding or bolstering HR information systems (HRIS), on-demand systems, and various technology upgrades – anticipating a range of benefits for employees and the organization.

The result? Spending on technology now amounts to 3.5% to 9.5% of the average HR budget.

The problem? These technology investments don’t guarantee better employee performance or engagement. Our research shows, for example, there is little difference in employee satisfaction with a digital HR experience when comparing HR functions that have invested in HR technology and those that have not. Satisfaction with HR functions that have invested in HR technology is 4 on a 6-point scale versus 3.8 for those that have not.

Improve employee experience in a way that drives performance

Our research shows that to drive performance improvement, HR needs to shift both mindsets and tactics:

  1. Focus on what employees value. Don’t just ask employees what they want — or worse still, assume what they want. Rather, listen to what they need so you can determine what they value. Create employee personas and use new technology and tools to collect data on where employees work, who they work with, and when they work to truly understand their work day and experiences. Supporting what employees value, not just what they need, increases employee performance by 20%.
  2. Focus on decreasing employee effort. Don't think simply about improving quality and functionality. Identify places where employees spend a lot of time and effort, deconstruct those critical moments to determine how to make it easier for them at moments that really count.
  3. Develop short-term iterative projects. Don't just target immediate pain points by undertaking long-term projects meant to produce Big Bang one-and-done solutions. Iteration is key. Notably, the most downloaded apps in the app store are also the ones most frequently updated. The best apps stay modern and constantly iterate the user experience. HR process and solutions need to do the same.

Learn more: Rethink your employee experience strategy

Consumer-centric approach

HR must take a more consumer-centric approach to the way they engage with employees — an approach that is more consistent with how people behave and what they value in the digital world. This digital mindset delivers value to employees — and productivity for the organization — in everyday engagement and learning, and even in the recruitment process.

The consumer-centric HR proposition features several characteristics:

  • Technology-enabled. As noted, technology has its limits. Consumer-centric HR is technology agnostic. There is a whole set of components that are more important to employee experience than the technology itself.
  • Connected. “The products and services I use ‘talk’ to one another.”
  • Transparent. “I can easily access data about myself and the products and services I purchase.”
  • Personalized. “The products and services I purchase meet my specific needs when I need them.”
  • Interactive. “I can interact with service provides quickly and easily.”
  • Fast. “I receive products and services almost as soon as I ask for them.”

What employees value —  and don’t

Notably, focusing on what employees value also means looking at what they don’t value. Kropp provided a case study from one major consumer goods company that promised to return hours to employees by removing wasted hours and effort in their day.

HR developed employee personas (how people behave, why they behave the way they do, etc) and mapped their workday experiences to clarify all ongoing HR and non-HR demands on their time, and their reactions to those demands.

It revealed productive and unproductive parts of employees’ interactions with HR-related activities and identified which HR activities employees find valuable.

“The company is over half way to giving back 1 million employee hours,” said Kropp.

Action plan for HR

Kropp offered a plan for those wanting to shift to consumer-centric HR:

Monday Morning

  • Start building a cross-functional team to uncover moments that matter to employees.
  • Identify your most critical talent segments to build personas around.

Next 90 Days

  • Confirm the moments that matter to employees and draft a people deal.
  • Create distinct cross-functional teams to manage the moments that matter.

Next 12 Months

  • Execute plan to save employees time on HR activities.

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