The coming year will bring a new focus on employee experience, technologies that add to that experience and the need to tear down the silos that contain disparate systems and their valuable yet underused data, predicts John Brownridge, digital workplace leader at Deloitte Consulting. Further, organizations’ reliance on Zoom, MS Teams and other video meeting platforms will have to ramp up to enhance collaboration.
All of those issues feed into job retention–job No. 1 for HR leaders and the C-suite in the coming year. In fact, CEOs rank it as the leading external issue they expect to influence or disrupt their business strategy within the next year, according to the recent Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey.
Along with addressing employees’ physical, emotional and financial wellness to improve retention, HR leaders must work at “helping people feel connected to the organization so that they work well with the people within the organization,” says Brownridge.
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According to Brownridge, improved technology and automation could play a key role in adding to overall employee experience and could hasten the end of the Great Resignation.
But organizations tend to address this from the employer vantage point.
“We need to get employee experience right to address retention and attract top talent. The only way we do that is to start looking at employee experience from the point of view of the worker and not from the point of view of which function [they] have to accomplish,” he says.
Although he admits that people aren’t leaving their jobs directly because of an unsatisfactory experience with an HR portal, for example, Brownridge argues that employee experience strategy must be multifaceted; it should encompass how people work, interact with their organization and even address the loneliness employees can feel on the job. Automation, for example, can help eliminate uninspiring tasks and allow workers to be more creative or invested emotionally in their work.
“Do they feel like they have a critical use of time at work, or do they feel like time is wasted? [This] is a factor of how they feel about work,” he says. “[Are they] wasting 40% of their time doing low-value work versus doing the best work of their lives? Having the capabilities to do ]high-value work] affects how people feel about where they are,” he says.
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Given these shifts, Deloitte consultants believe that HR technology investments will remain a priority in the coming years. According to The Digital Workplace Reimagined, published by Deloitte with research conducted by Gartner, researchers predicted that 70% of digital workplace service transactions will be automated by 2025, up from 30% today. And, they wrote, one-quarter of business meetings will involve virtual assistants by 2024, up from just 5% now.
“I think organizations are about to pivot in how they’re thinking about technology within their organization,” says Brownridge, who adds that new tech has the potential to add purpose to employees’ work lives.
“We’ve got to address how we’ll feel about the work we’re doing, about the people we work with and how they experience the place where they work. How do they feel connected to the mission? And how does this relate to belonging to the organization?” asks Brownridge. “Organizations need to look beyond the current kind of silo that most organizations are in and start thinking about [new ideas] of employee experience.”
Return to the office instead of return to work
Another major HR priority coming down the pike will be the task of inspiring reticent employees to return to the office once COVID-19 outbreaks diminish. This means accepting the fact that some employees won’t want to set foot in an office ever again after working remotely in a virtual workspace for so long.
While Brownridge says that staff meetings over Zoom, for instance, have been a great equalizer in that they give everyone the same opportunity to speak, collaboration tools that replicate the conference rooms of yore will be in great demand next year.
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“Organizations are going to be dealing with, how do we collaborate in this hybrid environment and how do we maintain equity and inclusion?” notes Brownridge.
Supervisors and middle managers, in particular, will have to adapt to this environment and reassess how they lead employees, especially those who were hired during the pandemic and have never known office life at their current organization.
“We are listening to clients where the leadership [said], ‘Everyone back in the office,’ and we surveyed their employees … and they were like, ‘Absolutely not, I will leave,’” says Brownridge. “The whole office mentality that leaders have has to change, and in most organizations it is changing. It’s been interesting to watch organizations push for ‘back in the office’ and then needing to back off because of employee response.”