Forrester Predictions 2019 – Amicus ITS Digests: Session#5 – Employee Experience

(L-R) Carrie Johnson, Sharyn Leaver and Sam Stern

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”.

 

Forrester Predictions 2019 – Amicus ITS Digests: Session#4 AI and Automation

(L-R) Forrester CMO Victor Milligan with Principal Analysts Michele Goetz and
JP Gownder

In the fourth of our sequence of digests on Forrester’s 2019 findings and forecasts looking ahead in 2019, Principal Analysts Michele Goetz and JP Gownder were in the hot seat for the AI and automation session with #Forrester CMO Chair, Victor Milligan.

Asked about the current status of AI and Automation, Michele Goetz observed that AI was becoming more interesting to companies.  Activity remains principally on pilots and Proof of Concepts, with the main focus on what analytics can offer.   But it was the automation aspects that were identified as having the most traction because of the opportunity for business benefit outcomes.

JP Gownder added that business values were starting to be seen in ‘Robotic Process Automation’ (RPA), whereby repetitive tasks get automated, freeing up people to spend time on more strategic tasks.  Through automation he said, businesses can identify the seeds of opportunity in AI with connections starting to be made and APIs connected and the starting steps of value to the change in process.

Victor Milligan asked how businesses were addressing the issue of (high) risk and (high) reward with AI (where machines replace people) but what were the ‘consequences’.

To evaluate this, Michele Goetz recommended that if an organisation broke down its ‘business processes’ and ‘automated processes’, you could get a ‘horizon view’ of business activities, business behaviours and customer behaviours.   Then, through Machine Learning providing pattern analysis, organisations would be able to spot the ‘digital twin’ in order to make simulations that could support strategic decisions about a company’s AI road map.  This would enable organisations to:

• Determine where they wanted to go
• Redesign their processes
• Create new products as required
• Create new experiences and engagement with customers

By committing to AI, organisations would be positioned to change the way they operate, to better manage the day-to-day and oversee outputs.  Then if things went awry, managers could act quickly and de-risk any aspects, whilst still looking ahead at new opportunities by virtue of having deep operational knowledge and how customers engage, plus a holistic view of the business.

Victor Milligan wanted to know what AI could improve in business today, against what it will create for a business net new?  Michelle Goetz felt there was great opportunity for the new opportunities arising from AI.  However, most organisations are still getting to grips with the basics.  To get to this next stage, organisations would need to review some key aspects and remove old and inefficient processes. This approach includes:

• How we look at data
• Changes in how we approach and utilise analytics and algorithms
• How we see and understand our businesses

In looking at the changes on how employees work (or not) JP Gownder advised that with RPA, for legacy systems that are disconnected – automation can be a game changer. In retail shops (eg. Wallmart), robotic scanners were now deployed to look for product/shelving or price errors, so clear example in retail where robotics were driving value and adding efficiencies. Elsewhere physical robots are starting to be seen in factories working alongside humans.

Victor Milligan questioned what pragmatic aspects people should think about doing or avoiding.  Goetz reflected that people should think big and re-imagine their approach to business, production and what the experience looks like through a customer’s eyes – and stop testing algorithms.

JP Gownder believed that there were opportunities at both ends of the business spectrum, not just driving costs down.  He advocated that part of the solution lies in cleaning up shared IT operations to use automation – and secondly to make new money solving customer problems.

The traditional role of operations and the new role of digital were not consistently hand-in-hand today, but Gownder said would need to blend together to create commercial success.  Using automation technology could bring about greater clarity through rationalisation, but also be a means to drive profit ultimately for businesses.

Amicus ITS Sales Director, Les Keen

Amicus ITS Sales Director Les Keen commented:  “The evolution of cloud technology with AI and automation is putting B2B and B2C organisations at a crossroads, both developmentally in tech terms as well as the commercial opportunities on the horizon in the longer term”.

“Whatever the industry, the key to realising the benefits of AI and automation will be for organisations to review their business processes against existing infrastructure to understand their direct needs and priorities. Modernisation is key throughout, however looking at the processes that should be targeted to create the greatest improvements and efficiencies is a starting point”.  

“I would agree with Michele Goetz that introduction of AI has to start with a clear business plan to direct the vision, strategy and drivers required (technical or human resource).   Re-imagining an organisation would be a highly invigorating exercise for all companies as it would free you up from thinking about how you have done things before.   AI and automation are still largely in their infancy, but will mark a leap in the way a lot of organisations can and will operate and interact with people in the future”.

“Having a sensitivity and regard for humans in the workplace must be a focus to ensure the humans do the intelligent and creative work to distinguish from the repetitive and mundane. Mapping this journey successfully is also greatly about the messaging within an organisation to ensure everyone understands what the advantages will bring for them, as much as any business benefit”.

“For the public sector in the UK, despite a Cloud First Government directive, budgets are increasingly under pressure to maintain legacy IT estates, so ‘re-imagining’ could remain just a dream for many. However, in the short term it may well be that the greatest initial changes we see are in the clinical environment, rather than with core business IT”.

What are your thoughts on AI in the workplace? Do you consider it a threat or an advance that’s overdue? Leave your comment here