How HR can meet the challenges on business being driven by advances in technology?
Employee/Employer Engagement in the Digital Era
Something funny happened on the way to the future!
In the middle of a presentation, the screen on my desktop locked up, so I had to improvise. I got through it, but then I emailed a request to a group email account for IT support, and no one ever replied. So, I picked up the phone to call someone for help and got voicemail. I left an urgent message, but no one returned the call. Out of frustration, I called my boss for help but only got her voicemail. I sent an email message and got an out-of-office reply. So, I texted her, but she never replied. Then I became frustrated and ripped off an annoying email and copied everyone. Next thing I know, I get hauled into HR and reprimanded about having a bad attitude. I have learned my lesson. From now on, if I need something, I will do it myself, or it does not get done.
Exactly! In the future world, we will have to do more and more things by ourselves. with the help of technology. And that is exactly what the next generation of employees want. Self-reliance through self-service, supported by a system that gives me everything I want or need to be successful. It also happens to be a winning time-saving and cost-saving formula for business.
The next performance review will not come directly or exclusively from my manager. The review will be based on data collected about my work, from hundreds of data points over the year. The system will give me regular reports on my progress and makes suggestions for improvements. Effectively, I will become a data point for the company. As impersonal as it may seem, I prefer it that way, because I can rely on my data and the system to advance me to the next role in the company. I know this because I do great work, but my boss does not like me personally. The system is dependable, reliable, and fair. It does not care about my age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political persuasion. Only about results and my well-being.
Though being a data point may seem cold and impersonal in the preceding scenario, it's important to know that the system can also be designed to serve the well-being of the individual worker. Those data points being collected about each worker will also allow the system to know when a vacation is in order and assist with booking the travel. It will encourage good eating habits and make it easier for one to get the good stuff and harder for the bad stuff. It will help with managing a student loan refinancing. It will recommend, based on income, debt, and other data to buy a home or rent an apartment and assist with financing options and insurance.
Don't believe me? When is the last time you had someone type a letter for you, get your coffee or book your business travel? Self-service is here to stay.
So, what do Employers want, and Employees need?
For Employees, it's not just about compensation and benefits. Employee Experience is now more important!
How technology can be applied to address employer goals:
Efficiency - A process driven by technology, whether in whole or in part with tasks that are assisted by the system or completed entirely by the system. Higher the degree of system participation, the faster the process will be completed, and the simpler it will be. In any task where a decision point is reached, either the system will complete it or provide a limited number of options that are ranked as most relevant.
Productivity - Simply put, the more tasks done by the system, the less time is spent on non-productive activities, which allows the user to focus on the more strategic, critical and likely rewarding activities of the role. Here again, the system is helping to redefine the role.
Safety - Not only will riskier physical activities be done by machine or system to create a safer work environment, but decision guidance in applications will pre-select the best options and result in better outcomes. Both humans and machines will learn from this interaction. The feedback to the system will continue to improve outcomes and making a major mistake much less likely. This will reduce stress on both the employee and the employer, adding to an improved work environment.
Scalability - It is predicted that for every human job replaced by technology, two new human jobs will be created. However, finding technically skilled labor is and will continue to be a challenge. Alternatively, tasks completed by technology for all practical circumstances are infinitely scalable. Technology can allow a company to scale its production and services exponentially faster than reliance on human labor alone. Examples are everywhere. Amazon is a prime case study with its highly robotized distribution centers. Even a small company's ability to scale will significantly increase its chances of survival.
Retention - When a company finds and develops a high performing workforce, they want to keep it for as long as they can to ensure their return on the investment (ROI). Studies show that Identifying and hiring the "right" employees for a company is the first key step to ensure retention. Technology will be instrumental in identifying and screening for the best employees for the business.
How technology can be applied to address Employee goals:
Opportunity – From an employee's point of view, an opportunity is relative to their individual life-to-date experience. For most of us, opportunity in a job typically means growth; that is growth in knowledge, new skills, compensation, responsibility, and satisfaction. Studies indicate that most employees are not high risk-takers. Job satisfaction can be more about learning new skills than compensation. Technology allows a company to make opportunity predictable. As an employee, knowing what career opportunities are available and having a charted path to get there is not only predictable for the employee but also for the company. For the employee, predictable opportunity reduces stress and creates a high-level of satisfaction (and retention). Stockholders love predictability too.
Empowerment - A sense of empowerment comes from both freedom and control, meaning a feeling of being empowered is derived from one's ability to make informed decisions and have some influence and sense of ownership in the job role. Technology can provide data and guidance to make effective decisions more likely and create a safe environment for innovation and idea-sharing. However, empowerment also means control over one's personal life, and company technology can impact that in a positive way as well by using an employee's company profile to contribute to the employee's wellbeing.
