The idea that the employee is the new consumer is gaining currency.
Business leaders, in their bid to transform organizations into digital workplaces, seem to have shifted their attention from creating a winning customer experience to creating a consumer-grade employee experience first. And, HR service delivery is playing a prominent role.
The emphasis on employee experience can largely be attributed to the rise of digital communication technology, changing workforce demographics, and evidence drawing a clear link between customer experience and employee experience. But companies can struggle with or even fail at building a positive employee experience.
In Deloitte's "2017 Global Human Capital Trends" report, only 22% of the executives surveyed reported that their companies were excellent at building a unique employee experience. A whopping 59% said they are not ready or only somewhat ready to address the employee experience challenge.
So, how can companies forge ahead?
Transforming HR service delivery to enhance the employee experience
A good starting point could be improving the way information and services are delivered to employees -- in short, modifying HR service delivery.
Sierra-Cedar, in its "2017-2018 HR Systems Survey" report, states that service delivery improvements remain one of the top 10 HR technology initiatives. The consulting firm predicts service delivery tools, such as employee and manager self-service, HR help desk and portal technology, will expand in the next few years, particularly in organizations that already have payroll, HRMS and benefits administration.
"If you think about how HR used to be, you could walk down the hallway and talk to payroll and HR; employees don't want to work that way anymore," said Melanie Lougee, a research vice president at Gartner. "They want to be able to figure out what changed in their paycheck while they're waiting for their shuttle bus. So it's about being able to better serve employees and to be able to get them back to their regular job as quickly as possible."
Service delivery tools are designed to help employees complete their transactions as quickly as possible.
"You're trying to get somebody through something in 60 seconds or they get frustrated and they do not want to come back," Lougee said.
HR service delivery can improve the employee experience in many ways, such as helping employees to be more effective at work by enabling them to take care of 60-80% of their HR business by themselves. This, in turn, enables HR to scale by supporting a lower HR-to-employee ratio, and serve as the primary communication vehicle between HR and employees.
However, the most significant and least harnessed capability of HR service delivery tools, in Lougee's opinion, is the workforce insights.
"One of the most valuable capabilities of HR service delivery to HR and to the broader organization is that site traffic and help tickets can be analyzed and tracked, which gives HR and the company a tremendous amount of workforce insight, such as what employment topics are of the highest importance to which segment of workers, or whether workers prefer to take care of HR-related business at work or by mobile device on the weekend," she said.
Melanie LougeeAnalyst and research VP at Gartner
It is these insights that then help HR to better understand employees' priorities and preferences and to adjust their services accordingly.
"Employees' needs are changing ... they increasingly want to have the same experiences at work as they have outside of it," said Michael Gretczko, a principal at Deloitte and general manager of ConnectMe, Deloitte's integrated digital workforce software. "We're trying to help bridge the gap between the experiences that employees have outside of work ... and their experiences at workplaces."
Gretczko explained that ConnectMe uses a persona-driven approach to understand employees' needs and to customize the services delivered to them.
"It works pretty much like the consumer websites," he said. "They know things about you as a consumer, and they customize the experience based on what consumers need."
Gaining workforce insight using HR self-service
Kane Frisby, chief strategy officer of Dovetail Software, a web-based HR and help desk software provider, said the vendor is routinely approached by companies that have between 1,000 and 200,000 plus employees.
"Why do they approach us? Because they're trying to better engage with their employees and improve the overall employee experience with HR interactions," he said
Both Lougee and Frisby agree that not evolving with employee needs and inefficient work processes -- both people-to-people and technology-wise -- are the major issues that prevent HR from delivering a superior employee experience.
"An important issue I like to talk about is measurement," Frisby said. "We see at least 200 to 300 conversations going on at any given time within a company with over 5,000 employees, and you don't know if they're being answered in the right manner, in the right time or how quickly ... unless you have a system to track it."
"HR departments have little to no measurements when it comes to employee experience," Frisby said. "That's one of the main challenges we see."
The key is personalized, easy to use and secure service delivery
Companies not being on top of their data is a major challenge, according to Frisby.
Experts observe that while treating the employee as a customer is a fairly new concept in HR, it has been present in IT service delivery and customer relationship management (CRM) for a long time. In fact, several IT service delivery and CRM vendors play a big role in the HR service delivery market.
However, in Frisby's opinion, IT service products, although fantastic at handling technical issues, are not well-suited for people-related issues. His main concerns are data security and IT product designs' ineptness at handling people-related issues that often carry emotion.
"With HR help desk, you've got probably the most sensitive information across all HR systems and databases," Frisby said. "There are health notes, employee's personal issues, sick leave history, grievance complaints and disciplinary action-related information. All this information is highly sensitive to the organization.
"So the question is, why would I use an IT ticketing solution when somebody outside of the HR department, in IT, will have access to look up highly confidential information and potentially extract it?" Frisby said.
In Lougee's opinion, every vendor in the market has its own expertise, but the one piece that's absolutely critical, and what a lot of organizations don't get right in HR service delivery products, is the knowledge base.
"For example, before I transfer or promote my employee, I'm going to need to understand what the company guidelines are, what are certain pay periods, who needs to approve it? And then the transaction is something that takes about 15 seconds," she explained.
Therefore, the bulk of HR work is not in the transaction system, but in the training system and learning resources, according to Lougee, and some vendors are yet to acknowledge this.
"The idea is to be good at the knowledge base piece and understanding what content, decision-making and filtering capabilities an organization needs, and to deliver the content to the right people in the right context," Lougee said. "To be able to do all of those things in a personalized way, and deliver it on mobile -- that should be the idea."