Employee Experience: The 3 Surprising Essentials Your People Want the Most
Employee experience has become a catch-all phrase for everything and everyone the employee encounters while working for any organization. That it’s correlated to employee engagement is no longer in question: if you want to know what motivates your people to come to work every day — remote or not — consider what they deal with, how it makes them feel, and if it helps or hinders when it comes to getting their work done.
What’s not so clear to some employers is exactly what should be considered as part of that experience. Too often, the parameters are viewed in terms of what happens between people — teams, coworkers, managers, and possibly (hopefully) leaders. But there’s a lot more to an employee’s experience that has nothing to do with the people they work with, and everything to do with the technology they use. Particularly now, as workplaces have migrated so many functions to the digital environment, interactions with technology play a pivotal role in how employees experience work. And with technology’s impact, employee experience and user experience now share common ground — and it’s something employers are going to want to get right.
First, close the perception gap, and recognize technology’s presence in employee experience. Then, follow these guardrails for providing the technology that truly drives a great employee experience — and what employers can do to gauge engagement along the way.
Personalization isn’t just about customizing a portal with a set of preferences or loading data — though certainly, that’s part of the appeal. It’s also about being able to access, run and own the process — — whenever possible. Many employers saw just how willing employees are to step up to the place when it comes to ESS during the pandemic, when a shift to remote meant that organizations had to rely on their employees’ digital savvy, willingness to learn, and also their willingness to prioritize. It wasn’t an experiment we planned, but by and large, it worked — and taught employers a great deal about the power of autonomy when it comes to a range of work and HR tasks.
Given the choice, as with chatbots, most employees will prefer autonomy to down time. Given the fragmented nature of schedules and the pile of obligations and responsibilities, ESS can also enable employees to attend to paperwork on time — by being able to choose when to get it done in their own time. Streamlining the process also reduces the friction of waiting for managers and other departments. And so long as the ESS portal is simple, easy to use, and engaging, it won’t just be digital native generations that are comfortable using it: everyone will, and ESS becomes part of your workplace culture, driving a sense of employee experience as empowered, efficient, and self-driven.
Employers sometimes miss the mark on this key driver of employee motivation because they’re concerned about employee fears around being replaced by machines. IN fact, according to the International Federation of Robotics, less than 10 percent of jobs can be completely automated — and it’s more likely automation is perceived as a tool instead of a challenge.
Employees appreciate being freed from the tedium of repetitive tasks when they can be: Incorporating automation into the work process enables them to allocate more focus and time to higher level tasks. Further, automating tasks such as invoicing and purchasing — along with reporting, forecasting and analytics can provide a level of data and intelligence that can enhance and empower employees’ ability to make strategic decisions. Unit4 research found that more than 70% of back-office processes make great candidates for automation — which enables employees to become far more involved in decision making, collaboration and innovation, as well as skills development — which ties into the continuing appetite for growth.
It may seem surprising that employees want to be able to interact with chatbots rather than wait for a human. But given the scale, scope and time, chatbots are vital — and becoming an accepted — and expected — part of the employee experience. Gartner’s research into chatbots products found that by 2022, a full 70 percent of white-collar employees will be interacting with conversational platforms on a daily basis.
While a key reason for incorporating more chatbots used to be that it was a digitally friendly way to meet the expectations of millennials and Gen Z, the recent pivot to remote among so many workplaces has added yet another reason: necessity. Employees are managing their jobs at all hours as their workdays expand to accommodate the intersections of life and work. Even as employees return to the workplace they are bringing new behaviors and preferences with them. Being able to shortcut to an answer via well-designed conversational technology is understandably preferred.
The Science Behind Employee Experience
What employees want now out of their technology experience are ways to achieve autonomy, stay on top of their jobs, get the answers they need quickly, and streamline administrative processes. These aren’t hard markers to measure— if your HR technology has built-in data and reporting capabilities.
Employers can apply analytics to chart the employee experience journey and gauge participation and engagement — looking at the interactions with metrics in mind such as time spent and successful outcome. It turns hard data into insights about how employees are experiencing the workplace and work technology — and drive strategy around improvements and adjustments that benefit both the people and the organization. It can uncover a whole range of usage patterns, communications gaps, process bottlenecks, friction around certain tools, engagement levels, and more. It’s a way of measuring how the technology is performing for people, not just how people are performing for the organization. But this people-centric approach can have a profound impact on performance — by calibrating tools to how employees want to use them, and ensuring employees have the skills they need to do so.
A recent Employee Engagement Trends report by Intuo found that 42 percent of HR leaders see a link between attrition and disengagement. In 2020, two thirds of organizations in the study cited increasing engagement as a key priority for the year. As it turned out, the year brought some unprecedented changes and challenges — and revealed just how important employee experience is for engagement as well as performance.
But it was technology that fostered that engagement — as we leaned on digital platforms and processes, whether our teams were scattered, or our workplaces were running on a socially distanced minimum crew. It was technology that enabled people to stay aligned and connected; technology that promoted a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction; technology that facilitated tasks being completed. In turn, employees found what worked for them, and what they needed — through their experience. When an employer listens, that’s when engagement gets a powerful boost.