In the key components of a successful customer experience I had identified personalization and even hyper-personalization. Applied to the employee experience it is another criterion that does not pass the crash test.
The challenge of personalization at scale
The personalization of the employee experience in a business means so many things that in the end it can quickly become meaningless. Candidate journey, career path, onboarding, training, HR benefits, job descriptions, managerial relations, workstation… the list goes on and on.
On each of these points one can have a personalized approach. Having said that, one must be pragmatic: concepts and convictions are beautiful, but at some point you have to confront the principle of reality and realize that no matter how beautiful an idea may be, it is sometimes simply difficult to implement or even totally inapplicable.
Personalization in a small or medium business is quite easy. At least getting the mindset and the human dimension. For the rest it is often the means that are lacking and a small business does not have a whole range of practices, services or benefits to customize.
In a medium-sized company you can have interesting things. The biggest of them, or even those of intermediate size, sometimes have the right “mix” between size, means and development of HR and managerial policy to combine the human and organizational dimension. Provided they want to.
For large companies, let’s be honest, one can customize by “categories” with a more or less fine mesh, but working at the individual level is madness. Even if there is more means than in others, even if their organization gives more room for personalization, the number of employees makes it humanly impossible to manage and I even think that given their complexity and size the cost per employee would be much higher than in smaller companies. One can do a lot of things, but one must be careful with one’ s ambitions.
So indeed, if in the intention the personalization is “easy”, scaling remains the main obstacle.
The Three Dimensions of Personalising the Employee Experience
But if this requires efforts and investments in time and money, one is entitled to ask the question of the return that can be expected, whether for the company or for the employee. And that starts by clarifying the subject and moving from the concept to more concrete applications.
Indeed, personalization is vague when you take the term out of context. I see four dimensions to which personalization can be applied.
• Journeys: candidate journey, onboarding journey, career path and within this last training journey, user journey in a tool or a process.
• Relationships: relationship between the manager and the employee or even between employees.
• Information: corporate communication, all forms of information and data available.
• HR and HR benefits: we can talk about the job description, even if it also relates to the career paths mentioned above, but there are also the various HR benefits that arise.
Why personalize the employee experience
I will detail in a future post a number of initiatives that fall within the scope of the personalization of the employee experience, but we can already cite a few examples to get an idea of the benefits we are entitled to expect.
• Personalized candidate experience: fewer dropouts during the process, more chances for the candidate to accept the proposal.
• Personalised career paths: find the “sweet spot” between business skills, tastes, aspirations and even personal passions for more commitment, motivation and less turnover.
• Personalised training: giving access to what a person needs at a given moment not only because he is doing a job but also because she has specific development needs, because she has immediate needs different from those of a colleague who is doing the same job. Better employee performance, more commitment.
• Personalised HR benefits: company car, restaurant tickets, gym, health or wellness coaches, discounts on travel and shopping etc. Large companies are offering increasingly rich packages and medium-sized companies have understood, with their more limited means and less ability to negotiate, what this can bring them. But does everyone have the same needs? Certainly not. So some of these benefits are expensive and are under-used and therefore not valued by employees. Companies that offer an “à la carte” catalogue see this dimension better valued and it therefore has an impact on salary negotiations, employee satisfaction, commitment and even turnover.
• Providing personalised information: whether we are talking about communication or business information, not everyone has the same needs and not at the same time. The company talks a lot to its employees with a problem of tone (that’s another subject) but also a problem of relevance: by dint of drowning people in information they end up missing the essential. For business information, we are overwhelmed by notifications and we lose a lot of time sorting out what is important, urgent or not. Here again, depending on the professional and business context, it would be a matter of “pushing” what is important and just making the rest available. After all, we know how to do it for the customers, our email boxes are starting to do it for us, but it would be better to think about it and implement it on a large scale. Guaranteed impact on productivity and attention.
• Personalisation of the managerial relationship: not all employees are the same, do not function in the same way, do not have the same life, do not live the same thing at the same time, do not have the same interests. At the very least, understanding how they function helps to manage each of them in the best possible way. Understanding who they are and their context helps to have the tone, the attentions, the informal conversation that make them feel considered and taken into account as people. In the end, if an employee never leaves a company but a manager, we can reverse the trend and make him stay for a manager.
These are just a few examples, so it’s necessarily simplistic, but we can see the trend. Moreover, on certain points we will recognize that companies have started to move forward within their means.
The collaborator, a complex person that employers know little or even not
By the way, what is an employee? It is a person with multiple dimensions.
• Administrative: it is at least a name, a social security number, bank account identity and a work contract.
• HR: these are skills (soft and hard skills), training courses followed or to be planned, professional assessments.
• Professional: it is a function, a role, expected results and an expected contribution to the life of the company, of the team. It is also about the projects he has worked and is working on, the performances and results obtained.
• Background: this is a person who has had experiences elsewhere, before, who has developed skills, been confronted with situations, developed a network or a particular knowledge of a subject or industry.
• Human: he has hobbies, interests which sometimes in one way or another can serve the company according to a client, a project, a subject or even be “recycled” for the benefit of his personal development and leadership. It is also someone who has a life outside the company, a family, with the joys and worries that go with it. Even though I have said many times when talking about happiness at work that it is something that the company cannot take into account or solve when there is a problem, having it in mind can help to adopt the right posture at the right time.
• Needs: need for information, advice, training, help, recognition, career development…but all this can be deduced from the above.
An employee frustrated that he is so little known…
The employee is, as I often say, a customer who walks through the company’s door. His expectations do not change, conditioned as he is by his experiences outside the office. He knows that this is possible because he lives it and that he is sometimes asked in his job to put customer understanding at the heart of his actions.
It has also become a “market of one”, a one person market. Yes, he is part of a company, a business community, a team…but within all this he wants to be known and recognized for what he is. He is both a member of something and him in that something.
And he doesn’t think he is. He thinks he’s never spoken to personally. That nothing is done to put him in the best possible position. That he’ s not being exploited enough for what he has to contribute to the company. That he is not considered enough as a person. He may not be given enough but, paradoxically, he is prevented from giving it all. Here again, it is not only about relationships, but also about levers of efficiency.
He always has the impression that everything is done for the “average” employee, except that the average employee does not exist. The same is true for clothing sizes. In France, the average man is 1.76 m tall. But if you only make clothes for people who are 1.76m, you’re only going to dress a few percent of the population and disappoint everyone else.
Almost everything is designed for a company made of clones, while businesses try (or so they say) to recruit people for their difference. Guaranteed disappointment after the integration period when they realize that the reasons for which they were recruited no longer exist once the recruitment process is over.
Don’t go looking for one of the reasons that make young people (but not only them) turn away from large companies and prefer SMEs which, if they are limited in terms of means, are more likely to make custom-made experiences or something close, at least for size reasons, because the fewer employees, the closer each one is to the average. And it’s easier to get to know everyone better.
The problem is not the information but its use.
But all this data is known, some of it is even stored in systems and some in the manager’s head. But they are stored in silos, not shared, little valued and even less activated as a whole. The employee knows this, which doesn’t help his perception of things.
We already know to what extent the siloing of data weighs on the customer experience, but on the employee side we are even further ahead with all that it costs in terms of commitment, employee development and ultimately, because that’s what it’s all about, performance in the medium and long term.