Now's the Time for HR to Improve the Digital Employee Experience
One thing has become clear: work from home is not a one and done exercise. We've moved on from the emergency measures of the early spring and must now reassess where we stand as organizations.
"We're now at a stage where there's definitely some attention needed because we might be doing this for a while .... So how do we make this really work? Now is the time when the really interesting questions are coming up," said Melissa Swift, global leader, Digital Transformation Advisory at Korn Ferry during a recent webinar. Fellow panelist Mark Bradley who is a principal, EY at People Advisory Services agreed, saying: "This pandemic has put a magnifying glass onto organizations. Things that were good about company culture and the way you work came out stronger. And things that were a struggle only became worse."
But where do organizations go from here? According to Bradley, "It absolutely is an inflection point. At the same time, I think we're seeing a shift in expectations at the worker level regarding flexibility of work from home as they have figured this out. It is going to get codified in the personal expectations of the employment relationship." This period has provided a sudden glimpse into the future, one in which digital has become central to every interaction, forcing both organizations and individuals further up the adoption curve almost overnight, according to McKinsey.
A Time to Reconsider HR Experience?
When speaking with HR leaders and consultants, a common request arises: the hope that the next generation of HR software systems would provide "one interface." HR currently just layers one system on top of another. They don’t have a single system of record or interface for their processes. One expert described end-to-end HR systems as being put together via human band aids.
I raise this because as organizations shift to a more remote workforce with their best-in-class employees working from anywhere, digital work experience matters. Organizations have invested heavily in creating a superior physical workplace experience. Now they need to up their virtual workplace game to continue to attract the best talent. In short, they need to invest in creating great digital employee experiences. However, this can’t be accomplished when employees have to navigate 20 different systems.
A great digital experience will attract and retain great workers. This means delivering a seamless way to move between work modalities and statuses whether that be on premises, off premises or hybrid. It needs to include key processes typically co-owned by HR and IT such as recruiting, onboarding, off boarding — and these days — re-boarding. And regardless of whether workers become permanently remote at some point in the future, everyone needs a better digital workplace experience: one that’s seamless, automated and easy to engage with on a daily basis.
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How can HR leaders and CIOs transform their company’s employee experience? How can they move to a digital HR experience that leads rather than follows?
Based on working with a wide range of businesses around the world and across different industries, I suggest four steps for transforming the digital HR experience:
1. Fix the Way You Integrate Your HR Business Applications and Their Data
A lot of effort goes into integrating HR applications into seamless work processes, including their data. Failure here makes it difficult to create a single view into HR systems and their collective data about employees. Historically, integrations tend to be point-to-point or even worse, built with expensive, custom code that is difficult to create and maintain.
Legacy approaches (including enterprise service buses or middleware) have not made it easier to integrate people and HR processes. Even though this may have been their goal, these approaches rarely updated earlier integrations or established a single, corporate-wide approach. At the same time, historical legacy code for connecting applications was rarely reusable. For these reasons, they’ve effectively become "one-offs," and required a small army of developers and testers to maintain or expand them.
It needs to be easier to create and maintain how HR applications are put together, so HR processes can easily adjust to changing HR requirements. Start by replacing the legacy, custom code with standard, automatically updated integrations, taking advantage of cloud-native technologies and low-code development environments.
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2. Fix and Institute Governance of Your HR Data
It’s time to address the quality of the data your HR applications rely on. Fixing HR data issues will allow you to make better decisions and better support your employee stakeholders — with the added bonus of not having to reconcile employee data inaccuracies manually.
One application or data repository should serve as the golden record for employee and contractor records. Any issues resulting from poorly controlled data should also be fixed. Your goal is to implement HR data governance that identifies the golden record for employees and contractors, so when it comes time to combine data to create a new HR workflow, you'll know you're working with correct, up-to-date HR data. Importantly, this ensures data consistency across all HR systems and applications.
3. Create an HR Data Hub That Provides a Complete View of Employees and Contractors
Make it easy to not only connect HR systems but also create a single view into an employee. Authorized stakeholders should have quick and easy access to accurate data.
One of the best ways to ensure data is discoverable and accessible is to connect new and existing data sources — including master data management (MDM) systems — to a central hub for easy access, by authorized users and applications alike.
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4. Streamline, Automate and Orchestrate Your End-to-End HR Processes
You have an opportunity to create a seamless, world-class virtual workforce experience. The aim is to simplify and unite related HR and IT processes into one seamless HR business experience and lighten your IT team's load. Drive out processes without adding any integration related technical debt, scalability and security issues. It should fix all operational HR processes. According to Constellation Research principal analyst Dion Hinchcliffe, "The biggest weaknesses exposed during the crisis were in employee onboarding and offboarding. These are often weak in most organizations and remote work exposed them to the light of day. Data shows these are the two most important phases to get right in the employee experience."
What you need is automated, optimized HR process orchestration. This approach creates elegant overarching HR processes that crisscross HR activities conducted by managers, prospective employees and employees and provides a single place to enter data across all HR processes. This simplifies HR and its interface, streamlining and making every interaction in the employee lifecycle easier.
Back in April Geoff Colvin wrote, "Remote work will become mainstream, if only because so many people will have an online meeting app and know how to use it.” By taking the steps shown above, organizations can remove significant operational cost and improve end-to-end HR processes for existing and potential workforce members. These steps will help employees unlock innovative ways of working. It is possible to create a seamless, world-class virtual workforce experience. Start with a unified worker journey orchestration.
About the Author
Myles Suer is the leading influencer of CIOs, according to Leadtail. He is the director of solutions marketing at Alation and also the facilitator of the #CIOChat.