Organizations’ ability to address issues of engagement and culture has dropped by 14% since last year - Global Human Capital Trends Report, 2017
Employee engagement continues to be a puzzle to HR leaders even in 2017. The work environment continues to be more and more complex. Without positive employee engagement levels, the translation to lower productivity and losing out to competition is only going to increase. There are challenges as well as opportunities for improvement that exist across multiple dimensions of the employee experience.
The positive part of this is that most organizations now understand the importance of employee engagement. For this, they have appointed employee experience officers. However, it is still not a priority for HR leaders or a continuous process with assigned responsibilities and goals. Most companies also need to update the tools and technology that they use to engage their employees on an ongoing basis.
Keeping this ever-expanding change in perspective, here are a few things that organizations need to focus on in the new age in order to give employees an enriching experience:
Frame a holistic strategy
To create an enriching employee experience, strategies need to start right from potential to new hires to exit interviews. Everything that impacts the daily life of employees within and outside the workplace are areas that affect his/her overall physical and mental wellbeing. Employees today demand an end to end experience for themselves, starting from recruitment to retirement, and only then will they be willing to give in their best to their jobs. Employers are still hesitant in adopting this completely which more or less requires a radical change.
HR needs to move beyond its traditional role of addressing diverse areas under employee engagement separately. Though the understanding of areas such as rewards, benefits, culture and learning is important, there also needs to be a holistic framework where all of these converge.
Professional development is key
95% of millennials are willing to pay for their own professional development and training.
We live in an age where millennials form a major part of the workforce, only to increase more in the coming years. For this biggest job hopping generation, career growth is the biggest contributor of higher retention levels. This is why organizations need to invest in their employees and give them opportunities where they can learn and grow continually during their work tenure.
On-demand training delivered across mediums and mobile devices, along with certification programs can do a lot of good to maintain healthy retention levels. This needs to be a well thought out approach, involving managers and leaders as a core part. Until employees feel like their organizations are truly investing in their professional growth and offering them flexible learning opportunities, organizations will not be able to harness the benefits of learning technologies.
22% of companies today survey employees quarterly of more often, 79% survey employees annually or less and 14% never survey employees at all - Global Human Capital Trends Report 2017
Such data clearly reflects the neglect of regular employee feedback in organizations, which also explains why companies face so many challenges. Feedback is critical to understand what is really required by employees and align them with the corporate purpose. Employee feedback has a lot of positive impact on organizations. This has been witnessed by companies which have used tools for continuous feedback, tracked it and reformed policies accordingly. The organizational environment has seen an explosion of tools that allow for continuous feedback like pulse survey tools.
Relooking at performance management
With major leaders like GE, Adobe, IBM and others debunking the annual performance review, the debate of the bell curve system of grading employees is actually facing the thought of extinction. Performance management should be continuous, with teams coming into the picture and hierarchies disappearing. There are a lot of performance management products that also include feedback tools which have emerged from a number of small brands, and making an impact in a huge way. Performance is now measured on a continuous basis and is team centric, rather than having an individual focus.
The Role of Design Thinking and AI
Technology is advancing at a very rapid pace, which is putting pressure on employees and organizations to keep up with such fast-changing trends. The nature of this change is so overwhelming that a lot of core issues are getting mixed up with unnecessary things. In order to relive such an alarmed employee, HR practices need to adopt design thinking, which means focusing on activities that put employee experience at the center. The result of such an endeavor is adoption of tools and solutions that directly contribute to employee satisfaction and productivity, without compromising on achieving core business goals. Design thinking is important as it can work wonders.
As per a Deloitte survey, respondents in companies where HR delivers the highest levels of value are also five times more likely to use design thinking in their programs than their peers. The question is to ask what a great employee experience looks like from an end to end perspective and how technology and strategy can be used to achieve this.
One significant development in this space is the rise of artificial intelligence in framing employee experience strategies. In fact, a recent study by Genpact predicts that humans and robots will be comfortable co-workers by 2020. If this is to be true, it will also be interesting to note how this will actually affect employee engagement indices across organizations.
What is important to remember here is that just plain deployment of technology is not going to be the solution. Companies need to focus on training their workforce across levels so that they understand the technology in their hands and how it can be used best to create engaged workplace cultures. Employee engagement is a very broad area that needs to be narrowed down. Disciplines such as performance management, goal setting, diversity, inclusion, leadership and wellness need to be pulled together and understood in unison. The focus needs to be able to provide enriching employee experiences in order to reduce turnover rates, increase productivity and also drive a strong customer experience.
The bigger question is how successful will companies be in applying technology across the lifecycle of an employee and be successful in keeping the workforce engaged.