Often in an enterprise business, employees often end up working in silos, compartmentalized and isolated from other departments. How much more effective would the employee journey be if human resources departments collaborated better with IT departments, each aware of the scope and limitations that make up employees' daily journey?
Working together, HR and IT can facilitate more agile, efficient and effective workforce management. This isn't just an option but rather a necessity for a successful employee experience program.
Employee experience starts with pre-boarding, extends into onboarding, continued training, mentoring, benefits, rewards and incentives, on through to the last day an employee works for the company and the exit interview. It includes the devices employees use regularly, the different digital systems they use such as collaboration and project management software, company gatherings and meetings and the overall digital culture in the workplace.
Design thinking comes into play as well, with HR and IT working together to gain empathy by collectively learning to see the world through the eyes of the employees that work there. By using feedback, they are in a better position to refine the design of the employee experience, make adjustments and implement new methodologies and procedures.
"The most impactful aspect of design thinking is that it forces design teams to really understand the employees’ journeys and what they are trying to accomplish," said Benjamin Granger, senior principal at Qualtric’s XM Institute. "For example, we may be focusing on simplifying the hiring process — making it more technology-driven and seamless.”
It all comes down to understanding employees as people trying to positively impact their own lives. “We may make very different decisions about the process if we think about the candidate, what they are trying to accomplish (apply for a job so that they can feed their family and pay their mortgage), the environment they might be in (applying for multiple jobs while on the train), etc,” Granger said.
How Can HR and IT More Effectively Work Together?
HR is in a position to understand the frustrations an employee goes through while working at the various tasks they handle each day. It could be a simple thing, such as using VPN to connect to the company collaboration system, email program or any other digital software. IT is in a position to know if it’s possible to eliminate the use of VPN for employees and how easily an optimal solution can be implemented. By working together, they are able to improve the daily journeys of employees while maintaining security.
Another intersection point between HR and IT revolves around the digital learning platforms used within the company from pre-boarding to onboarding and continued training. Employees are hard pressed to take the time needed for learning but they will make time if it’s presented in a way that is easy and accessible.
Lora Zotter, vice president of employee experience at MentorcliQ, said collaboration between HR and IT is essential to effectively using her company’s platform for onboarding and engaging their employees. "It's critical to have a strong collaboration with IT," she said.
Microlearning platforms such as TalentCards, mLevel and HandyTrain make learning fast and fun. They incorporate gamification and online collaboration and can be used when an employee has time. By working together, HR and IT are able to improve the accessibility and consumption of such development resources.
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Deal With the Potential Gridlock
HR working with IT to streamline access via VPN is a good example of how the intersection between HR and IT can cause progress to come to a grinding halt. In this case, IT should be able to determine if there is a requirement for VPN usage and if not enable access without it. In other situations, HR may have an unreasonable expectation of what can be done and what can’t, and IT is in a position to know what is feasible and what is not. Potential issues may arise from:
- Security restrictions
- Hardware limitations
- Budget limitations
- Design restrictions
- Development impracticalities
When HR and IT run into a problem, it’s time for an informed compromise. HR and IT are on the same team working towards the same goal — in this case, a more positive employee experience. By working together they are both aware of the needs of employees and knowledgeable about the potential restrictions or limitations that may derail the proposed solution.
Most solutions have multiple methodologies through which they can be achieved and with open communication between HR and IT a working solution can be designed, tested and implemented
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Employee Expectations Are High
Some of the expectations employees have of employers have not changed over the years. These include the same qualities their parents and grandparents expected such as:
- Honesty and integrity
- Strong leadership
- Respectful treatment
- Fair compensation
- Trust between employees and management
- Job security
These are all still qualities employees expect from a valued employer. If a business isn’t already living up to those standards, then that's where they need to immediately start focusing.
Increasingly, employees' expectations of work are influenced by the experiences they have outside of the job. They are able to use a smartphone app to instantly obtain a ride to any location via Uber and Lyft, and the app shows them who they can expect as a driver, what the driver looks like, the driver’s name, and exactly when they will arrive. Amazon allows them to order products online and have it delivered the same day. Using Uber Eats, Grubhub, goPuff or Doordash, they can order food online and watch as it progresses through its journey from being ordered, being prepared and then as it is delivered. They can pay for items immediately with just a couple clicks or touches with Venmo and PayPal. They can use Google Voice Search to find information, products and services and if they need directions, they are only a split-second away with Google Maps.
