The newest kid on the ‘HR jargon block’ is ‘Employee Experience’. While the world of work is still grappling with a common and correct understating of Employee Engagement, billions of dollars are now being spent on Employee Experience.

While the Engagement movement was owned by the ‘Behavioral Scientists’, Technology Companies have emerged as the guardians of ‘Employee Experience’ making it almost a synonym of UI or UX. I was the lucky one to be at the helm of both the movements; earlier at Gallup driving employee engagement and now at Oracle driving employee experience. So no one knows this more than I do.

‘What the @$%# is Employee Experience after all?

The answer lies in us understanding what experience means and what employees are seeking, often at a sub-conscious level.

An experience is defined ‘an event or occurrence which leaves an impression on someone.’ A very broad definition one would argue. However, that is the reality of the beast that we are trying to tame. Employee experience is an all encompassing term which goes much beyond an ‘ergonomically designed workplace’ or an ‘intuitive user interface’.

To an employee (read: ‘Customer who buys work opportunity from the organization s/he chooses, using the currency of talent’) anything and everything that impact his mood, feelings or behaviors matters. And that has an impact on his/her performance at work. While a lot of such factors are beyond the influence of the organizations, the following four are the fundamental pillars of creating a winning employee experience:

  1. The experience of work: While no work is good or bad, employees clearly have preferences when it comes to their priority. There is no way an organization can create a thrilling experience for an employee who is stuck in a wrong job. It is like that ill fitting T-shirt I impulsively brought online. In this age of employer branding and job marketing, recruiters must STOP selling jobs to prospects. Scientific methodologies must be implemented to understand what the candidate does best intrinsically. What his/ her ‘strengths’ are and then provide the opportunity for him to do “what I do best, everyday”. Work also will include where, when and how the employee wants to ‘consume’ the work opportunity. Gartner predicts that ‘By 2020, organizations that support a choose your own work style (CYOW) culture will boostemployee retention rates by more than 10%’.
  2. Respect: The most potent and ironically the most abused element of employee experience. According to a Harvard study, “Half of employees do not feel respected by their bosses. Respect at work impact the overall wellbeing of an employee. While enough more is being done to enhance the physical wellbeing of employees, it’s time we start healing emotional wellbeing too. In the age of artificial intelligence this is the single factor that differentiates men and machines.
  3. Fair compensation:The biggest irony of an employee’s life is that there comes a point where he is forced to trade in an engaging job for better paying job. And at the losing end are his two employers – the one that loses him and the one that chooses him. In India we say ‘one cannot pray on an empty stomach’. The same applies to employees. Employee engagement research has misled organizations into believing that compensation is NOT a driver. Employees experience compensation as fair or unfair, not as adequate or inadequate. Organizations need to work on programs that will instill a feeling of ‘fairness’ around compensation. While transparency and bench-marking are the two most critical factors in this, watch out this space for a detailed article on this.
  4. Lived Values:the trend of defining ‘our values’ got with it a lot of hypocrisy in organizations. Having helped many organizations craft their vision, mission and values, I can tell you that there are just about 30-40 words that can encapsulate the ‘unique values’ of almost all organizations in the world – ‘Respect’ being one such word. Those chosen values then enhance the beauty of the meeting rooms, websites and executive speeches. It is the values ‘lived’ within the organization, which are often different from the stated values, are what define ‘employee experience’. In my long standing career as a consultant I have come across only a handful of organizations that live the values it states.
  5. Enablement: A distant fifth on the list, enablement, somehow is being mistaken as the biggest driver of experience. Yes, enablement is important. However, enablement does not mean ‘providing sophisticated technology or materials and equipment’. It is ironical that too many organizations are focusing on UI while assessing digital platforms for work. When an employee assesses his/her experience around enablement, the following considerations get the highest weighted:
  • Seamlessly integrated workflows. i.e. all my work is performed on a single integrated platform. Both professional as well as personal.
  • Liberation from the concept of working and non working hours. More work happens today in non working hours at non work places today. Employees must feel empowered and enabled to perform when ever, where ever and in whatever form they choose to.
  • Real time information. Employees do not have patience to wait for data updates of information sharing. They want everything available in real time at their disposal and sometimes without even asking.

Intuitive HR systems that Oracle has developed provide great examples of how technology can be leveraged to enhance employee experience through enablement.

When I work with organizations in creating winning employee experience, the biggest challenge I find is their ability to have a holistic view of how the change is to be created. Technology is and will continue to be the biggest enabler of effective experience, however, not for all.

Digital HR transformation needs unique balancing of organization culture, emotional forces and technology platform to create one (bleep)ing awesome employee experience.

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