There is a shift of focus emerging in the field of human resources. Managers are aspiring to create “experiential” organizations that are based on a continuous loop of communication between the employee and the company, says author and futurist Jacob Morgan, the keynote speaker at our 2016 user conference. Experience, he claims, is what puts the humanity into our organizations, and organizations that create positive employee experience will dominate the future of work.
Changing assumptions about work
The world of work is changing at an incredible speed. For more than 100 years we have built our organizations on outdated assumptions of management as control, employees as expendable, and work as drudgery. But in today’s world people are finding ways to avoid working in traditional organizations. As a result, companies have entered into fierce competition to recruit and retain talent, forcing them to place a major focus on employee experience. “Experiences are crucial because they help shape our decisions around who we want to have relationships with and who we don’t want to have relationships with,” states Morgan. Companies that create positive employee experiences will have the edge on competitors when recruiting new talent. And it’s not only the employees who gain from this new focus. As Morgan explains, “Organizations that focus on employee experience are better at customer experience. If your employees feel like they’re being treated well, they will want to treat your customers well.”
Three environments shape employee experience
Organizations create positive employee experience by focusing on three main environments: physical space, culture, and technology. Morgan proposes several questions that organizations should ask themselves to determine whether they can improve employee experience within these environments.
Physical space is the environment that you can see, touch, and taste. It includes everything from the floor plan and wall decor, to the people working around you. Morgan encourages organizations to ask themselves this: Do our physical environments offer employees multiple modes of working, more than just a choice between open or closed floor plans? Are our corporate values, such as trust and transparency, reflected in the physical environment?
Culture is the vibe you feel when working in an organization. It is the result of many factors, including organizational style and leadership approach. Organizations shouldn’t simply ask themselves if their employees feel a sense of purpose. They should go further and ensure that their employees feel valued and treated fairly.
Technology is the third environment impacting employee experience. This includes mobile devices, software, hardware, and more. It is crucial to choose up-to-date and consumer-grade technologies, those that employees would want to use in their own personal lives if they could. Organizations must consider whether this technology will be available to everyone, or to only a handful of people. Finally, they need to ask themselves if the technologies are focused on employee needs or only on a checklist of business requirements.
HR: A partner in change
Today, companies as diverse as Airbnb, Cisco and Whirlpool are innovating to improve employee experience. They are experimenting with workplace design, flattening their hierarchies, eliminating annual employee reviews, and developing smart office technologies that adapt to personal parameters automatically. They are testing new ideas in technology, culture, and physical space to reflect and adapt to employee needs. This is what it means to focus on employee experience. According to Morgan, it is “a continuous relationship between the organization and the employee, where you test out ideas and launch them, employees give you feedback, you extract insight, you analyze it, you get data, and you redesign again.”
HRD is at a pivotal point to drive this innovation and create good employee experience. As a partner in strategic planning within the organization, they can help provide environments that result in employees who are enabled, empowered and engaged. They can ensure the communication needed for organizations to test new ideas and incorporate feedback, creating a workplace that is more like a laboratory than a factory. As Jacob Morgan stressed in his keynote address, “Employee experience isn’t just an end point; it is a continuous, never-ending journey.”