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From employee experience to human experience

Putting meaning back into work

FoW Insights
Future of Work

Employee experience was the number 1 UK trend in Deloitte’s 2019 Human Capital Trends report, specifically the need for organisations to humanise the employee experience and put meaning back into work. We spoke to Dimple Agarwal, Deputy CEO (UK), Managing Partner People & Purpose at Deloitte (UK and North South Europe), and one of the authors of the 2019 UK Human Capital Trends report about this important trend.

Leading the social enterprise with a human focus

The theme of this year’s Trends report was Leading the social enterprise—Reinvent with a human focus. This has a very close link to the employee experience, and to last year’s report that emphasised ‘the rise of the social enterprise’. In our 2018 Trends, report we talked about how various generations of employees and organisations are expected to think about themselves as being more of a social enterprise, and this year that continues.

Social and political pressures are forcing organisations to think more carefully about their brand. This does not just mean thinking about the pressures from regulators, customers and clients but also about the expectations of employees from future generations. All of these different stakeholders expect organisations to play a bigger role in society. It is about more than just making a profit.

Employee experience to Human experience - why does it matter?

Employee experience was a term used around customer experience. Customer experience methodology was all about raising customer service levels and it encouraged organisations that sold products and services to think about what they did with a customer lens on, so how the customer would experience things, and that was very useful.

We now need to shift towards thinking about the human experience, which looks to improve the experience of employees by putting employees at the centre. This is a major shift, and we are increasingly seeing that organisations need to rethink their relationship with their employees.

What do we mean by a shift towards human experience? This means organisations must focus on bringing meaning into work, so that we can focus our attention and our effort around what motivates us as an individual to come to work. Thinking about how we can make work more meaningful means we might need to rethink work itself, as well as the culture and environment that we provide for people to work in.

Valuable workplace factors

Most organisations focus on benefit programmes and wellbeing programmes, which I agree are a starting point, as these are the basics of that experience. However, the key to producing human experiences is to put meaning back into work, which is more human centric. By creating a positive work environment and meaningful work, you are providing growth opportunities and you have a supportive management who listens and acts upon feedback.

All of this refers more to the culture in the organisation rather than necessarily just the tangible reward and benefits that you provide to people. Leaders need to begin this process by ensuring open and honest dialogue between themselves and employees, and therefore implementing feedback tools which are more real-time, which actually engage employees on an ongoing basis. Elements such as these can progress the drive towards an improved human experience in a very significant way.

It is also important for employees to understand how their work contributes to the organisational strategy. There needs to be transparency between leaders and employees so that the whole experience of working is meaningful. A lot of people go to work because they know they have to in order to earn a living. However, by putting meaning back into the work of employees, employees will come to work with a transformed attitude which will ultimately have a positive impact on the organisation from both a financial and non-financial standpoint.

Not just a HR problem

We need to move away from thinking of employee experience as an HR process and think of it as a journey connecting all sub functions and activities together to create a seamless experience for employees. Part of being a social enterprise is to move away from functional silos into cross-functional working, and employee experience is certainly one of those areas where HR can lead, but it needs support from across the other functions.

A critical part of employee experience from an organisational perspective is therefore to bring all the workplace elements under a single function. This will help build a consistent and holistic experience for employees that puts them at the centre.

Employee experience is a strategic imperative

People are our most important asset and leadership must not ignore that. We need to start thinking about and believing in the fact that creating a more human workplace will be good for everyone.

Careers are changing and organisations need to prepare for this. Year-on-year the pace of change is getting faster and we know that the average tenure for a job today is only four and a half years. How does this impact employee experience, and the human experience?

  1. Generation Z
    The introduction of Gen Z into the workforce will bring about a new set of expectations which organisations will need to be aware of. These expectations will be similar to Millennials’ expectations of the workplace in that organisations will need to provide a rich set of experiences for their workers, as opposed to lifelong careers, which are increasingly becoming a hallmark of a bygone age.
  2. Flexibility
    Organisations need to provide work flexibility, and not just in the form of virtual working. Organisations need to think about it more creatively. We need to empower individuals to work from wherever they like, on what they like, because work should be outcome driven rather than be hours or presence driven, and a transparent culture will be crucial in that.
  3. Transparency
    Employees expect us to be transparent and all of these factors point towards the creation of an employee experience that is both expected and essential. I believe that if you want to be an organisation that is going to attract and retain the best, it is an absolute must to regard employee experience as a strategic priority as it will lead to more engaged employees.

We know from data that the more engaged your employees are, the more productive they will be. Statistically 84% of organisations who took initiatives to increase employee engagement believed there was a strong correlation between employee engagement and productivity.

As HR professionals, we know that the more we can engage employees and the more we can make work more meaningful, the more the organisation can glean benefits from its employees. Employee experience does not need to be about transforming your operating model on day one. To take the first step in the right direction, you can introduce these processes and cultural changes into your organisation, which will make the whole experience of being at work far more meaningful to everyone.

Finally, a large part of an organisation’s success depends on its people. Organisations need to understand what the drivers are of strong performance or high motivation levels, and from this what changes to make in their organisation. Spend some time trying to understand what experiences people actually want – and they may not all want the same thing, and that is where flexibility in what you offer becomes critical.

Listen to the full interview [podcast] with Dimple Agarwal.

Read more on the Deloitte 2019 Human Capital Trends report.

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