Artificial intelligence (AI), machine-learning, cloud computing, collaborative work platforms, employee social networks, wearable technology, on-demand learning, augmented reality, chatbots, HR help desks and recruitment bots, voice-activated systems… Technology is a major part of today’s employee experience, and keeping up with it is essential to attract top talents to your organisation, and keep them.
But it’s not all about the tech. Employees are people, not bots, and to get the best from them, the human touch is just as important as the latest software. In fact, tech is only useful if it enhances employee happiness and engagement, positively impacting productivity and the company’s bottom line.
Good tech bad tech
- Good tech enables people to be more productive, efficient and innovative, connect to the world inside and outside the organisation and share a free flow of ideas, creativity and emotions, knowing they are secure and cared about.
- Bad tech that’s user-unfriendly, puts up barriers to data access and hinders rather than helps collaboration is frustrating for employees. It’s the quickest way to lose talent – prospective or existing – to a more tech-savvy competitor.
The experience gap
According to one report, 90% of C-suite executives believe their company takes people’s needs into account when introducing new technology, but only 53% of employees agree.
And 92% of C-suite execs say they’re satisfied with their company’s tech experience for the most important work, whereas 68% of staff agree.
This experience gap matters: where C-suite execs impose systems, lacking understanding of employees’ wants, needs and ability to use them, employee experience diminishes as they struggle to do their jobs efficiently. This ripples across the workforce, eventually impacting the customer experience.
Whether you’re a CIO, an IT manager or an HR leader, there are two questions to ask when considering tech and your employee experience:
- Where does technology enhance our organisation’s talent strategy?
- Where does technology obstruct it?
And the answers to these questions need to come from one source: employees.
What employees want from tech
Employees expect their work tech to be at least as good as, if not better than, their personal tech: a legacy from when workplaces had superior systems. But with innovations in consumer technology, it’s often the case that workers have better personal tech, and can be agile and more efficient on it. Outdated work processes and clunky company legacy technology can make a job harder than it needs to be – some workers even say it’s easier to talk to digital assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Cortana than their own manager.
It pays to listen to employees:
- They know which apps, devices, software and platforms help them do their best job
- They value remote working capability to adopt a more agile working style, perhaps in a quieter place than the office; work mobile options often fall short
- Their input in choosing which systems to implement helps them feel in control and be familiar with the tech right from the start
- They know where their skills gaps are for targeted digital training
Tech and the employee lifecycle
It has always been a challenge for HR to prevent employees of larger organisations feeling like mere ‘cogs in the corporate machine’. With technology that enables personalisation, you can focus on individuals’ needs and wants, to provide a more tailored and engaging experience for everyone. Employee lifetime value, employee engagement, and retention are becoming increasingly easy metrics to measure and link back to the bottom line.
Technology can enhance EX at every touchpoint in the employee lifecycle from talent attraction to eventual exit. Surveys at each one will inform you whether you’re on track and engaging employees:
- Recruitment – you want to build a personal relationship with potential candidates so that they become brand followers, applicants and advocates. Make each candidate feel special by reaching them and communicating on their terms: share relevant information, and the stage their application is at, on the medium of their choice (SMS, social media, WhatsApp, email…).
- Onboarding – Done right, this can be the single most engaging thing a company can do for a new hire. Making sure an employee has everything they need to work from day one sounds simple, but many organisations fall down here. From laptops and monitors, to access to internal systems – a fast start can make all the difference to your organisation’s ramp times. Technology can’t replace human interaction though. Explaining the company story, its values, purpose and vision, demonstrating culture, and in turn learning about the new colleague, need to come from the team over lunch and through mentoring.
- Development – Employees want to grow and develop, professionally and personally. Technology offers a scalable way for workers to broaden their knowledge and skills, and more workers prefer to complete training online than face to face or a mixture of both. Digital platforms deliver webinars that can be accessed remotely; on-demand courses that are either bespoke or industry standard; and personalised training that identifies individual strengths and targets weaknesses.
- Retention – Technology helps companies move away from the old ‘top down’ approach, where management told employees what was good for them, they had little say, and if they didn’t like it, they left. 21st-century employees want their work to have value and purpose. A feeling of ownership, developed through a collaborative culture-building process where every voice is heard, helps engage and retain staff.
- Exit – Exit surveys and interviews gather honest feedback about an employee’s whole experience with a company.
Tech and collaboration
Tech advances made Working from Anywhere (WFA) more acceptable and flexible, then the 2020 pandemic made it a necessity. The most useful proved to be:
- Cloud-based productivity suites that enabled team members to work on documents simultaneously, from anywhere.
- Collaboration platforms – Integrating with many other tools to share and store resources, these platforms were not only useful for business processes, but also a lifeline for employees’ social lives and mental health. Brainstorming collaborations can even be done remotely, using virtual whiteboards.
- Video conferencing platforms let employees see each other face-to-face in groups or as 1:1s.
Use digital, but don’t lose the human touch
It’s the human connection that gives many people a genuine sense of belonging at work, and the ability to deliver great customer service. 56% of employees say they feel that technology removes them from human interaction at work, and 40 to 45% of employees prefer face-to-face interactions for things solving difficult problems and asking HR questions.
Ultimately, it’s all about balance. Both technology and the human touch play important parts in today’s employee experience. Enlightened employers will find ways to keep up with their workforce’s technological and human expectations, keeping teams – wherever they are – connected and on-task.