“People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you made them feel.”– Maya Angelou
Recently, I was intrigued by a smartphone commercial where a stranger shares his battery power wirelessly to another individual whose phone battery is running low. This was a classic example of having one foot in two realms – technological advancement and defining the human experience, bringing them closer. Collaboration and co-creation, aided by technology is changing the way we think, behave, and, most certainly, the way we will work. Yet the paradox is that today’s world is disjointed and disconnected — that of broken and disintegrated experiences. This is true in employee experience too.
How do we navigate this paradox? Through changing paradigms. We shift our focus – to help employees to ‘want’, rather than ‘need’, to come to work. The lines between personal life and professional life are blurring, with greater integration between the two. Therefore, employees expect their experiences to be similar too – what they have outside work should reflect within. So, organizations are striving to integrate employees’ 9-5 with their 5-9. Additionally, I believe employee experience is about moments that matter to employees. In our lives, not all moments are created equal. We remember some forever while we quickly forget others. We tend to focus on particular moments - the peaks, depths and transitions – the ones that take our breath away, the ‘Aha’ moments. Still, what makes them more memorable is the experience.
Today, experience defines everything that we consume and deliver. This is true even within the talent space. Despite being a multi-generational workforce, all employees look for connected and integrated experiences at work. This is truly possible with the right mix of physical, digital and emotional experiences provided by organizations.
The challenge for organizations is to create a home away from home, providing an internal environment that is similar to the external
Work and life are integrated as never before. On an average, employees spend two-thirds of their waking time at work. That is why it is imperative to provide a great physical experience. The challenge for organizations is to create a home away from home, providing an internal environment that is similar to the external. Many futuristic organizations are already on that journey with green and smart campuses, agile workspaces, gyms and wellness centers, immersive experiences, on-the-go options, collaboration spaces, concierge services, etc. Smart, tech-enabled yet green, sustainable workspaces, give employees a cause to which they align themselves.
How do we provide employees the experience we expect them to deliver to customers? An internal customer mindset is key to their digital transformation journey. Thanks to the mobile world, employees are used to world-class user interfaces and experiences. One touch, always-on mobile, voice-based solutions are on hand to manage their expectations. Bots answer your every query on food delivery apps while you browse recommendations on e-commerce platforms based on your shopping data. All of this is powered by data and, like in the consumer industry, large stacks of employee data are available with organizations. A recent survey showed that enterprises prioritize enhancing experience via data, at above 30 percent. Data can help organizations create a three-layered approach to digital transformation – Layer 1 - Applicable to all through self-service; Layer 2 – Segmented group like managers (e.g. through digital assistants); Layer 3 – An individualistic solution (N=1; e.g. health apps). It is crucial to remember that you have to start with employee experience and work back towards technology, not the other way around!
It is crucial to remember that you have to start with employee experience and work back towards technology, not the other way around!
Finally, the biggest differentiator of all is the emotional experience. As Carnegie said, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion”. Emotional experience is the trampoline organizations provide to their employees to bounce, with the assurance of a cushion if they fall. Employees care that their values are aligned to those of their organization. Culture, positive ecosystem, values, empowerment, leadership, no-fear of failure and teamwork are the best examples of experiences that differentiates the best from the rest. Organizations should supplement the culture through trust — the biggest performance-enhancing drug, invest in gold standard governance, embrace the dynamic future through learning & unlearning, provide employees greater control through choice, especially regarding rewards and benefits. And all this, along with the employees through co-creation. There is a huge plus in this approach – for the people, by the people. And all people - Gig workers, alumni, candidates, alliances and machines and not just employees – truly the future of work. As beneficiaries of experiences, we understand this, but as makers of experiences, we ignore it. This is why a consumer mindset is key. Employee experience will lead the way for customer experience. So, it is essential to create a very high baseline experience. Further segmentation can be built over this high baseline to provide a personalized experience. Above which, the endeavor should be to identify at least one AHA! moment for every experience that is provided.
As people champions, we also need to create the HR of the Future with new age skills to navigate uncertainty. An AEIOU framework is a good starting point. HRs will have to be Ambidextrous – using technology and human touch, focus both on people and process and the old and the new while designing workplace experiences. Most workplaces consist of employees from different generations bringing in the best experience and energy. Therefore, empathy will be the core to all that we do. After all, we can’t sell what they don’t want to buy! We will have to be influencers for and of the people — a network of people who are the voice bridging the gap and integrating the eco-system. Today, leaders expect us to help them deliver business outcomes – not siloed goals. For this, it is important for us to understand business like business understands business. I’m a big fan of Steve Jobs’ quote which I believe applies succinctly, “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves”. We have to be problem-finders rather than being problem-solvers.
As Jim Morrison said, “I think the highest and lowest points are the important ones. Anything else is just...in between”. Let’s make this in-between journey exciting!
Disclaimer – the article draws on various sources of inspiration and data from the public realm. All views in the article are personal.