Digitalization determines the success of Employee Experience

As a consequence of the pandemic, the urgency of hybrid and remote models puts pressure on companies and, in particular, the Human Resources department to define, develop, and operationalize digitalization strategies that improve employee experience and boost employee performance.

In this sense, investment in technology emerges as a top priority, as it is the decisive and (almost) elementary, but not simplistic factor in maintaining and improving communication, collaboration, and connection between everyone. Above all, it has become a competitive and crucial aspect of retaining talent. In this world of fierce competition to attract and retain the best talent, technology emerges as the dominant feature of employee experience. It not only accompanies the entire employee life cycle – from recruitment through onboarding to a potential exit interview – but must also listen to and act on employees' needs and preferences for the performance of their duties. Communication and digitalization go hand in hand in the employee experience strategy, which has a decisive impact on business performance and turnover costs, absenteeism, and the departure of talent. 

In a survey of more than 500 CEOs on the topic “Digitalizing HR to Improve the Employee Experience" developed by Gartner, 67% of the executives stated that the focus on digitalization is fundamental for companies to remain competitive. This importance is not limited to developing new products, efficiency gains, increased productivity, and customer satisfaction. Still, it extends to the area of employee experience, with the digitalization of human resources emerging as one of the priorities.

As a starting point to understand the implications and consequences of a good employee experience strategy, it is crucial to understand this concept. Employee experience is a set of perceptions that employees have about their experience with the organization. It is a journey, including all the interactions during the entire life cycle and the experiences involving the role they play, the work environment, the leaders, culture, processes, tools, and the well-being provided.

The employee experience strategy

Definitions are unanimous. The employee experience strategy is vital for the company and requires a holistic approach, which stands on four pillars:

  1. Consider the entire employee journey – from their first contact with the company to an eventual exit interview.
  2. Nurturing the relationship between the organization and employees, including feedback tools, a good working environment, and providing space for professional growth and satisfaction.
  3. Encouraging (such empowerment) employees to have an active voice, to get the necessary training and access to information.
  4. Investing in technology to improve communication, reduce the gap between different functions, positions, departments; provide more efficient and agile communication based on a multichannel strategy, and favor purpose and personalization.

Factors that influence the success of the employee experience

Jacob Morgan, the author of the book “The Future of Work" states that “the employee experience is largely determined by three elements in all organizations and across the world: workspace, corporate culture, and technology ."

The physical workspace is where we can see, touch, taste, and smell.

Culture stems from the organization's values, attitudes, practices, and mission, bringing a sense of purpose. “Corporate culture is what energizes or drains us, motivates or discourages us, and empowers or suffocates us. We all experience the corporate culture of our organizations every day, whether positive or negative."

Technology includes all the tools employees use to perform their roles or interactions with the organization. “This includes everything from internal social media to the mobile devices that employees have access to. Includes apps, software, e-learning, and employee experience tools, and design elements that affect how employees use these various tools."

A statement reinforces that digitalization is vital to the success of employee experience and impacts employee performance. In this sense, it becomes a pillar, a priority, a critical investment trend for success.

The author states that “technology is the central nervous system of an organization, and most concepts and issues related to the future of work are not possible without technology. Creating a great cultural environment requires having tools that focus on employee needs rather than business requirements, and ensuring its quality for the internal customer."

In Gartner's study dating back to 2020, 88% of executives already confessed the need to invest in 3 or more technologies or platforms. The same survey also revealed the positive contribution of technology to improving employee satisfaction and experience.

Employee-centric digitization of human resources

The same research adds that the digitalization of human resources should be centered on the employee as a customer and not as a simple user. This digitalization and employee-customer-centric experience are built on technology that allows speed, values transparency, privileges each interaction recognizes personalization, and establishes proximity and connection. 17% is the percentage of the impact of a collaborator-client approach on employee performance, according to the Gartner study.

By designing a human resources digitalization process that values not only what the employee needs but mainly what the employee values, it demonstrates that the company is empathetic in prioritizing what the employee prefers; it designs or adopts solutions that adapt over time and implements versatile and agile solutions that require little effort. Investing in the digitalization of human resources makes it possible to offer a better experience in the relationship between human resources and the organization. An idea confirmed and corroborated by more than 70% of executives.

Jacob Morgan, também autor do «The Employee Experience Advantage: How to Win the War for Talent by Giving Employees the Workspaces they Want, the Tools they Need, and a Culture they Can Celebrate» (Wiley, 2017), esclarece que employee engagement e employee experience não são a mesma coisa. Reforça que o conceito de engagement é percecionado como algo pontual, sem estrutura, mantendo os níveis de satisfação e de compromisso do talento in-house a níveis baixos. «Tornou-se uma injeção de adrenalina que a maioria das organizações usa para aumentar temporariamente as avaliações. Normalmente, isso é feito na forma de vantagens, como comida grátis, um novo design e talvez um programa de trabalho remoto. Embora essas coisas sejam ótimas, elas não alcançam os resultados pretendidos para os funcionários ou para a organização.»

We are witnessing a paradigm shift influenced by a series of demographic, social, economic, and demographic factors:

  1. The new generations want more opportunities to express themselves, and companies have to understand better a group that feels, thinks, and behaves differently from previous generations.
  2. The “war" for talent is increasingly fierce: the experience offered by the organization must be guided by uniqueness and differentiation.
  3. Organizations face numerous challenges and are forced to transform processes. Digitalization and disruption are emerging at a rapid pace.
  4. The management of employees' expectations needs to be treated as unique and personalized.
  5. The growing presence on social networks must align perception versus reality with the value of transparency to protect the company's reputation and the brand.

