Building the best employee experience has been a priority for companies everywhere in the last few years, and things are unlikely to change in 2020. If anything, thanks to some recent technological advances, the employee experience is likely to become even more of a key concern.
Here are a few of the ways in which innovative organizations are poised to bring the employee experience to new heights:
1. Persona Analysis: Walk a Mile in My Crocs
Data matters in the employee experience, but bare data alone cannot yield useful insights. Instead, companies have to go further: They have to step into the shoes of their target audiences (candidates, employees, and/or workers preparing to exit) through persona analysis.
Persona models yield insights into demographics, gaps, and needs. In turn, that information can be used to design programs, incentives, tools, resources, and communications that actually work.
Developing a persona model starts with basic data — age, job title, family status, location, tenure, and so on. Importantly, the model should also look at the challenges faced by a persona group, its aspirations, health profile, and other deeper insights to guide effective program creation.
A word of caution: Personal models should only be used as guideposts, not as statements of incontrovertible fact. There are exceptions to every model. For example, my 13-year-old fits the Gen. Z persona to a T, with her mobile phone in her hand at all times. My 15-year-old, though, reads the paper and prefers turning pages in a book over swiping a digital interface.
2. AI, ML, and NLP: Siri, Does the Office Dress Code Allow Socks With Sandals?
Employees want to be able to easily access any information they may need to carry out their day-to-day work. Today, artificial intelligence (AI) can be the first resource your workers turn to when they need to know something.
Whether via mobile (like Siri) or a smart speaker (like Alexa), natural language processing (NLP) is now a normal part of consumer interactions — and it can be equally convenient for employees as HR’s consumers. But it’s not all smooth sailing: Algorithmic bias is a real issue, and it’s all too easy for the unconscious biases of the people building an AI to affect the program’s operations.
Luckily, machine learning (ML) can help avoid the bias. An AI assistant with ML enabled can gather information about people’s skills, capacities, and preferences through self-learning, automated means. On the employee experience front, that means an ML-powered AI can, for example, identify ideal roles and career paths for individuals based on their particular skills and interests. It can also help individuals achieve their health and wealth goals by learning their expectations and adjusting programs and incentives accordingly.
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3. Blockchain: You’ll Have to Pry My Data From My Cold, Dead Hands
All those aforementioned AI tools require personal, sometimes sensitive, data to operate effectively. Some employees may be wary of handing that data over to the company’s computer system, but blockchain can give the individual control over ensuring their data is only used in the ways they want it to be.
With blockchain, each entity in the chain of data needs to sign off on a transaction, giving the employee control over the degree of personalization of their experience. Blockchain also opens up the possibility of integrating into the employee experience data that is typically outside HR’s reach, such as personal holdings, genomics, volunteer initiatives, spiritual interests, and even hobbies. All of this information helps create a complete picture of what matters to a person, which is vital in any effort to create a personalized, relevant employee experience.
4. Hybrid Apps: Stressed Out? There’s an App for That
The more the work experience matches what employees experience in the outside world, the better the work experience becomes. Today, employees live on their mobile devices — the employee experience, too, should be mobile-optimized.
For mobile devices, hybrid apps are a current best practice. These apps combine the functionality of native mobile apps and web apps. They can make use of a device’s features —such as GPS, cameras, push notifications, and biometric authentication — without being limited to one device. Making use of responsive web design, hybrid apps can render and function well on a variety of devices, giving HR the flexibility to write one app and publish it everywhere.
What can HR do with mobile apps? A lot! Take, for example, an app like Pacifica, which helps users manage their mental health with a suite of tools. It’s easy to see HR departments deploying similarly comprehensive wellness apps to give the employee experience a much-needed, stress-reducing boost.
5. The Hub: Memo? What Memo?
Missing out on vital communication at work can be the difference between failure and success. When organizations use multiple communication channels to disseminate valuable information, they only increase the chances that their employees will be operating without a full understanding of the big picture.
A better approach would be to centralize communication in a single hub. A company intranet can be an example of a hub-like channel, but a communication hub is by design much more comprehensive and better meets end users where they are, whenever they need information.
The hub could collect information from multiple sources and share that information with employees via their preferred channels (text, email, voice, etc.). With its high potential for personalization, a hub can create a relevant and consolidated employee experience.
A contextual user experience is one way to adapt software to a user’s needs based on specific situations, locations, and contexts of use. The contextual software responds to real-time cues, and in the corporate intranet environment, it uses relevant work and life events to tailor a hyper-personalized approach. The more contextual and comprehensive an experience, the more valuable it is to the individual and the more likely it will result in ideal outcomes for both the user and the organization.
There are some powerful ways a hub can create this holistic, unified experience:
• Generating action lists targeted to an individual based on relevant organizational data
• Individualized reminders proactively sent via text, email, or print based on an employee’s preference for receiving content
• Event workflow management for processes like onboarding, offboarding, and family changes
The best hub experiences simplify multiple underlying systems into one aggregated environment, incorporate employer branding, and monitor interactions through back-end analytics to drive the right behaviors and measure the right impacts.
6. Human-Centered Design: Now You’re Talking My Language!
If you were to boil down all of the advances discussed here today to one common theme, it’d be human-centered design.
Human-centered design helps achieve an audience-of-one focus. Personalized models ensure individual data, including historic interactions, is used to create a meaningful experience through the ideal channel with the right messaging and tone.
It’s a simple notion: When employees thrive, organizations succeed. In order to reach and engage any audience, we need to make the experience personally relevant. The same holds true for the employee experience. We need to understand what motivates workers and what is meaningful to them. The more personal we can make every interaction between the employee and the organization, the more impact we have.
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Scot Marcotte is Buck’s chief technology officer. For 29 years he has helped organizations solve human resources challenges through the strategic use of data, communication, and technology. He holds a certified employee benefit specialist (CEBS) designation, has coauthored a book on employee engagement, was named Xerox’s innovator of the year, and is a regular presenter at global HR conferences. Scot fills his free time leading Northwestern University’s efforts on alumni engagement, serving as the president of the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative, and providing play-by-play at Chicago Bears games as the press box announcer. He lives in the Chicago suburbs with his wife Sarah and keeps current on the latest in technology through his 12- and 14-year-old daughters.