It wasn’t that long ago that we found ourselves cracking up with Michael Scott and his motley crew at Dunder Mifflin on the TV show The Office. While the highly inappropriate boss and exaggerated stereotypes may have been comedic tactics, much of the imaginary world we tuned in to see was nothing short of a perfect codification of the business world of the past: a world full of cubicles, water coolers, and a rule-obsessed Dwight. Meanwhile, in the real world, offices have changed in recent years, both physically and culturally. From open concept work spaces to in-house masseuses and bring-your-dog-to-work policies, companies around the world are turning their offices into fun, dynamic, and unique spaces. At the center of these changes and the key driver is employees.
Nowadays, we want to feel inspired and motivated at work, we value the “how” we work as much as, if not more than, “what” we do for work. We are also used to a world full of Ubers, Googles, and Amazons and expect our experiences at the office to go as seamlessly as they do outside of the office as a consumer. There is no denying that technology has reshaped employee expectations for what the workplace experience should look and feel like. While many companies are taking steps to improve their office culture, antiquated and disconnected technology systems continue to prevail throughout the enterprise.
What Employees Really Want
To understand what it is employees struggle with at work, we asked more than 350 HR leaders at last year’s HR Tech Conference and Expo how their employees find information on HR policies and what they understand are the current demands of their employees. What we found is that employees struggle to get the information they need when they need it, including access after work hours. In fact, 47 percent of respondents said employees want easier access to information, via a self-service portal, for example, while only 12 percent say it’s easy for employees to find the information they need. This is a very common story in the workplace. Given the ease of access today’s employees have to information in their everyday lives, they naturally demand the same level of access when they walk through the office doors or log into the office system.
Exploring New Technologies
The combination of unprecedented amounts of data with a do-it-yourself attitude creates unique challenges for how companies can meet employees’ self-service requests to access and take advantage of all of this information. These challenges represent opportunities for further innovation and new technologies that can deliver what employees want and need to have a positive employee experience.
The use of chatbots, for instance, are on the rise. With 92 percent of respondents agreeing that chatbots will be important in directing employees to find the information they need no matter the time of day, it’s not shocking that this technology is seeing high interest in the enterprise. Siri and Alexa have gotten us comfortable with talking to machines as if they were part of the family, which makes it no surprise that two-thirds of respondents also feel that their employees are very comfortable using chatbots. We predict this technology will start to play a major role in consumerizing the employee service experience. Not to mention, that within the next three years, 75 percent said they’d be working with intelligent machines to deliver better employee experiences.
When it comes to accessing information, two-thirds of HR leaders believe employees are very comfortable using chatbots to interact on factual/transactional inquiries regarding paid time off, open enrollment, maternity leave, leave of absence, and reporting sexual misconduct.
Chatbots represent an important step in bridging the gap between employees’ self-service demands and access to data without the need for human intervention. Soon, HR teams will start to add new channels such as chatbots to their employee experience strategy with automated self-service at the helm.
Rather than running out and adopting chatbots and other new intelligent technologies, companies should first understand that these technologies are not stand-alone solutions, but rather part of a larger strategy to provide better employee experiences that are delivered through HR service delivery solutions.
Recently, Gartner wrote in the Market Guide for Integrated HR Service Delivery Solutions report, “a more recent trend among large employers is to approach service comprehensively, by organizing it around the totality of employees’ needs rather than by department.” HR influencer Josh Bersin calls this a ‘system of productivity’ that helps employees to get their work done. By consolidating processes and the related systems into one centralized, cohesive, and modern IT solution, companies will be able to provide consumer-like employee experiences. Using this approach, companies can begin to give their employees what they need to work productively and efficiently. One thing we know we can count on is employees wanting to push the envelope of what is expected from their employer, and just as technology has driven expectations to new levels, it is the same technology that will give companies the modern systems and tools to respond to employee needs.