Employee experience, on the other hand, involves a complete redesign of the organization that puts employees at the center. In other words, rather than forcing people to conform to outdated workplace practices, organizations must redesign their workplace practices to suit their people.

By focusing on employee behaviors and improving the employee experience, organizations found knock-on effects on traditional HR metrics such as turnover and absenteeism rates and the employee experience, and overall profitability and financial returns.

With our platform Unik eKYC and onboarding (Electronic Know Your Customer), we automate processes and reduce the time spent on onboarding by 50 to 80%.

Investing in the success of Employee Experience brings financial return

This idea that investing in employee experience brings financial return is authentic and factual.

Attracting talent requires effort, time, and dedication.

When the organization finds employees with excellent and quality profiles, it cannot risk losing them because turnover, replacement consumes team time, leaves the organization down, and impact the company's results.

Jacob Morgan analyzed the performance of some organizations to evaluate the financial return of investment in an employee experience strategy. Those who scored highest on culture, technology, and physical workspace invested the most in an employee experience strategy: “they are 4x more profitable than those that don't invest."

Jacob presents facts. “The organizations that invest the most in EX are:

  • 5 times more in Glassdoor's best places to work.
  • 4 times more on LinkedIn's list of the most sought-after employers in North America.
  • 1x more times on the Forbes list of the world's most innovative companies.
  • 2x more times in the American Customer Satisfaction Index."

The focus on experiences

Focusing on the experiences – positive and negative – of employees is not something that should be undervalued. Their perception and background will affect how hard they work, how much they collaborate, or how much they invest in dedicating and improving their operational performance. 

We are talking about the human experience over processes. In the digitalization of human resources, we can emphasize the need for analysis and data on human behavior that brings out the best in people and optimizes business performance throughout the employee lifecycle.

Uniksystem's HRM Employer Portal is an example of this: the combination of human experience and process efficiency is a success factor of this portal that serves the HR departments of top companies in Portugal (2021, BestStartup.eu).

The keys to a successful employee experience mirror the change in approach: the easy hiring process versus the true and perfect match to the role; knowing the company's mission versus relating and identifying with the mission and purpose, and a good boss versus an excellent coach.

By analyzing experiences on processes, we understand what matters most to employees and their goals. We move towards success side by side, with dedication and maximum productivity. Already in 2019, Deloitte Consulting, in its research on “Global Human Capital Trends“, advanced a change – from the concept of employee experience to human experience. It talked about the sense of purpose at work, aligned with ambitions, and giving people a sense of belonging, trust, and relationship.

As mentioned earlier, the human experience at work should be thought of in an end2end approach just as we study and track our external customer experience in detail. According to that same Deloitte study, “traditional HR responsibilities such as hiring, onboarding, job design, rewards, and development do not fully address the problems of the job itself, which means a cross-functional focus is needed. We believe HR organizations must partner closely with business, IT, facilities, finance, and marketing to make an impact in this area."

Technology determines the employee experience

The internal communication and human resources areas are increasingly blurred. They require that they are aligned and work together so that the balance of the company-employee binomial is always positive.

Employee experience is not only a human resources trend; it is one of the critical priorities of internal communication in 2022. With the COVID-19 pandemic, internal communication has shown importance to a company's success. Assurance, trust in the workplace and environment, and the employee experience in any interaction with the organization to keep the culture and values alive and, above all, deliver positive change for results.

“Effective internal communication enables employees to integrate, engage fully and stay informed about the company they work for and plays a crucial role in their performance and the company's success."

Much of the failure of transformation processes is due to an absence of, or inadequate or no communication strategy. Communication is more critical than ever for a business to deliver change and get “everyone onboard successfully." Internal communication plays a crucial role in ensuring trust, relationship transparency, and a positive employee experience.

CEOs perceive the relevance of communication and assume a leadership position, along with the demand for a more immediate and personalized touch, using a multichannel approach, experimenting with various formats, reaching employees where they are, and involving them more closely.

These internal communication trends prove that investment in technology is one of this year's priorities. In a study by Edelman, “The Future of Corporate Communications“, 70% of more than 250 executives confirmed that investment in communication platforms and technology is crucial.

Technology determines employee experience" is the title of a Harvard Business Review article from February this year. This trend of investing in technology is here to stay and will be vital to attracting and retaining new talent, fostering workplace culture, creating productivity, inclusion, and more. A survey developed by Qualtrics reveals that only 30% of employees say their experience with company technology exceeds their expectations. According to the same study, employees are 230% more engaged and 85% more likely to stay more than three years in their jobs if they feel they have the technology that supports them at work.

Many good employee experience practices embrace more silence, listen more, communicate less, and communicate better. The company Qualtrics suggests combining the so-called O- (operational data) and X- (the employee's experience with the company) insights. By asking employees, what might be impacting their productivity and collaboration, especially in hybrid and remote models, we reiterate the close connection between employee experience and business results.

A recent Microsoft Work Trend Index report states that most employees say culture and communication need to be prioritized from the top. All employees have valuable information and feedback to share that can improve the collective workplace experience, so it's critical that leaders take a holistic view “rather than making siloed decisions."

Achieve a natural flow and positive experience requires “leveraging an employee experience platform that seamlessly integrates with existing tools to digitally 'reimagine' company culture – creating connections, bringing knowledge and insights, receiving feedback and providing recommendations (and triggers to act) – all in the natural flow."

Investment in digitalization cannot and must not be a pandemic fad. It is imperative. It will guide the future of work, along with communication and transparency.

Whoever takes action and invests in the success of the Employee Experience will have a competitive advantage in the talent war and the financial return will be recognized.

by Célia Barata – RegTech & HR Business Manager @Uniksystem

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