Recently, I had a conversation at the birthday party of my five-year-old daughter’s friend. I spoke with other parents about how different kindergarten is today compared to when we were 5 years old. As I recall, and as my mom confirms, kindergarten used to be about learning our shapes and colors, playing with toys, taking naps. Yes, we still took naps in kindergarten back then.
My daughter brings reading, writing, and math work home every night. There is no time for naps. We log onto a computer program to practice reading and comprehension, and there are even small research projects, not to mention the extensive artwork that comes home each evening. As parents, we engaged in a debate as to whether this amount of work is good, or even necessary at the young age of five. In the end, we all agreed times and expectations have changed and we need to help our children navigate this world.
Can HR leaders help their organizations navigate the world of fast, easy, anytime, anywhere employee expectations?
The conversation made me think about how many things are different from when I was a child. Today we are not confined to our living rooms to watch TV. We can watch television shows from anywhere and from any number of devices. We experience TV on the go. We need not reach for an encyclopedia to get answers to our questions or do research. Google has all the answers. If we want to call someone, our phone is with us wherever we go, and if we lose that phone, our world is difficult to manage. How did we manage before mobile phones? And shopping is a new experience as well. While I still find myself going into a store every once in a while for certain items, more often than not I browse my favorite vendors online for what I am looking for.
These are the experiences that shape our world and expectations today—fast, easy, anytime, anywhere experiences. No matter if we like or prefer this new pace and condition of life, it is the way of the world today. As HR professionals, we navigate this world every day. Our job is to attract, train, and retain talent in this world of fast, easy, anytime, anywhere expectations—easier said than done. There are few HR leaders who do not understand they are operating in an ever-evolving landscape of employee expectations, but many are simply challenged with how to keep pace. This is compounded by the significant growth (or in some cases, downsizing) many organizations are experiencing. On top of everything, you simply cannot escape all the noise across the industry and on social media.
Employee experience is a hot topic these days. You only need to do a search on Google to see just how hot. You cannot miss the articles that focus on this topic. What is common across all of them is that employee experience is not the same thing as employee engagement and it is not just about whether or not an organization has ping pong tables in their work space or free snacks available throughout the day. Employee experience is the culmination of many factors that make up a day in the life of an employee. It’s about the feeling an employee gets when he or she walks through the door, as well as the organization’s sense of purpose and how well connected employees are to that sense of purpose. It's the technology available to employees to help them get work done and be productive in their roles. It’s also about those ping pong tables and other work space elements that make it so nice to come to work every day.
Perhaps the best evidence of the importance of the employee experience to organizations today is the ever-growing number of roles being created to focus on this as a top priority. There are some who debate whether or not this is a career path that is here to stay, but I am convinced we will see this as a key area of focus for many years to come. If I thought that we had seen it all and there were no more surprises or innovations ahead, I might think differently. But just consider AI and robotics and how these will impact the employee experience in the months and years ahead.
Can HR create an environment where it’s easy for employees to get the information and services they need that resembles how they operate in their personal lives? Can HR help them be more engaged employees by creating a modern workplace? Circling back to my kindergarten conversation, can HR leaders help their organizations navigate the world of fast, easy, anytime, anywhere employee expectations? I believe the answer is yes. The employee service experience is where we are likely to see the most change with advanced technology solutions designed to help organizations focus on providing a consumerized service experience. This is where the rubber meets the road, and I am excited to watch, and help whenever possible, HR leaders as they take on this exciting challenge.