CIOs can help their organizations attract talent, increase engagement and drive profitability by using tech to improve employee experiences, says Tom Parisi, chief transformation officer at ServiceNow in Santa Clara, California.
Parisi spoke with StrategicCIO360 about what’s possible today, how the move to hybrid and remote work has changed things, and what to look out for when tackling employee experience initiatives.
What are some ways modernizing the digital employee experience can help organizations stay competitive?
Businesses across all industries are investing in digital transformation to help employees be more connected, productive and engaged—no matter where they are working. By finding the balance between business profitability and making workers happy, organizations that invest in all aspects of the employee experience can improve competitiveness in several ways.
Employee productivity: Unfortunately, much of the pain that employees experience at work is directly related to the core responsibilities of their role. As such, modernizing those experiences directly tied to company outcomes can be a great place to start. By making work less fragmented across multiple technologies and departments, companies can improve the quality, intuitiveness, speed and visibility of their core business processes—which represents a win-win for both the employee and the company.
Employee engagement: As extensive technology users in their daily lives, worker expectations are ultimately shaped by their favorite consumer experiences—like tracking orders, one-click ordering, embedded assistance and personalization. They expect these same principles at work to help them complete tasks and get help from any device or channel, from any location, and at any time of day. Employees want context built into the process—they do not want to provide information the organization already possesses or spend time reading company policies and knowledge documents.
Instinctively, we all sense that better employee engagement results in material outcomes for the business at large. As evidence, Gallup research shows that businesses with highly engaged staff result in 21 percent greater profitability. Employee motivation is a precious commodity, especially in times of economic uncertainty. It’s crucial to create more personalized, streamlined services that wow your employees and enable them to do their best work.
These principles hold true for all employee types in any industry, whether business, retail, manufacturing, medical, federal; regardless of full-time, part-time, or even seasonal status. By creating connected, frictionless experiences using modern technologies, organizations can create a competitive edge for their brand in today’s dynamic environment.
Can you provide examples of how digital experience can transform the employee experience through personalized journeys?
Each employee in a company navigates their roles with unique circumstances, whether role, tenure, career transitions, policies, benefits or even personal circumstances influencing their time at work. By designing digital experiences that acknowledge and incorporate these circumstances, businesses can provide more seamless, relevant employee journeys.
Starting with a candidate’s first experience with your company, show them what’s in store for them individually. Consider, how easy was the application process? Did the candidates promptly receive follow-up communication? Once an offer was extended, did they have an intuitive way to complete and track all the necessary paperwork? Did they have visibility to the details of their specific journey (e.g., background check status, technology delivery, required training, benefits)? When and how did they first meet their team and/or supervisor? These first impressions during onboarding and ramp up make a tremendous difference in how organizations attract and keep top talent long term.
Arguably, the most scalable way to make everything intuitive for employees is to provide a simple, relevant self-service portal with a mobile app, virtual agents and AI search. Offer them a personalized view of their needs and an intuitive way to get information and support, such as connecting with others, finding training opportunities, requesting a leave of absence, sharing their ideas, procuring a new laptop or supporting an urgent customer need. Ensuring employees can balance their personal and career goals conveniently and intuitively allows your company to meet the employee where they are at, and on their terms.
Technology can also provide “personalized experience” for the many role types within an organization. Consider a manufacturing shop floor supervisor, or a retail store manager, or a nurse supervisor and the people they support; all of them need the right device and technology to get a resolution without leaving their primary workspace. Business managers need to facilitate actions from their laptops and be assured that employee needs are solved in a timely way. Resolving issues and answering questions on the spot results in higher trust from employees.
What are some challenges leaders might face when tackling employee experience initiatives?
When looking to make improvements in both employee experiences and business processes, leaders often run into similar challenges such as:
- Fragmented, duplicative systems across the different business units and geographies.
- Manual, complicated legacy processes that lead to inefficiency and risk.
- Lack of visibility to open, stalled work and lack of insights into trouble spots within the business.
These challenges are worth tackling head-on because, no matter the job or industry, employees do not want to jump through hoops to complete their work. A great starting point is to focus on fixing the experience first, getting rid of the most frustrating steps. Since it is typically more expensive and energy-draining to operate an inefficient process, great value can be realized by simplifying the biggest pain points. If the technology is easy to use and the business processes are easy to execute, employees will feel less overwhelmed.
Regardless of how, where or when employees work, they need their business technology and systems to be simple and easy to use—especially as processes evolve over time. On an exciting note for IT leaders, tech organizations can play a vital role in the uplift of employee experience since they often have the most comprehensive view of the various technologies and processes that an employee uses in their day-to-day work, personal support needs, travel, career management and cross-company collaboration. Equally, simplifying critical processes can be a critical first step in democratizing innovation and promoting the dignity of work.
How can leaders deliver more impactful managerial experiences to support employees from anywhere?
Managers play a pivotal role in the digital employee experience with their ability to connect the employee back into the organization—meeting employees where they are, and when they need them most. People have different working styles, both where they are physically working and how they deliver their best work.
As a leader, think about how to help employees stay focused on their work without the intermittent distractions and interruptions that commonly surface. Then, tap into technology that helps employees quickly resolve common issues through self-service or direct action in more personalized cases. Automation and AI/ML capabilities can improve self-guidance options to the point of anticipating next steps in their employee journey, often answering questions that they did not think to ask.
Lastly, don’t forget to look at metrics and feedback loops to gauge outcomes and impact. How processes actually work is what, in reality, defines a company’s operating model. Capture data around speed, quality and rework, while also asking your employees directly, “Why did it not work? What needs to be done differently?”
These stories complement the data and serve as vital measurements of a successful employee experience. Ultimately, managers should aim to empower their people to contribute to their fullest and do their best. The art of experience transformation is to help employees be productive and remain energized in their work even during times of continuous change.