Despite the abundance of workplace perk providers claiming they can solve the problem, employee engagement is set to continue to take one of the top spots on what will keep HR awake at night in 2019. Almost half of HR professionals say engagement will continue to be their biggest challenge this year.
It’s been almost two years since Benefex changed our overall strategy towards improving the employee experience, and over a year since my book on the subject was published. Those few early people and organisations that first started talking about developing the employee experience as the best way to get more engaged employees, have now set the pace for many others to follow. I was delighted to see in late 2018 that the CIPD made a commitment to the importance of the employee experience in its Profession Map. To champion better working lives, the CIPD is now shifting its focus from generic best practice to values-based decision-making. Part of the focus on employee experience is to get CIPD members to develop specialist knowledge in this area.
In many 2019 HR predictions, the employee experience remains in the top five trends. Forrester have identified that the low unemployment rates and employees quitting their jobs at the fastest rates in more than 15 years is going to make this year the time for the employee experience to take centre stage. No longer seen as a fad or a short-term trend, organisations can now see the compelling evidence behind designing a great employee experience. What’s more, we are seeing this commitment come from all areas of the business, not just HR. While some companies have specialist employee experience teams, others are starting to see that high-quality customer experiences simply can’t exist without high quality employee experiences. Last year I was invited to keynote at the CX Insight Leaders Forum and Randstad’s Positively Inclusive events. The latter took place just a day after the potential collapse of House of Fraser was announced. This was a timely reminder of the importance of keeping up with the growing demands of employees and consumers, investing in the right technology and supporting employees. My thoughts on how the employee experience is our best customer experience tool even made it to Personnel Magazine. At the CX and Insight Leaders Forum, Customer Experience experts from Facebook, Homeserve and McDonalds listened to what Benefex had to say on why employees are the best customer experience tool they have. You can’t possibly begin to truly look after your client and customer experience, unless you are looking after your employee experience first.
Some of the most important things you can do to make work a great place to be are invisible. It’s not about your dress code or allowing dogs in the office, it’s about how you make employees feel. If a bring your dog to work policy/day relieves the anxiety its owner has about leaving the dog at home, that’s real employee engagement. An Income Protection Policy is numbers on a document until is becomes a life saver for a family in need. When we think about great technology, it’s almost always unnoticed and almost invisible. As the sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. The best technology you use at home or work is invisible – it just works when you need it to.
The technology your employees use at work needs to be personalised and intuitive. So much so that the sheer effort that goes into creating simple, easy-to-use technology goes unnoticed. You can now just ask your iPhone to show you pictures of dogs or London, and in seconds it will show you all the photos you’ve ever taken of dogs or all of the photos you’ve taken in London. It is incredibly simple, but to build that is incredibly complex. When Benefex built OneHub we knew we were building something that, for those organisations that use it, would become something very special. The sheer ease at which an employee can now access all elements of HR and reward, choose benefits that are relevant to them, receive targeted, personalised communications and even thank colleagues is leading the market. And I genuinely believe that. We built new technology to enhance the employee experience. We didn’t just re-badge our old tech or switch out the word ‘engagement’ for ‘experience’ in our marketing material. We made a real change in our business.
Technology isn’t always perfect, but when designed well and used appropriately, it’s one of the best tools we have to create better experiences at work. Benefex has lifted the admin burden associated with benefits and communications for a record number of clients in 2018. We have built new products that the market told us they wanted us to, and last year we rolled out our technology to more global clients than ever before. 2018 saw a big commitment from Benefex to create meaningful experiences at work. I think we achieved that, and I think we played a large part in bringing true technology-driven employee experiences to the masses in this country. We did it by thinking about every employee that uses our technology as an individual. I think that’s the key to developing a great employee experience.
You can’t think about helping all of your workforce. You have to think about helping one person.
There’s a very good reason why the employee experience is a real long-term commitment and not a fad. It’s about making sure that employees feel good about the company they work for. The funny thing about creating a workplace that employees love is that when things are going well, you probably won’t notice it much. But when times are tough, an employee base that cares in your mission and is emotionally invested in your company will mean the world. And it could save your business.
We know that the year ahead is uncertain. The political landscape in this country and abroad remains rocky and our economy is still up and down. Inevitably, we will see more well-known brands collapse in 2019, but we will also see many organisations bloom. Analysts expect unemployment to remain relatively low and some are optimistic about a post-Brexit Britain. Whether 2019 is an easy or a tough year for your organisation, there is an opportunity to invest in the employee experience. If it’s tough, you’ll need their help, and for that you need their loyalty and commitment. If the year ahead is an easy one, it’s a case of making hay while the sun shines. Use the opportunity to fix your experiences and make the world of work a better place to be.