2020 will be the year of the experience economy where employees will be significantly impacting the business bottom line with their intrinsic willingness to serve the company and its customers. In an interaction with Rajeev Bhardwaj VP HR Sun Life Asia Service Centre ASC, we dive deep into the several reasons driving the increased focus on employee experience. Rajeev shares some of the key pillars of creating an employee experience and discusses how digital will be increasingly leveraged to enhance employee experience in 2020.
Creating a great employee experience has been a top priority for HR and business leaders in recent times. As companies seek to hire and retain the top talent, what do you think creating this ‘great employee experience’ entails? How would you define a ‘great employee experience’?
The question is why 'employee experience'? I think it acts as a great differentiator for an employer's brand, as almost all organizations in our sector are by and large, pretty equally placed.
When it comes to having policies in place for compensation, perquisites, workplace facilities, most of the organizations have similar things to offer. There are not going to be huge variants. But what makes an employee gravitate to a particular brand or an organization is the experience which they have or hear about from others. From ex-employees, current employees to potential employees, typically, the experience is a sum total of their interactions with an organization.
It is the moment of truth with their day to day work; their growth potential in the organization; the way conflicts are resolved, and the way business is serving society, customers and clients. All of this together constitutes employee experience.
Over and above some basics that everyone expects from their workplaces, elements that organizations offer employees additionally and give them their 'AHA' moment is what adds up to creating a great employee experience. It could be something as simple as paying attention to detail or the way you have used technology to streamline a certain process.
Most importantly, to ensure great employee experience, the employer has to be consistent in its efforts of creating that environment for its employees. Employers, today, have to continuously work towards excellence and always be on a quest for perfection. The approach that businesses have had for so long for client experience has to be there for employee experience as well.
Who do you think drives the agenda of creating a great employee experience in the organization?
There are multiple stakeholders. Especially in the service-oriented sector, everybody has a stake in it.
While HR teams give a direction or guidance owing to their expertise, everyone else has to drive the agenda of creating a great employee experience every day. As I highlighted earlier as well, consistency is key when it comes to ensuring a great employee experience. An element of it is present in each touchpoint employee has every day in the organization. From entering the office to the first meeting with the team to a discussion with a manager to applying for leave, there are multiple moments in any employee’s typical day that shapes his/her experience.
To ensure that a consistently good experience for them is maintained throughout their day and time in the workplace, everyone in the company has to drive the agenda.
What are some initiatives that you have led in Sun Life ASC to create such an experience? What impact have these initiatives created?
In addition to the regular meetups, town halls, we have leveraged technology and taken a digital route to enhance our employees' experience.
We have signed up with a virtual engagement bot Amber, who based on predetermined timelines, reaches out to a different set of employees and helps capture their voice and emotions.
It is helping us capture a lot of insights and helping us address employees' challenges timely.
Employees often don't articulate their challenges unless they are huge, but with this element, minutest of emotions are captured.
Additionally, we also provide an Employee Assistance Plan with a focus on mental counselling. While the program offers multiple experiences like financial counselling and legal counselling, we focused more on mental counselling given today's more stressed business ecosystem. Under this initiative, if anyone is undergoing any sort of mental stress or going through depression, they can connect with a specialist.
Further, we also digitized the whole employee wellness aspect.
Until recently, employee wellness was limited to paying for medical bills and reimbursements. But now, as the world is moving towards more proactive contact, we at Sun Life Financial have on-boarded a virtual doctor called Doctor Insta. It provides medical facilities 24*7 at the touch of a button. There's been a massive uptake in our employees about that.
As the world of work continues to move at a fast pace, digitizing processes throughout employees’ lifecycle is becoming all the more essential to help them give better experience. Hence, we are now focusing on building an integrated digital platform internally, which will bring everything together and make all services available for employees in a single touch.
As creating a great employee experience, is a job easier said than done, what are some of the challenges that you have faced in leading this endeavor? How did you overcome these challenges, especially given the increased use of technology you introduced?
Challenges are part of the process. When it comes to HR tech implementation, there are two phases, adoption and sustenance where most challenges emerge.
Here’s where the HR aspect of change management comes into play. HR leaders have to introduce the change and drive the whole process to ensure its smooth implementation. Starting from working on the ‘what’s in it for me?’ aspect for employees to ensuring if you are receiving the expected ROI.
Our first operating mantra is that employees shouldn’t get surprised. Further, when introducing any initiative for employees, ensure it is agile and flexible. Acknowledge and address their feedback and course correct if required.
As organizations evolve, they need to be mindful of the rapidly changing ecosystem they operate in as well. Employer’s market has become the employee’s market, and it is time we accept that.