Employees used to be considered a means to an end. They were simply the muscle behind a company’s real pride and joy – its products or services. Through that lens, it’s no surprise that the way they were managed, valued, and rewarded looked very different from today. Think annual reviews, anniversary hams, and retirement watches.
Fast forward a bit and you’ll find that employees are now considered a true differentiator for businesses. They drive the customer experience, which in today’s competitive business environment is just as important as a company’s product or service itself. The role of HR and the sophistication of the technology programs used to manage, engage and recognize employees are a reflection of this shift.
The evolution of HR as a business-critical operation
HR leaders have been dealt a tough hand. The skills shortage that’s created a war for talent. The need for flexibility enabling the rise of the independent workforce. And the retention challenges of a transient workforce as a result of it all.
Companies are in constant competition for talent – both prospective candidates and existing employees alike. For HR leaders, it’s no longer about simply recruiting and managing employees throughout their lifecycle at your company. HR is responsible for driving an exceptional employee experience.
Here’s why. A positive, progressive employee experience allows companies to create a compelling employer brand, elevate employee performance, increase engagement, and develop brand advocates – just to name a few.
It’s a tall order. And it would be impossible to achieve without technology.
Technology and the employee experience
HR technology best practices have evolved over time to meet the needs of both the HR function and the employees themselves. Systems of record were replaced by systems of engagement. Tools that address the needs of HR gave way to those that address the needs of employees. And the focus of technology shifted from automating HR processes to improving them.
How did we go from Excelware to on-premise talent management tools to best-of-breed cloud platforms that work seamlessly together? Rapid innovation in the HR tech space.
These past few years, in particular, have seen a whirlwind of activity on the innovation front. In fact, Josh Bersin shared in his HR Technology Market 2019 report that the HR tech market grew 10% in 2018 alone – and for a billion dollar industry, that’s no small sum.
All that innovation adds up to the development of technology where the employee experience is front and center. But not only is technology enabling it, but it’s also actually driving it.
There are three big tech must-haves when it comes to delivering the experience that employees expect today. Technology must allow HR leaders to drive processes that are:
- Integrated is out, and connected is in. It’s not enough to integrate processes and data on the back end – today the front end is just as important. An example of this might be that employees see their peers’ goal achievement in their recognition feed. Or that when managers log into their performance management tool to start a check-in conversation, they see all their employee’s accomplishments, goal process, and peer feedback. A connected experience is a holistic experience and one that drives deeper engagement.
- Being mobile-friendly used to be the storyline, but today it’s having “Zero UI”. The future of work is meeting employees where they are, in the technology they’re in every day. Employees and managers are taking action from their email, Slack, Salesforce, or other communication channels that they live in and they expect the tools they use to be just as accessible. To have any sort of adoption, technology needs to be in the flow of work for employees and companies alike.
- Value-driven. Employees don’t want to be managed – they want to be coached and developed and recognized and respected. While they’re delivering value to an organization via their work, they expect value in return in the form of professional development opportunities and personal recognition. Technology can build this directly into the process today, for example, by giving managers suggested conversation starters for check-ins that focus on development. Or, by notifying employees every time they are recognized or when their accomplishment gets a “like” or comment from a peer.
On the surface, it would appear that the pendulum of benefits has swung in favor of employees when it comes to technology. But really, it’s a win-win for the business as well. One study found that engaged teams have 41% less absenteeism and 59% less turnover – adding up to a 21% increase in business profitability. By optimizing your organization with technology that’s connected, seamless, and value-driven, HR can be the linchpin that creates a high-performing company culture and an engaged workforce that thrives in the marketplace. And who doesn’t want that?
About the author: Paul Pellman is the CEO of Kazoo, the only people management solution that brings together Recognition & Rewards, Continuous Performance Management, and Engagement Surveys in one easy-to-use platform. As a seasoned executive, Paul is committed to giving employees what they need to deeply engage in their work by fulfilling the company’s vision to create rewarding and purpose-filled workplaces. Paul holds a B.S. in accounting and finance from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Harvard University.