Whilst I should start by saying I wouldn’t profess to be an HR technology expert, having found myself responsible for implementing a global HR cloud-based system from design and configuration through to data migration, testing and implementation I guess I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. For example, don’t refer to it as ‘my computer project’!

I do however have a new understanding and respect for IT professionals who do this on a regular basis and a whole new way of looking at HR. In HR we are taught best practice and the key areas to focus on from recruitment through the whole employee lifecycle. We are taught to grow and continually learn ensuring we adapt the main HR concepts to our environment. Through more innovative HR thought, we are given watered down versions of ‘agile’, ‘design thinking’ or ‘(user) experience’ taken from technology however, it’s not often we are told to go outside HR and learn more in-depth what these terms mean.

Within HR, there is a lot of debate around employee engagement – what is it exactly and where is the evidence to back it up? Even though you’ll see countless statistics on how much growth your business can expect if your employees are more engaged by X%. Interestingly, if we look to technology there is a clear definition on ‘user engagement’ and how it should be measured. Whilst there are variations, generally they all refer to user engagement being a user’s experience with a product and how the user emotionally engages and behaves with that product.

In a digital environment, this definition creates the opportunity to collate data, analyse the behaviours and produce credible insight providing the evidence for the importance and benefits of user engagement. This behavioural analysis adds a level of soft data which HR often struggle to obtain from their qualitative research via surveys and other methods in order to represent it as the story behind the HR hard data results such as attrition and retention.

Marketing has been quick to learn from user experience creating the concept of customer experience (CX). As ‘employee experience’ emerges as a new focus for HR professionals, we need to work more collaboratively with IT, Marketing and other departments to get the full value from the work they do. Whilst there is a consideration for the employee, often CX is heavily focused on the customer with an acknowledgment of the employee although companies are starting to incorporate the impact of the employee on the customer.

So perhaps HR need to take the lead on the people (or users) of an organisation, with employees at the centre linked to the customers in a user-centred approach. If the journeys of those individuals are mapped out from the beginning to the end of their journey, which may not be confined to the boundaries of the organisation, then how they ‘engage’ with the organisation can be assessed through how they behave emotionally. This will require our IT functions and experts in these fields to help us understand which digital products are the right solutions to obtain the relevant data at the right touch-points from a holistic perspective and help us to interpret the data to create the story.

In this respect, ‘employee engagement’ would refer to the level at which an employee emotionally connects to an organisation exhibiting the desired behaviours that can be attributed to achieving business goals. Employee engagement then becomes symptomatic of the company’s brand, purpose, values, culture, design and other HR focuses. Those initiatives can then be measured in value by how they affect the employee or customer behaviours and in turn their engagement or satisfaction.

This approach would allow insightful data to increase HR’s credibility through providing a far more enhanced level of business intelligence for informed decision-making. It will form the story that explains the analytical results that most HR departments produce currently. I’m not suggesting here are all the answers although I’m excited to keep growing within HR and beyond, so I would encourage people to go look outside HR and see what people are up to in other departments so we can collaborate more effectively.

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