Time To Rethink “Employee Experience”

By Cllement Tan

We do not have to be reminded that the world is constantly changing – we are, after all, stewards of that change. But the changes to our work, brought on by the pandemic, has surely shifted our priorities when it comes to employee management.

Previously inflexible organisations, insistent on traditional business practices were forced to operate remotely. Employees who were used to having a morning cup of coffee with colleagues before heading to the conference room for their daily scheduled meeting now find themselves attending them just several steps away from their beds, not amid cherie hellos and good mornings but the (almost) irksome parroting of “Can you hear me?”, “Is your mic on?” and ”We can’t see your screen”.

It’s an open secret – businesses are becoming more people-centric in efforts to attract and retain employees. From daily business practices and company culture to the work environment and the training that companies provide their employees and how it is done, HR teams together with leadership are buzzing to get an equilibrium. Leveraging traditional methods that are still relevant while embarking on digitalisation that is befitting of the hybrid workforce, even hiring processes and onboarding is rapidly changing.

All these efforts correspond to an existential challenge or need – the talent war and an organisation’s employer branding positioning as the preferred choice for employment.

Rethinking the Concept of “Engagement”: Think Holistically

At RAMSSOL, we believe that Employee Experience (EX) encompasses not only the work an employee does but also their wellbeing as individuals and the holistic experiences they have in connection to the workplace.

On the other hand, “Employee Engagement” is more focused on shorter-term initiatives that improve their work involvement translating this into vested interest and measurable metrics e.g better productivity and product/service innovation to deliver on a common business goal.

Tapping into more than a decade of experience and insights in the Human Capital Management space, I believe the mindset of “engaging people well” is becoming one of the biggest competitive differentiators in business, driven by rapid developments in HR tech and the broader behavioural shifts in EX.

As the war for talent wages on, an effective EX strategy gives companies a definitive edge – often being a winning factor against the competition. How can HR leverage EX to boost employer branding, and what does it mean for learning and development (L&D) or talent managers? What considerations must leadership make as Corporate Malaysia rethinks the employer-employee relationship post-pandemic?

HR must adopt Big Data and embrace real-time analysis. Out with the yearly surveys and in with immediate “Pulse Checks”. Capitalising advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), and implementing systems that help us understand employee sentiments, stress as well as engagement at both macro and micro levels.

Organisations must bring the same level of rigour with data and analysis to people decisions as with business decisions, and implement programmes that increase retention while mitigating risks associated with ineffective succession planning, loss of tacit knowledge, weak employer brand and high costs of (re)hiring.

The one key benefit of embracing the big data trend in HR is the ability to focus on the health of the organisation. Our HR transformation projects have shown that when employees feel like their needs are addressed by the management, it strengthens their emotional connection and their “investment” in the company.

Both Gallup and the University of Warwick studies have shown that highly engaged teams lead to a 21 per cent increase in business profitability, employee positivity leads to a 12 per cent spike in productivity while unengaged workers proved 10 per cent less productive.

“Socialise” Reward/Recognition systems with Gamification

Another crucial factor to consider is employee’s valuation. Often, in a virtual environment, work that gets done goes unnoticed. Unlike a physical office environment where there is usually time to pause and take stock – with the occasional office party or team lunches – the fact that employees do not get a chance to meet face-to-face with colleagues negates this opportunity.

Gamification, an increasingly popular approach in HR practitioners’ toolbox, promotes positive interaction between co-workers through the use of badges, leaderboards and other achievement-tracking mechanics. Employees are incentivised in social participation, acknowledge and recognise well-performing team members, thus forging a positive virtual workspace. Transforming the way they look at work as something more than just everyday humdrum makes it less mundane and more exciting. That is, after all, the sine qua non of gamification.

A lesser-known fact is gamification and peer-to-peer recognition model has a 36 per cent positive impact on the bottom line than manager-only recognition.

Rise of “HR on-the-go” with Mobile-based Onboarding, Training and Brainstorming

You may have missed the headlines and LinkedIn posts but did you know that several CEOs and Senior Executives of Fortune 500s were onboarded last year, completely online, amidst the pandemic/global shutdowns?

Digital technology has made mobile-based onboarding seamless in that hires now have quick access to resources and all the information necessary to hit the ground running in their new organisation. With a handy mobile application, they will have all that they need at their fingertips, also made available offline for consumption at a time more convenient to them. A mobile-first engagement platform also enhances positivity, collaboration and recognition – moving beyond traditional productivity and performance reviews especially at a time when the workforce is dispersed.

An increasingly common integration in HR Tech that RAMSSOL offers as a built-in function on our AI-based app is the platform for brainstorming where team members can moot ideas that can be voted on, allow constructive feedback – potentially resulting in innovative campaigns or projects that are more thought through. The virtual aspect of the forum allows all employees to actively participate regardless of whether they are at the office or working from home. We have found that employees are most involved when they are heard – something which is common wisdom but is not often practised enough in Corporate Malaysia.

Digitalising Employee Experience is the Business Case for Employer Branding and Talent Retention

The above are some factors that create EX and contribute to how the employee feels about the company and employer, all of which in turn translate to systems and frameworks that empower the workforce and deliver a significant, measurable impact on ROI. A study by IBM showed that positive EX visibly improves retention with as much as 52 per cent of the workforce less likely to leave their organisations.

Through experience, I am aware that there’s a one-size-fits-all solution (approach) in EX. What is clear, however, is that the bedrock of any organisation is undoubtedly its people; therefore, their welfare and active participation in growth is paramount. Infusing this belief system into RAMSSOL’s HR tech solutions portfolio has accelerated the digitalisation efforts of our partners – reinforcing the demand for a balanced framework that delivers on both business and people goals.

As we move into the post-pandemic new normal, I urge Corporate Malaysia to dispel common myths around EX or Employee Engagement, as it is not a passing trend. Businesses that are employee-focused empower their business goals. When employee voices are heard, it means their integral role is embedded as part of workplace health metrics and catalyses employee satisfaction, talent retention, recognition and reward systems and the overall workplace experience. By creating a fine-tuned digital approach that facilitates employee wellbeing, we will have a productive, skilled, resourced and future-ready workforce that is the envy of the world.

About the Author: Tan is the Group CEO and Managing Director, RAMSSOL Group Berhad. This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed here are those of the author.

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