Employee Experience beyond HR

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Macro photo of tooth wheel mechanism with PRODUCTIVITY, EFFICIENCY, PROCESS, GOAL, SYSTEM, PERFORMANCE and IMPROVEMENT concept words

Who should be in charge of employee experience ? That’s a matter I’ve already dealt with in this blog but that comes once again on the front stage as employee experience is getting more and more traction and businesses are starting to wonder how to organize to handle this properly.

During the latest HRTech World conference in october it was a very popular issue and lead to many discussions between HR practitioners or people with brand new titles like Employee Experience VP, Head of Employee experience etc.

The actual question behind all these discussions was : how to impact beyond HR when once most often is part of HR or one of its “spin off”. And it comes with a side questions for those who are just jumping on the bandwagon : why going beyond HR. This last question is probably the most important one because understanding why quickly leads to finding out how.

Employee experience is a HR matter by design

Let’s start from the beginning. Employee Experience belongs as obviously to HR as customer experience belongs to marketing. After all, who already legitimately owns the employee journey and life-cycle ? Who’s already in charge of well-being ?

But we also have to admit that :

• the journey is not managed as a journey but as a series of jumps from one silo to another rather than a seamless journey.

• well-being is a minor component of employee experience because…

• most of the employee experience (75%? 99%?) has nothing to do with HR but day-to-day work experience, with what happens when one does his job.

• HR are responsible for the journey but don’t control most of the parts of the journey.

However : don’t more and more businesses put client experience in the hands of a department of its own because it’s too wide to be in the hands of marketing only ? This should raise questions for us.

If HR control the HR part of the employee daily work-life (leaves,learning etc and all the tools that are used to manage it), they don’t control anything when it comes to what accounts for 90% of employee experience and mostly relates to business processes and solutiins as well as management.

A CHRO can transform HR processes and tools, what will benefit to his staff and his clients (managers and employees), and as a manager he can transform his staff day-tp-day work. But he won’t transform other managers’ processes and tools and point to the lack of alignment between what a manager does and the employee experience the company expect. Sometimes it’s possible but it never bears any fruit.

So, employee experience is at least shared between HR and business lines and functional managers without any of them legitimate to impose his views to the others. They can agree on a vision and join their forces but no one can mandate anything.

A good experience ? Not having to fight againts one’s own organization

Not everyone agrees with it but my point is that employee experience is mostly about effectiveness (and even productivity) and engagement. The biggest burden employees have to carry today is about organization, management, processes and tools that slow them down in their work, prevent them from being as good as they can. Businesses ask them to run faster and faster while themselves putting milestones around their necks.

Ask your employees how to improve their experience ? They’ll talk about irritants like tools and processes, reporting etc. A good experience is an experience without hindrance, where people have the proper tooling to focus on getting their work done. Fighting against the competition ? It’s ok ! Working hard to convince and please the client ? It’s ok ! But why having to fight against once own organization while there’s already so many obstacles around ?

So even if may surprise some people, employee experience mostly happens and matters when people work. The rest is secondary.

What about well-being ? Well being is welcome and is surely not inconsistent with a productivity-driven approach to employee experience, but between an hindrance-free work environment  and having a spa and yoga lessons, I know what employees value.

However, if an employee does not care about processes and work organization and like to work in your company because of the yoga lessons I advise you to think twice about his real motivation and what drives his engagement.

Where’s happiness ? Not (only) at work.

If I did not mention happiness at work I’m sure some would mention it in the comment so let’s deal with it once for all. I don’t know if it’s too idealistic or a fraud but :

• promising happiness is a huge promise once must be sure he could keep. As an employer it’s more than risky, it’s dangerous.

• there are has many definitions of happiness as you have employees. Good luck.

•what makes people happy change over time.

• thinking that work alone can make people happy is sad. Work can bring satisfaction, help people to blossom, contribute to happiness, but not more. Doing things in order work does notm ake people unhappy would already be a huge victory. Making work not a source of frustration anymore would be great. What takes us back to the content and organization of work.

The future of HR : productivity !

So let’s get back to our primary matter. As Josh Bersin said and with mat many practitioners agreed is that the future of HR is about productivity. Not HR productivity, but employees’ productivity.

You’ll find this illustration in the HR Technology Disruptions for 2018 report from Josh Bersin.

Let’s make it clear : productivity will not replace HR’s current missions but is  new priority that comes on top of them. In my opinion Bersin is too optimistic : most businesses are still trying to fix their talent management and are terrible at engagement, what does not make it easy to start another stream of work, even if it’s very important.

But the good news is that you don’t have to have achieved all the previous missions to start working on productivity because it benefits to the company and employees will like it.

Productivity at the heart of employee experience

No need to tell you why productivity is important for businesses. In human capital there’s the work capital and we all expect it to develop and pay back in line with the investment made. People are the productive machine of the organization.

But people like if the organization care about their productivity. Not as it’s always been done with unreachable goals and a lot of pressure but by giving th me means tto achieve their mission in an hindrance free context.

There’s nothing worse than feeling capable of meeting one’s objectives and being hindered by the organization one works for..

Start employee experience with process simplification

By stacking rules, processes, management layers over years most businesses can’t answer simple questions as  “why do we do that this way” with another answer that “that’s how we always did”;

Ask anyone to improve or fixe something and he’ll add something but never remove anything that has become obsolete and useless over time (yesterday’s solutions are today’s problems).

Process simplification brings tangible benefits for the organization and bring relief to the employee who value the initiative.

Simplify? But with whom ?

If productivity is what matters, HR are only equipped to improve their own. So what to do for others ?

Cross-functional  collaboration is an imperative : even if HR lead the ambition, it will be delivered by others. If their not seen as legitimate, an head of employee experience or I don’t know what new title will take it.

The last question is about the mandate. Without a clear and explicit mandate from the C-suite and even from the board nothing will happen and the ones in charge will, as we often saw, be preaching in the desert.

photo credit : Fotolia.