Do Companies Need a Platform to Deliver Better Employee Experience?
In the past several years, big technology companies that serve human resources have pushed their chips to the center of the employee experience table. It shows no signs of stopping, either.
Last month, Oracle launched Oracle ME which also incorporated their previous employee experience solution, Oracle Journeys. Oracle is not alone, of course. Other large enterprise software players like SAP and Workday have launched Work Zone and Everywhere respectively. Microsoft Viva is in a class of its own with deep integration into Office 365, the desktop apps that millions of employees are already on and using. Companies like Qualtrics, ServiceNow and Accenture all have various flavors of employee experience offerings.
That's not even counting the hundreds of companies that are trying to make a credible claim on employee experience functionality. From payroll and time systems to communication and learning software, all of them are trying to claim employee experience for themselves as well.
Companies have a right to be skeptical of all of these claims. For some vendors, it looks like all they did was cross out employee engagement and substitute employee experience in its place.
It’s Still Early Days for Employee Experience
There's good reason for all this vendor activity. Employers are hot on employee experience. According to a Willis Towers Watson survey, 92% of employers say they are prioritizing enhancing the employee experience in the coming years. What does that mean, though?
The definition of what an employee experience technology solution actually entails is still a work in progress. Unlike existing categories like payroll or human capital management, the list of features that’s required to call yourself an experience solution is mostly in the eye of the beholder.
Josh Bersin’s report on employee experience focused on service delivery, middleware connectivity, digital workflows, process management and knowledge management. IBM and Workhuman focused on belonging, purpose, achievement, happiness and vigor. Others cite creating consumer-like digital experiences or pushing critical and pertinent information into the flow of work.
All of this sounds good, but each definition is also very different. Embedding purpose and belonging is distinct from creating a better HR help desk and knowledge share initiative. These initiatives all cut across the enterprise and can create huge waves of change.
That makes implementing these technologies a huge risk if you don’t know exactly where you’re going or what employee needs will need to be met. To understand that, we need to step back to understand our employees and organizations better.
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EX as the 'Highlight Reel' of Work
When it comes to employee experience, there's a more expansive view. It’s not about a piece of technology or more group happy hours. It’s the summation of employees' experience at work.
In that way, employee experience starts building the moment a person becomes aware of an organization as a potential employer and continues through hiring, onboarding, their employment journey, and even their alumni experience.
If you subscribe to this expansive view, that also means you have to dabble — at least a little — in the world of human psychology. An expansive view requires people to recognize that memories are not formed like a full video recording of their days but more like a highlight reel. That’s incredibly important if your goal is to improve the perception of the employee experience.
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Take this example: Is it worth improving a mundane work environment that sort of disappears into the background of our memories or is it more impactful to improve the experience of a handful of key parts of the employee journey, like taking leave to have a child or getting a promotion?
The way people rate their experience is going to be based much more on the latter. While a fresh coat of paint, better windows and newer technology might affect the whole workforce, the perceived impact is actually going to be less than having a significantly better ritual for onboarding or helping an employee deal with the death of a family member.
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Putting Technology in its Place
Does that mean technology doesn’t have a place? Not at all. In fact, taking a more narrow view of what will make an impact on the employee experience can lead to better technology decisions.
Since most leaders have limited resources for technology initiatives, it makes sense to focus on the moments that matter for employees. Starting with a survey (or just talking to focus groups of employees) can help identify those moments where your organization performs exceptionally well and moments where the experience really breaks down for employees.
Prioritizing it and considering your current technology stack, there may be some easy solutions. For example, shared knowledge management is a constant pain point and there may be solutions within existing technologies your organization may not be using. If leave management is a pain point, you might be able to improve the experience across a number of critical employee experience moments.
Does an EX platform fit into that equation? For some organizations, it may be a good investment even if it doesn’t solve most of your people’s experience challenges. Sometimes, it’s good to just create better processes for employees.
But does every organization need to go through a major technology change to deliver markedly better experiences for employees? All evidence points to no, at least not now.
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About the Author
Lance Haun is a leadership and technology columnist for Reworked. He has spent nearly 20 years researching and writing about HR, work and technology. Connect with Lance Haun: