It’s well known that the HR profession loves a new ‘buzzword’ to embrace. With people analytics and new technologies disrupting traditional HR processes and procedures, employee experience (EX) is becoming the new trend. As customer experience (CX) has become more established, it makes sense that EX is the next step in that journey. Originally derived from user experience (UX – a human-centred approach to designing for the behaviours, emotions and attitudes of humans when interacting with technology) both CX and EX should focus on better insights into the end user through the digital platforms we use to engage them. However, the terms are often more broadly used to refer to the whole ‘experience’ of the stakeholder, or what was referred to in the past for employees as the ‘employee life-cycle’. If HR does not understand the true advantage of applying a UX approach to technical engagement with their employees, then there is a missed opportunity and the term will add little value. We must question new terminologies in our industry and not be dazzled by something we’ve heard others talking about without fully understanding it.

HR professionals are being targeted with a wide variety of technical solutions, from standalone apps to plug-ins for a standard HRIS system with employee self service functionality. There is a vast amount of applications available which offer insight into different aspects of the employee experience which are of interest to HR, ranging from engagement, recruitment and selection, performance management and talent management to name a few. However, will procuring yet another tech-lead solution suddenly engage your employees or ensure you hire the best talent?

This new language impacting HR comes from the IT domain and at the very least we must start talking the same language in order to be understood and contribute to the future innovations and successes.

This doesn’t mean we need in-depth knowledge but we do need an understanding. In order to get credible people insight, it takes a variety of professionals from various backgrounds and hiring an HR Analyst on its own is not a solution as they are unlikely to provide all the skills and knowledge required to deliver desired outcomes.

A ‘systems-thinking’ approach is needed from the start so HR views the organisation as a complex human-centred system considering how all the divergent components of the system impact upon and change each other.

HR must work closely with IT to firstly find out if they have the right skill set and knowledge internally to design and analyse employee experience to ensure meaningful interactions that deliver the required results. This will also allow for a bespoke incremental strategy to be designed that considers how to migrate the current systems already in place, focussing first upon what people need in order to get the insight required and provide the competitive advantage. You cannot buy an off the shelf tool and expect it to meet the strategic needs of your unique organisation.

EX must be assessed in relation to CX so the behaviours of the employees and the customers can be mapped out as they directly correlate and impact upon each other. In order to map these ‘experiences’ we must consider common impact factors and evaluate how they ultimately can maximise the shareholder experience (SX) and how that can be measured through the technologies used in those stakeholder interactions. It is no use having one application to measure employee engagement as on its own, it won’t provide the opportunity for a true analysis of the holistic experience or drive the desired behaviours for change.

HR need to also understand what the standard measures are within UX research and design methodologies in order to ensure they are gaining credible data. Some of the basic measures are based around accessibility, usability and credibility to offer the best results, but contemporary practice also addresses persuasion, emotion and trust (PET) and ‘branded UX’, such as the work of Raida Shakiry which looks at maintaining the specifics of the branded UX over multiple platforms and across time. Such factors are critical to ensure the data is valuable, the metrics meaningful and all this translates into actionable insights.

When deciding on what technological solutions to procure, HR must consider the whole ecosystem and not just one component as the insight will not be fruitful. You cannot measure employee engagement on its own and be able to advise on how company culture impacts engagement or how employee engagement impacts the customer brand. You need to know you are measuring all factors and then meaningful results can be achieved.

Benefits of HR Incorporating an EX Approach:

People Insight – HR is used to reporting statistics on hard targets such as attrition, performance or absence however we often struggle to link the employee behaviours that can be attributed to the analytics we produce. If we can measure behaviours and attitudes of employees through the way they engage on technological platforms in an intuitive way, we can better understand the hard data we are producing giving it context and meaning. If this can also be mapped to the customer experience, it will offer a level of insight that directly impacts the shareholder or investor experience.

Real Time Data – HR has already awoken to the fact that if we use data collated on an annual basis, it offers us just a snapshot of insight. In order for us to be able to gain a more realistic overview of the ‘experience’, we need to be continually measuring so we can offer credible trend analysis. This can either be through the end-user responding to prompts in the systems or through analysing the behaviour of how they interact and engage with the systems.

Enhanced Engagement – Although the media loves to stereotype the ‘millennial’ generation, the simple fact is all generations are engaging with technology in a way we have never seen before. With so many day-to-day activities being driven through technological platforms, it has become a way of life to be instantly informed and engaged with. With other design methods such as ethical gamification, it is possible to drive the type of behaviours and engagement that will ensure success for the individual and the organisation.

Inspiring Innovation – Through having innovative working practices and methods of engagement, it in turn inspires creativity and innovation within the user group. It also enables a higher level of commitment and connectivity to the brand or organisation supporting greater loyalty from employees and customers. The degree of innovation needs to be realistic to the context however so trust and integrity are maintained. 

The Plaxton-Cham Stakeholder Experience Feedback Loop equation and its framework below have been developed in collaboration with Professor Karen Cham , from the University of Brighton. It is known as the ‘Stakeholder Experience Feedback Loop’, and sets out the key influencers that impact the behaviours of those stakeholders and how they may correlate to each other. Further insight on this model can be found in Cham’s article in The Business of Gamification, soon to be published by Routledge.

2This article was written in conjunction with Professor Karen Cham. All views and content are my own and not published on behalf of my employer.

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