The New Employee Experience

Amazon and Apple offer consumer experiences that often inspire an "emotional" attachment. Here's how HR can replicate that for their employees.
By: | November 15, 2017 • 7 min read
People and Talking with Emotions

It’s your first day in your new job as project manager with a medium-sized insurance company in California. Your first day at work is in the middle of a pay cycle, and you’re curious about when you’ll receive your first paycheck.

You also have other, more sensitive questions around benefits enrollment since your spouse is giving birth soon. You call the HR Help Desk, and after holding for 12 minutes, you are told those payroll and benefits-related answers will be available when you log onto the employee portal.

Fast forward a bit, and you’re now in the portal, although struggling to find the benefits form needed for life event changes among dozens of other forms and links. But your eyes are drawn to an “urgent open task” requiring you to take sexual harassment prevention training. You’re alarmed to say the least.

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You call the HR Help Desk for what you hope is a quick clarifying call about this supposedly urgent task. They tell you it’s because you’re a “manager” and sexual harassment prevention training is required of all supervisors in California. You explain you have “manager” in your title, but you don’t actually manage anyone. After being transferred and waiting several minutes for a “Level 2 Specialist,” you learn that the corporate training system extracts anyone with “manager” in their job title from the main HRMS and generates compliance tasks for managers in the portal. A friendly heads-up is also given that “various corporate systems generate different types of tasks in the portal, and sometimes this creates confusion because the systems don’t always talk to each other.”

You start to wonder whether the coming days and weeks in your new company will be just like this. Well, as the following industry research findings suggest, unfortunately, they just might:

* Employees use 9+ apps on average; and 43 percent “somewhat” or “totally” agree they have to switch between too many apps at work.

Source: Survey, “The False Promise of the App Economy”, 2017

* Through 2018, 90 percent of organizations will lack a post-modern application integration strategy.

Source: Gartner, 2016

* 72 percent of employees say they can’t find the information they need, and 65 percent of executives view the “overwhelmed employee” as an “urgent” or “important” issue.

Source: Deloitte Human Capital Trends, 2014

Employee Experience at a Crossroads

The research paints a pretty clear but frankly disturbing picture of the typical experience at work. It is of someone being overwhelmed with distractions and frustrations trying to get things done, plagued by too many systems that aren’t well integrated. Moreover, they are serviced by corporate staff in HR and elsewhere that might try their best, but execution is impeded by legacy tools and incomplete or unreliable information.

As just one example, the much-heralded self-service capabilities of employee portals are often built based on obsolete search technology. Most don’t leverage semantic or ontology-based search (to understand intentions and word relationships), they are typically content-cluttered due to inadequate governance processes around updating the information, personalization is nowhere in sight, and portals rarely access all relevant systems and content resources.

To cut to the proverbial chase, what’s been missing is that there’s too much of a gap between a typical consumer experience and the experience of today’s employee in most organizations. Consumer experiences such as those offered by Amazon or Apple by and large enable an “emotional attachment” because they are highly personalized and friction-free, if not quite enjoyable. The person or system you are interacting with likely knows you and your preferences and tendencies. You feel valued. You appreciate that your life has been made a little easier. Mutual trust is established early on. And you are able to handle clusters of activities at the same time to be very time-efficient, and we all place an incalculable value on time.

The Game-Changer: Natural Experience Layer

Well, help may be on the way, as the chasm between employee and consumer experiences looks like it’s about to narrow. Unlike traditional corporate systems and their traditional interaction channels (e.g., not-so-intuitive employee self-service, portals often linked to just one system, siloed help desks), a new category of enterprise chatbots are now being designed to achieve maximum employee engagement and productivity across the entire enterprise. Let’s call them “enterprise smart bots”, and some of the early entrants in the market are getting much closer to, if not mirroring, the prototypical consumer experience we always hope to get.

A key factor allowing the employee experience game to be changed is something we can refer to as the Natural Experience Layer or “NX” of smart bots, with the operative word being “natural.”

The “NX” term is generally derived as follows: User Interface evolved into User Experience which is now ascending to an even higher standard, the so-called Natural Experience.

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