Who takes care of the employees in the enterprise? Different roles, different approaches

When we speak of employee experience, the question immediately arises as to the scope of the function, which leads to the question of complementarity or overlap with other functions. Let us start with the first point.

Often I hear “oh yes, we already do employee experience, but we don’t call it like that”. Or ” Here it’s in the HR department “.

As I often say, it doesn’t matter how you call it, what matters, is that someone is taking care of it if it’s important. And that everyone agrees on the exact perimeter, that goes without saying, but it’s better when you say it.

So let’s take a look at the different names that can be given to the teams that take care of the employees in the organization.

Human resources: an old profession that is struggling to reform itself

Let’s start with the most natural and legitimate a priori: human resources. Logically the experience employed should be in HR but…

But if we consider that the Employee Experience function is a “transformative” function it has no place there, or not in the current configuration in any case.

The big problem with human resources today is that it is struggling to break free from the legal straitjacket in which it was locked when it was called “personnel management”. The name has changed, as has its vision, but it is not being given the means to become fully what it would like to become. Legal security and pay first, then the rest. And I’m not talking about the problems of under-staffing.

It is not for nothing that we see, but not yet too much in France, the people/talents part and the administrative part separating, the only way to avoid the downgrading of the function. We could very well put the employee experience in this People pole, or say that it’s the same thing, or put, as in my current case, the People in the employee’s experience. With one thing in mind: as I said when I presented my vision of the function: employee experience has a direct or indirect impact on operations, internal and business processes and the way the company operates. The true meaning of the famous HR Business Partner who is often only a part-time partner and not too businesslike because he has no power over the context in which the employee works in his position. And I’m not at all sure that the People function wants to go down that road and get its hands dirty in the operational side of the business.

In short, a natural complementarity but scopes to be defined and articulated.

Well Being: essential but too limited

Very often heard too. ” Employee experience? Ah yes, we take care of the well-being at work too.” Once again a question of scope.

Well being at work? I totally believe in it and I talked about it a few years ago. Now it must not be just “putting a sauna next to the torture room” according to my favourite expression. For me, the employee’s experience gladly encompasses well-being at work, but adds well-being “in work”, in other words, when the person is in a work situation, in production.

You can do what you want for comfort, health, relaxation, work/life balance but, even if it contributes to work efficiency, it does not compensate in the long run for hard, poorly organized work and an organization that slows down the employee.

Because in the end, when he is asked for his opinion or when he leaves, he will have forgotten about the well being initiatives and will only talk about a heavy and complicated organization and a manager who did not help him.

Happiness at Work: A Dangerous and Inappropriate Promise

The concept that’s popular right now but leaves me more than a little skeptical. Let’s be clear, I have nothing against people being happy at work, quite the contrary. The day you find a manager or leader who will tell you that finally unhappy people is nice, run away or advise him to go to work at the funeral home.

Yet what company, what manager, what leader can have the courage to promise happiness by looking their employees in the eye? No one has the same definition of happiness. It changes according to people and times. So at the level of a collective of 10, 100, 1000, 100,000 individuals, keeping the promise is an impossible mission.

And then what levers does the company have to make people happy? Happiness at work is just an illusion. We are happy or not, but we are not happy at work and unhappy outside or the other way around. From the moment the company has no control over the employee’s private life, making the promise of happiness means making an ambitious commitment and having the certainty of disappointing.

Instead of promising to make people happy, let the company just avoid making them unhappy and it will be good enough.

And let’s replace happiness with satisfaction and we will be more in a realistic promise. You can be satisfied without being happy, but at least the company makes a promise that is up to the company to keep.

So I hope that a good employee experience will bring satisfaction and, if the employee’s personal life goes well, contribute to his or her happiness. In the meantime this cannot be a realistic goal in itself, so I see no use in the function of “chief happiness officer”.

And if the subject still excites you, I’ll leave you to ask yourself whether happiness makes you perform or performance makes you happy.

Anyway, irrelevant.

People Operations: a promising trend

“I’ve recently seen the advent of People Operations. If I use the definition given by Workable:

People operations is a business function that puts employees first. Despite the fact that it falls under the HR umbrella, People Ops has a broader scope: it involves all actions that help employees be productive at work, from the moment they’re hired to the moment they leave.

Let’s look at the main responsibilities of people operations in more detail. They are:

  • Modernize and digitalize outdated, bureaucratic HR systems, including payroll and applicant tracking software.
  • Treat employees as internal customers and increase their satisfaction.
  • Support employees on a day-to-day basis and answer questions about benefits and company policies.
  • Keep track of and analyze HR metrics (e.g. turnover rates, time to hire).
  • Onboard new employees and ensure they have access to necessary resources and tech.

So here we are in something that is neither opposed to my conception of the experience used, nor bullshit, nor even complementary because it falls right into it and that is certainly the closest thing to it.

I’m totally buying it down to one detail. When we talk about “actions that help employees to be productive at work” there is no doubt that the scope lacks a direct impact on operations. Not the operations concerning people, but the operations that people carry out and the context in which they carry them out. Once again the business impact dimension through the organization and simplification of systems, tools and processes that is so close to my heart.

In the end, depending on the company, there are many different ways of taking care of employees, different ways of doing things, different departments responsible.

What’s the best option? No best option. It all depends on what we set out to achieve, how far we have the courage to go. Then let’s call it what we want as long as the mandate and the perimeter are clear and the department or departments in charge have the means to achieve their objectives and do not fight against each other.

Having said that, I confess that I’m not comfortable with the term “experience”, as it’s so overused by smoky marketing slogans that we’ll have to get rid of it one day to make the subject more credible to a wider audience. On that day my preference would be People Operations or People Ops, which I like very much.

Photo : s’occuper des collaborateurs by Blue Planet Studio via Shutterstock

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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