If it’s this easy for transactions to occur at home, it's not unreasonable to expect that tasks should be just as easy to accomplish at work. HR’s job is to determine what employees find to be a bottleneck in their daily journeys and IT’s job to simplify, streamline and find easy and concise ways for employees to perform these tasks.
The workforce of today, especially Gen Z and millennials, have raised the bar when it comes to the expectations they have for their employer. They are more likely to leave a job that doesn’t live up to their expectations. Being able to work for a company that has a purpose they believe in, makes them feel fulfilled and contributes value to society — all of those ideals are more important than the money they earn.
“You could break down ‘millennials’ into people who are early to mid career, many of whom have young families, who are accustomed to using technology in their day-to-day lives as employees and consumers, who actively use social media," Granger said. "All of these things drive their expectations and experiences in meaningful ways.”
“People at these stages of life/career and who are well connected to technology are probably more focused on and likely to expect workplace flexibility, technology-driven workplaces, opportunities for career growth,” he said.
These expectations aren’t limited to millennials and Gen Z. Granger said organizations should be looking ahead toward the commonalities and expectations that the next generation of employees are going to be coming into the workplace with.
"But they should also recognize that those changes in experiences and expectations are likely to cut across generations,” he said.
The commonalities and employee expectations Granger refers to typically include:
- Opportunity to use their skills and abilities
- Recognition for achievements
- Regular feedback
- Transparency among leadership
- Ongoing training and education
- A positive digital work culture
- A ladder to upward mobility within the company
These are all areas where HR and IT can come together to ensure that expectations are being met. When IT implements a unified collaboration and communications platform, it enables employees to more effectively communicate with other employees and department leads. When HR recognizes that an employee has a specific skillset that is needed in IT and puts that employee in a position for that specific role, the employee is able to use their skills and abilities and they feel a sense of purpose, satisfaction and recognition.
Every workplace has its own variations but by using employee experience programs and focusing on the employee journey, HR and IT can ensure employees have the best opportunity to work in a place where these qualities are valued and fulfill expectations.
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How HR and IT Build Digital Workplace Culture
The digital workplace culture is an important part of the employee experience. The HR department is often the champion of the culture of a business due to its ability to direct the initiatives and benefits that employees receive. However, IT plays a role in the implementation of the culture-building process.
Workplace culture is important for many job seekers. In fact, according to reports from Jobvite 46% of job seekers feel that it’s very important. When it comes to millennials and Gen Z, workplace culture is often more valuable to them than salary, according to a report from global jobs website GlassDoor.
A surprising 65% of millennials surveyed in the United States valued company culture more than they valued a higher income. Their priorities have switched from paycheck to purpose and that purpose is defined by the company culture. Culture is influenced by the technology they use in their daily lives, social media, continuous learning programs, the atmosphere in the workplace, their relationships with their superiors, their peers and their mentors. These are all areas that HR and IT play a large role in defining and why collaboration between these departments is crucial to a successful employee experience program.
“It's a mistake to think that craft beer and ping pong is enough to keep millennials happy or Gen Z, for that matter," Zotter said. "What millennials want is thoughtful onboarding, mentorship and opportunities for growth and advancement. They also want a company culture that allows them to participate in strategic conversations, inform decision-making and understand the link between their work and the overall mission and impact of the company.”
Employee experience programs enable a business to understand and empathize with the needs and desires of the workforce. Data intelligence and measurement technology has improved to the point where HR plays a consultant role and IT fills the role of implementation. “Technology helps us build better and more human experiences that help people accomplish what they need to accomplish at work, do so as effortlessly as possible, and create positive emotions around those experiences,” Granger said. This is where a strong collaboration effort between HR and IT really shines.
The simplification of communication processes and tools is vital to the creation of a culture that fosters relationships between leaders, department managers and employees. These communication platforms are a mechanism that encourages workplace culture and provides a way for employees with inclusive social spaces that allow them to connect with each other outside of traditional workplace software that enables them to perform their jobs. Once again, HR plays a consultant role while IT is the group that can say whether it’s going to fly or not.
In the digital workplace of today’s enterprise businesses, it is vital that the various departments within a business escape the silo effect that causes them to remain compartmentalized and isolated. For HR and IT, a collaborative relationship facilitates more effective communication company-wide, removes obstacles that deter progress and enhances workplace culture and employee satisfaction. By working together, they are able to implement a design thinking process that increases the success of an employee experience program, improves the employee journey and encourages employee retention.