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Opinions of Wednesday, 1 February 2017


Creating employee experience - 10 HR trends for 2017

2017 is here and the next journey for Human Resource (HR) leaders will be to apply a consumer and a digital lens to the HR function creating an employee experience that mirrors their best customer experience.

Today, almost every company is undergoing a digital transformation. Cloud and mobile computing, artificial intelligence and increasing automation have created the potential to transform nearly every aspect of a business. A survey of CEOs conducted by Fortune asked whether they thought their company was a “technology company” and 67 per cent of CEOs said yes.

The same can be said for forward looking HR departments such as those at IBM and General Electric. HR leaders such as Diane Gherson at IBM and Susan Peters at General Electric are transforming HR to deliver an employee experience that is human centered, uses the latest digital technologies and is personalised, compelling and memorable.

According to Forrester, 47 per cent of executives surveyed believe that by 2020, digital will have an impact on more than half their sales. We see how digital has transformed media, retail, transportation and education. Now it’s HR’s turn. Digital and consumer marketing are permeating new ways of recruiting, working, learning, and engaging employees.

2017 is the year to prepare for transforming HR to be agile, consumer-focused and digital. The 10 trends below will matter most this year.

Focus on creating a compelling employee experience

As Susan Peters, Senior Vice-President, Human Resources at General Electric says, “We define employee experience simply as seeing the world through the eyes of our employees, staying connected and being aware of their major milestones.

In the last year,we have appointed a Head of Employee Experience and we are developing a strategy to create an employee experience which takes into account the physical environment our employees work in, the tools and technologies that enable their productivity and learning to achieve their best at work. All of this is part of continuously evolving our HR capabilities.”

Companies are also driven to focus on creating a compelling employee experience as the war for talent heats up. Mercer predicts that 90 per cent of employers anticipate more competition for talent, especially in India, North America and Asia. So making the workplace an experience allows companies to embed their culture and values in the workplace and use this to recruit and retain top talent.

Use an agile approach to recruit and develop employees

An agile approach is typically used in software development to operate with speed and manage unpredictability. This approach is now being used to recruit and develop employees.

Agile is not only being applied to recruiting but also to learning and development. I have interviewed many heads of learning and identified a number who considered themselves intrapreneurs of the learning function rather than learning and development subject matter experts.

What they did differently was apply an agile approach to corporate learning by making it easy for employees to find, rate, tag and consume learning. They saw their job as learning curators rather than content creators. Companies such as IBM, Visa, MasterCard, Adidas and General Electric to name just a few are adopting new intelligent digital platforms to create a Netflix-like experience for corporate learners.

Partner with real estate to create spaces that promote culture

In a TED talk, Susan Cain made the case that most workplaces are, “designed mostly for extroverts and their need for lots of stimulation.” She highlighted how introverts are highly talented individuals with a very different set of characteristics. So companies should ask, “How can we accommodate both our introverts and our extroverts in our work spaces?” Try asking yourself four simple questions regarding the work space you have in your organisation:

Where do you go to do your best work?
Where do you go to get the job done?
Where do you avoid meeting or working?
Where do you go to recharge?
Although a majority of American workers go to offices with open floor plans (70% of us, according to the International Facilities Management Association), companies are beginning to acknowledge that this isn’t always the best for getting work done.

In fact, research from Steelcase conducted with a global sample of 12,480 employees across 17 countries documents that workers who have control over where and how they work, and are free to choose a work space to fit their task at hand—either focused work or collaborative work—are 88 per cent more engaged at work.

The decision is not whether or not to design an open space, but rather how to give employees choice in where to work based upon the activity they are working on.

The HR takeaway: work space is not just a building, but part of the HR agenda to extend the company’s culture and engage employees.

4: Apply a consumer marketing lens to HR

With job candidates and employees empowered to provide instant feedback on employers, we are seeing the “yelpification” of the workplace, where, employees can rate a company’s culture and management just as they rate a hotel, restaurant, or movie.

HR departments are applying a range of consumer marketing tools, such as design thinking, hackathons, and sentiment analysis to create a compelling employee experience.

Paul Papas, global leader of IBM Interactive Experiences, says “The last best experience that anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experiences they want everywhere.”

This is leading companies such as IBM and Cisco to translate their relentless focus on customers to their employees. IBM uses design thinking and their own sentiment analysis tool, called Social Pulse, to reveal insights in re-imagining performance management.

5: Pilot chatbots in HR

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a huge market, predicted to surge from US$8 billion this year to US $47 billion by 2020, according to IDC. Some say it resembles the Internet in the mid 1990’s, and will be built into all kinds of products and services.

Marketers are already using bots—or artificial intelligence computer program designed to simulate a conversation through written or spoken text—to deliver personalised conversational experiences online.