Forrester’s Chief Research Officer Carrie Johnson asked Principal Analysts Sam Stern and Sharyn Leaver about employee experience and looked at the psychology behind work and the introduction of workplace automation.
In defining ‘employee experience’, Sam Stern said this was the “sum of their perceptions of their experiences working within an organisation, informed by how they feel about their employer and their working life for that company”.
Carrie Johnson reflected that Forrester’s predictions around large scale digital transformation for big organisations were that it would be very challenging (to avoid a workforce feeling excluded and devalued) as it involved a range of issues that had to be managed well to avoid failure, including culture.
Sam Stern commented that this would give companies a chance to look around their different departments to try to get some of the smaller things right. This included:
• Helping managers become better coaches
• Remove unneeded process or any broken rules that no longer apply
• Help employees be more productive in their daily work
Stern continued that with many companies currently experiencing generally low unemployment, employees had more options and might question whether their employers were doing enough with just smaller efforts. 2019 could mark an exodus of staff, unless the company was demonstrable in showing it cared and that staying was right for them and their future?
Sharyn Lever commented that whilst the road to transformation had to have regard for the legacy stack involved, forgetting the employee experience as part of this journey could form the biggest single cause of failure, as fundamental change was very hard for staff to accept.
Carrie Johnson observed that one fix or ‘band aid predicted for 2019’ was updating infrastructures from legacy technology. This created a natural path for the introduction of ‘Robotic Process Automation’ (RPA) to make processes more efficient. How did that investment conflict with the investment into the employee experience to make people feel good about the work they are doing?
For Sharyn Lever, RPA was a very pragmatic investment as it was so specific, but she acknowledged it could have ‘unintended’ consequences in sending the wrong message to staff if they read into the transformation incorrectly without context and constructive guidance.
Sam Stern commented that it was imperative for companies to be explicit in messaging what RPA was not about in the workplace, otherwise people would make up their own minds – probably incorrectly. Explaining to staff which areas of business would benefit most from the introduction of RPA would be more constructively received, if the plans were shared with employees in advance to get them on board (and offer a discussion). “RPA is designed to take away from the human as many of the non-human tasks as possible as we ask them to do and automate them” ie. those which are boring or repetitive (as humans don’t tend to do this well as we lose interest when we’re not focused and quality drops). Stern agreed it had to start with intentionality, not as a by-product of change, to ensure motivation and focus remained. With the right messaging, staff have a chance to embrace change, not just be onside – and employee experience would be enhanced with recognition of their value and personal contribution.
Chief Research Officer Carrie Johnson was concerned that should we experience a downward economic trend in 2019 and investment went the route of RPA, that there could be a loss of trust for employees, as people’s instincts would naturally be to imagine their job was at risk if the focus went on technology, not the people.
Sharyn Lever commented that businesses needed to make time to re-think their core values to properly understand their identity. Sam Stern added that if values and purpose were weighed against each other, a company had to be very clear about its values – and keep them in line of sight when making decisions. Doing this would ultimately lead to better business decisions, rather than selecting when to apply values.
In summary, both recommended steps to support navigating this tricky path included:
• For management to keep staff focused and to manage any distractions
• To allow employees time to get important work done either directly or in their teams.
◊ Statistically, the better employee response and higher productivity comes from employees feeling they are able to make progress on their most important work (and have distractions managed with minimum interruption of meetings/online tools interference.
• If employees can be supported to focus on the company’s core mission, this will align with the organisation’s wider strategies and lift productivity further.
• Finally, if the individual feels they are making personal progress this will be valuable in helping with staff retention and reduce the costliness and lost time of staff replacement.
Vikki Fox, HR & Client Relationship Manager
Vikki Fox, Amicus ITS HR & Customer Relationship Manager is unequivocal on the matter, “Amicus ITS is a 24×365 B2B IT Managed Service organisation and our staff are at the centre of solution delivery and customer satisfaction every day. You have to start by focusing on your employee and think of them as a person not a commodity. Their employee experience is pivotal to good retention, personal satisfaction and productivity”.
“If you can lead staff with integrity, review any processes to remove those that are obsolete, whilst providing the support and training your staff need to grow personally – they will add value for you and you will have gained their trust through your performance”.
“So when transformation and change inevitably comes (which it will with technology), you are far better prepared to talk things through and nurture their confidence by identifying the solution’s value and the employee’s fit – either as a consumer, or the expert guide for the customer”.
“Company vision can often seem distanced where it is not understood at floor level and recognised by all whatever the role. Ensuring that everyone can identify with your organisation’s core values puts you on that path to a shared vision and sense of pride by association”.
“HR have a big responsibility for employee experience throughout the employee lifecycle, we are selling the opportunity, business, culture and environment from the interview and this experience must continue throughout the individual’s employment. My aim is to lead with integrity and ensure that as a team we understand and work within our company values”.