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The worker experience is one of the most pressing issues facing human resources executives today.

Over the past decade, a large amount of focus has been placed on the customer/user experience – we would never expect customers to wait for a predetermined cycle in order to make a purchase – in fact, it has become virtually unacceptable to not have immediately responsive, and oftentimes predictive, support to make customers’ purchases, and lives, easier.

So, if we, as consumers, can figure out how to fix a refrigerator on YouTube, and which shoes to buy by looking at reviews on Amazon, why is it so difficult to acquire new skills, knowledge or feedback in a work context? Tedious in-person and online training doesn’t cut it for today’s diverse workforce, nor do the processes that were based on hierarchical organizations, constrained by legacy technologies of the past.

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“Employee experience is on everybody’s mind, but nobody knows exactly what it is or what to do about it. There’s gigantic growth in strategies to simplify work, improve productivity and make work experience more positive,” Josh Bersin, global industry analyst and dean of the Josh Bersin Academy, told a recent gathering of HR executives at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto. Similarly, according to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, 84 per cent of survey respondents said they need to rethink their workforce experience to improve productivity.

We are in an era where workers are overwhelmed and stressed – which Mr. Bersin said is because “digital businesses are even more dependent on people than [businesses] were before, so the stress and work experience for humans is hard. We’ve built up silos for HR, IT and other practices over the years and employees just can’t deal with it all.” Workers therefore demand better experiences at work, enabled by modern technology (e.g., apps, the cloud, chatbots, predictive analytics), to match their experiences as consumers. These experiences need to help simplify work and accelerate productivity, though in many organizations we still experience the opposite – silo-ed and disconnected processes that cause tension and time wasted.

How can organizations shift from process to experience?

1) Use design thinking

Designing journeys, with the worker at the centre, engenders a more engaged and productive workforce. For example, promoting a high-potential employee may require many steps: reskilling (through learning and development), promoting and inheriting new team members (through an HR management system or service centre), making salary adjustments (through compensation) relocating (through global mobility), etc. This simple act of promoting an employee – which should be a very positive moment in one’s career – traditionally requires several silo-ed processes, typically in separate and distinct parts of the HR organization, leading to employee frustration or angst. In this new world of work, where companies need to activate a more global, nimble and mobile internal and external workforce, these types of journeys must be virtually seamless to workers, to prevent business disruption and lost productivity.

2) Adopt a new mindset

Adopting a design-thinking approach requires thoughtful change management and a growth mindset. Starting with a couple of journeys, and piloting them in small pockets of the organization, is a great way to uncover the interdependencies among processes and perhaps clues to better design and integrate cross-functional HR and other teams. Iterating and learning through employee feedback is essential to creating great worker experiences.

3) Leverage emerging technologies

Technologies referred to by Mr. Bersin as “employee experience platforms” are beginning to emerge to assist with designing and implementing these journeys, breaking down the silos that still often exist within HR and other processes that affect the employee experience (e.g., facilities, help desk). “Tools that help employees do their jobs, plan their careers, look at their goals, hire into and work in teams [are starting to emerge] … traditional applicant tracking, learning management and other legacy systems are not enough anymore. So now there’s another layer of tools that are more like consumer apps – they are flexible and allow you to create workflows without a software engineer.”

Organizations in this new world of work need to continue to find ways to do more with less, which includes minimizing friction in the system. Think about how hard it is to order a new computer, to change roles or to go on maternity leave: All of these things we are now talking about as journeys – not processes – and are essential for a great employee experience that maximizes engagement and productivity.

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