Personalized Experience - The crossroads of the job and personal needs are unique and largely situational for every individual. There are not enough HR Generalists or Business Advisors to meet the individual needs of every employee. In the near future, given enough data, the right tech will get very close to filling the gap. What any individual employee needs to reduce stress in the workplace will be analyzed and predicted by their profile and current conditions. Artificial Intelligence can be applied to prescribe assistance and recommendations that can relieve stress. Just as medicine is looking to DNA and molecular biology technology to create personalized treatments or cures for disease, so too can technology help companies create personalized work experiences to reduce stress and maximize productivity and, yes, improve job satisfaction and retention.
Trust and Lifestyle - A recent study by PWC on retention analytics found that an employee who has a high degree of job satisfaction has lower stress and is more productive and happier away from work. At work, employees also tend to be more social, more sharing of ideas, and better teammates. It's also not surprising then that there is a higher trust of the employer with personal career and personal data. A company's ability to support an employee's healthy lifestyle first requires an understanding of the employee and then the ability to encourage and reward individuals with timely targeted recommendations. This level of understanding and analysis can only be achieved with technology.
I thought it would be good to summarize this chapter with a story. This is the story of Chris (I chose a gender-neutral name so the reader could fill in that part).
A young professional, Chris, recently married and is about ten years out of grad school in the workplace. Chris is looking to move to the state of the spouse to start a new family in a more family-friendly neighborhood. Chris just submitted an online application to an employer Chris has been following through a social site. A day earlier, a requisition for the job was initiated by a hiring manager where Chris applied. Based on a preferred set of criteria, the system scanned hundreds of applications and provided the top 5 candidates out of several hundred, which included Chris.
How does it know what to scan for? It knows because the company's technology-first built a requisition automatically based on job position requirements stored in the company database as well a general data about the profile of employees that are more likely to be successful with the company's culture and industry. For example, these attributes could include the success rate of graduates from certain schools.
Then the system, with the assistance of a chatbot, walked the hiring manager through a process to refine the criteria, which allowed the manager to add and edit the weighting of the most important attributes. Once applications and resumes were scanned, the system also searched the internet for social sites the candidates may have participated in, did a high-level public background check, reviewed education records, and more. Now the Hiring Manager can spend most of their time talking to highly qualified candidates, including Chris, spending more time on qualitative issues in interviews to determine cultural fit and more tacit aspects of the best candidates. Of course, Chris received several automated notifications and requests for more information, including permissions and links to record an online video and a behavioral survey.
Chris was impressed with the efficiency of the process. Once Chris was notified of being selected for the next phase, shortly after, Chris received a personal call from the hiring manager with warm congratulations of being selected and a request for an in-person interview. After several more steps, an employment agreement was negotiated, including moving expense reimbursement.
Based on Chris's profile already in the system, the system sent suggestions to Chris for places to live that would meet Chris and the family's budget. Not only did the company provide health benefits in the package, the system provided many additional voluntary options to consider. The system knew that Chris and the family would first be moving to a new apartment, so it recommended apartment insurance at a company-negotiated low rate. Chris is still paying off a student loan, so the company system automatically provided the names of several companies that could help refinance the student loan at a much better rate. "Wow," Chris thought, "I haven't even started, and this company already knows me."
Before Chris started, more system communications invited Chris to join a video conference call for orientation, including many of Chris's new teammates. Chris met Sally, the orientation guide from HR, who provided lots of useful information and guidance.
Within the first 30 days after beginning the new job, Chris attended many useful online orientation sessions and online training. Chris met with the assigned mentor, who will be guiding Chris during Chris's first year with the company. Chris quickly felt comfortable and was able to be productive almost immediately. Chris was particularly excited when chatbots showed up on the company systems, which were able to speed requests and provide online guidance through new processes. Just recently, the company introduced voice-assisted processes and search. Not only is Chris able to ask for the help of information, but Chris is also able to use any mobile device and be unchained from the desk and office. "Amazing!" Chris thought. "I hardly need a keyboard anymore."
Since joining the company, Chris has never been more productive or happier, and the company is very pleased with Chris as well. Most of Chris's work colleagues feel the same way. They share their work and lives inside and outside of the company. They are all true believers. They are proud of their work and the company and promote the company to others every chance they get. Digital Technology has produced amazing results for the workforce and the company.
In Summary, Chris's company could someday be yours.
I look forward to your comments and extensions of this discussion. I am sure I will learn something from the feedback.
Steve Bradley is Former VP and Director for the Cloud HCM Practice at Birlasoft. He has over 20 years of HCM technology experience – and founder of two HR service companies, SystemLink and Learn2Perform. He is a frequent speaker at conference events and advisor to organizations of all sizes on the topic of HR Digital Transformation, HCM Technology and HR Organizational Change in a technology age.