Guest Blog Post from Dr. Erica Barreiro, Future of Work Strategist, Central New Mexico Community College (CNM)
As consumers, we have all become accustomed to, even have come to expect, “personalized” experiences. When I get ready to check-out my online grocery order, I appreciate the final nudge asking me if I want to add any of the listed items that I have regularly ordered in the past. When I log into my Netflix or Audible account, I like to review the “recommended for you” based upon what I have previously watched or listened to. When I order something for delivery, I get to choose what delivery time and notification method works best for me. And it is digital technologies that enable the effective and efficient scale of these personalized experiences.
Just as digital technologies have allowed businesses to move away from the “one-size-fits-all” customer experience and manage the complexities of providing a personalized experience for hundreds and thousands of customers, so too can these be applied to the employee experience. But while many organizations are prioritizing investments in digital technologies to offer these compelling customer experiences as critical to their sustainability and growth, few are similarly prioritizing these technologies applied to the employee experience.
Several studies have shown that the quality of the employee experience matters a great deal to organizational success and growth, and many feel that in the era of the 4th industrial revolution, this is perhaps more critical now than ever before. In her article The Coronavirus Ushers in the Human Capital Era, future of work strategist Heather McGowan proposed that the coronavirus pandemic was not just a catalyst for business transformation that accelerated digital adaptation, but that it also created a new imperative for investing in our employees as our “greatest asset and most valued capital.” At the intersection of investing in digital transformation and human capital, is the opportunity to use technologies to create a workplace ecosystem that enables all employees to participate fully through experiences that are adaptive to their personal work and life needs.
To enable the full participation of their employees during the pandemic crisis, many employers implemented “emergency” options, such as flexible scheduling, job sharing, and differentiated wellness and training activities—addressing the variety of personal self-care, family-care, and work needs of their employees. While some of these options may have been created as an ad hoc alternative to some of their standard practices, businesses have seen the value of continuing such practices post-pandemic. To make these and other “personalized employee practices” sustainable, businesses will benefit significantly in investing in technology solutions to efficiently manage and scale the complexities of personalized employee experiences.
What Digital Technology Investments Can Employers Make To Create More Personalized Employee Experiences?
The digital investments employers should make for creating more personalized employee experiences will vary depending upon factors such as the type of work employees are engaged in and the size of the organization. While investing in enterprise software systems designed for automating and scaling the employee experience is likely the strongest investment businesses can make, it is generally the most expensive option. Here are some other suggestions on how you might start:
- Survey your employees to determine what’s most important to them.
Employee data is critical for anticipating needs and planning. When you gather employee data, include questions that enable insights based upon the type of role they hold in your organization, family responsibilities (number and ages of children, if they care for a parent), and career and learning goals. Ask your employees what types of custom or personalized work experiences would be of most value to them. Analyze the data to prioritize the types of digital solutions that are most aligned to the needs of your employees and your business outcomes.
- Learn from your “competitors.”
If you don’t already have a list of 10 businesses that you consider your peers and/or competitors, develop that now and do some research on what investments they are making in the employee experience. If you don’t find any that are on the leading edge of this work, find organizations from other industry sectors who are and apply what they are doing to your workplace context.
- Leverage customer digital technologies to support your employees.
Be creative in thinking about how you might use of any digital technologies you’ve adopted to serve customers to adapt to serve your employees. For example, many businesses have invested in CRM (customer relationship management) systems to improve and customize communication and services to their end-users’—these can readily be used to also serve internal stakeholders. One use case might be to set up your employees as a segmented contact list with criteria you define and then customized email communications can be sent that are relevant to their needs, preferences, and interests.
- Pilot possible solutions before large-scale adoptions.
Whether you’re seeking to digitize or scale options such as job sharing, flexible scheduling or on-demand training, or to deploy new technologies such as chatbots, make sure you are testing and evaluating these solutions in partnership with your end-users before you invest in full-scale adoption. At Central New Mexico Community College, we experimented with a low-tech “internal want-ads” solution to match employees with a workload shortage due to COVID-19, with projects that other units needed help with because of increased workload. As this experiment proved to have value in increasing our organization agility, expanding employee growth opportunities, and supporting job-sharing options, a next step will be looking at a digital solution to easily connect employees with internal “gig jobs.”
The future of work and the vitality of organizations and businesses are going to be directly affected by the employee experience. By experimenting with different ways to enhance your employees’ work experience, your business or organization can benefit from a virtuous cycle of a thriving workforce contributing to a thriving business.
Dr. Erica Barreiro is currently a senior leader at Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) as the Future of Work Strategist. In this role she acts as a primary advisor, leader and contributor to an agile, adaptive, and future-forward college direction. Previously, Erica served as the Dean for the School of Communication, Humanities, and Social Sciences at CNM for seven years. Erica believes courageous, caring, and collaborative leadership is desperately needed as we embark on the journey of reshaping our lives, our learning and our work. She currently writes about how she’s living courageous leadership in her blog BeCourageous Leadership.