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Technology: a make or break for employee experience?

communication technology
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

The pandemic has left many people with more time on their hands than they’ve had in years, leaving space to re-evaluate what they want from work. Some have opted for a complete career change, while others received the impetus they needed to move to pastures new. Total Jobs reports that 84 percent of people are looking for a new role this year, with 77 percent saying they started their search in December.

Times have been tough for many industries, and few have escaped unscathed from furloughs, pay cuts and redundancies. However, the job market remains competitive. Good people are still in demand and, in turn, could be more demanding.

Organizations, led by their HR teams, must establish and maintain an enviable employee experience if they’re to retain great people and attract new talent. And technology will be an increasingly vital component in this.

The below provides a summary of three key areas where technology can make or break the employee experience – and people’s loyalty to their organizations.

Benefits tech: supporting employees whenever, wherever

As employees continue to work remotely or in dispersed teams, it’s even more important to provide a consistent experience across markets, countries and locations. Failure to provide this risks people feeling isolated, forgotten or unappreciated. Employee benefits – and benefits technology – play an important role in achieving consistency. Having a single, centralized online system enables all employees to access their benefits and receive the same experience, no matter where or when they log-on.

Beyond delivering consistency, technology is also key to offering employees a personalized benefits experience. This may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s all about creating flexibility within a framework. Each employee will be looking for something different from their benefits, so organizations need to implement technology that allows for personalization.

Benefits pots can be an effective tool for providing this. These enable employees to decide how they want to spend their benefits allocation within boundaries set by the business. With employee wellbeing an increasing concern for employers, many are setting up pots to support this. Employees can draw from these to fund a whole range of activities or equipment – from online yoga classes to foam rollers.

Technology and data analytics are also playing a key role in assessing benefits strategy and informing change. Thanks to advancements in these areas, employers can now analyze how employees are engaging with their systems and make evidence-based decisions on where to allocate spend or direct communications. For example, they might see that employees with children tend to engage with their benefits later in the evening. Sending them information on relevant benefits at this time will improve take-up, and provide a better employee experience.

Collaboration platforms: Keeping lines of communication open

While many people have enjoyed working from home, few joined their organization because they wanted to work in isolation. With increased hybrid working likely – even when the pandemic is over – HR teams will need to consider how they keep employees connected. This will be critical to maintaining a workplace experience that people enjoy and want to remain a part of.

Investing in suitable collaboration tools is key. Like all enterprise software, these need to be simple to use – or employees simply won’t engage with them. Applications such as Slack and Teams have experienced ballooning user numbers during the pandemic – partly because they’re vital, but also because they’re easy to use and enable employees to replicate watercooler chats virtually.

This type of digital infrastructure would usually fall under IT’s remit rather than HR’s. However, when it’s becoming an increasingly important factor in the overall employee experience, HR teams should take an interest in it.

Moving forward, we’re likely to see greater collaboration between the HR and IT departments. Both will want to ensure that employees feel enabled rather than encumbered by technology, and that this aids their productivity and enjoyment of the workplace. Thankfully, the pandemic has catalyzed the development of enterprise technology, and we’re likely to see an increasing number of good solutions on the market.

Feedback platforms: Ensuring employees are heard

If organizations what to retain their people, they need to listen to them. Giving people the opportunity to feedback on their workplace, highlight areas for development, or suggest new initiatives, helps employees to feel heard and understood. It also nurtures a sense of being more than a cog in the machine, and a valuable part of a company’s operation.

Employers can use some of the collaboration tools previously discussed for this. Many have the option to set up groups or closed channels that can be used to discuss specific topics or concerns, for example diversity and inclusion.

Equally, some feedback is most effective given publicly. Legal firm Eversheds Sutherlands, for example, has made the most of its in-house social media platform to not only keep employees socially connected, but also to allow colleagues to share praise for their co-workers with public messages of virtual thanks linked to one of the firm’s values.

Workplace from Facebook, meanwhile, has launched a feature called Safety Centre, which helps employees “check-in” to tell HR or managers they are safe. The platform also enables employees to discuss safety issues, and HR teams to monitor the conversation to ensure they’re abreast of employees’ concerns – and addressing these.

Finally, there are anonymous employee survey platforms, such as Peakon or Glint, which enable employees to feedback anonymously. These help employees express what’s really on their mind, without risk of judgement, and can be extremely valuable for collecting candid feedback.

Embracing the role of enterprise technology in employee experience

These technologies grant HR teams the ability to support their employees and, in doing so, provide a better employee experience. They also provide teams with access to real-time data, allowing them to act quickly and decisively in response to emerging needs or concerns within their workforces.

While the jobs market may not be booming, organizations cannot afford to disengage or even lose good employees by providing a bad employee experience. As gatekeepers of experience, HRs need to consider the role technologies play in this, and give careful consideration to those they invest in.

Chris Bruce, co-founder, Darwin