The role of human resources is going through a major shift. In the past, HR concerns took a back seat to bottom-line business needs. This was due in part to a lack of strong HR metrics and ways of measuring them and, on the other side, the balance of power between employer and employee. However, today, in the increasing scramble for top talent, the C-level has woken up to the importance of employee engagement, retention and development.
The impact of employee engagement on loyalty, productivity, innovation and customer satisfaction has revealed that an engaged workforce is not simply a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity for creating an innovative business that can withstand the constant flow of new competition.
This has led executives to look to HR to recreate and drive the shift toward employee-centered processes, environments and strong value-based cultures, otherwise known as the employee experience. However, a gap still exists between translating data into actionable changes. Employee engagement is an abstract metric. Identifying a dip in your most recent engagement survey may not yield the information you need to find out why your people are less satisfied with their work life than the month before and how to address it. The challenge HR faces today is how to make people data human.
At this game-changing moment, HR leaders need to open their mindsets to new ways of designing processes to create a totally customized and unique experience. The great thing is you won’t have to leave your organization to acquire the new skills you need. Here are five things HR and benefits executives can learn from other departments.
1. Marketing: Understanding the employee journey
Marketers have been successful in better understanding the mindset and emotions that occur throughout a customer’s journey with the company and the product. By creating customer journey maps, they’ve found a way to categorically track each touchpoint a customer goes through until they make the decision to buy. Studies have found that even one negative experience can actually deter customers from going through with a purchase. In fact, Oracle found 81% are willing to pay more for a better experience. Furthermore, as marketers know, maintaining customers is more cost effective than actually acquiring new ones, making customer mapping extremely valuable.
What many HR leaders have found is if you replace “customer” with “employee” you get a similar effect. A negative experience with recruitment portals has been shown to deter potential hires from applying for positions. Many millennials are willing to forgo a larger salary for a better quality of work life. In fact, a recent survey by Fidelity Investments revealed that, on average, this new young workforce would be willing to take a $7,600 pay cut in exchange for immaterial incentives like purposeful work, work/life balance and company culture. Finally, similar to customer retention, retaining employees is proven to be more cost-effective than recruiting and retraining new people.
Given the success that marketers have had from creating customer journey maps many HR leaders are now utilizing this methodology to create employee journey maps, tracking each phase from recruitment to exiting the company.
2. Statistics: People analytics
Once you have your journey mapped out, it’s time to fill it in with the factors that are most important to your work environment. The best place to start is by collecting data. Where are you falling short and where would you like to improve? Are you having trouble attracting new hires? Is your goal to help develop more female leaders within the company? Do you see a dip in engagement after your annual performance review? The key here is to be collecting data regularly. An engagement survey taken at the beginning of the year won’t reflect the attitudes that developed during your company’s sudden leadership change in March. The more data you have the easier it’ll be to compare and identify potential causes.
Luckily, for us non-math people, an array of new HR tech gadgets makes capturing and analyzing data even easier. Need to find out how much time your managers spend on coaching or who the top performers are in your company? With the rise of HR technology, there’s bound to be a solution that can make your life easier by collecting, analyzing and sending the data you need.
3. Psychology: Creating personas
Again, the idea of creating buyer personas originally comes from marketing but can be extremely useful when mapping out your employee journey. Rather than thinking of your workforce as a whole, creating specific employee personas brings the human side to the process, enabling you to visualize each stage from the viewpoint of a specific person. This requires you to get into the mindset of the typical employee or the ideal hire and identify key concerns they may have at each stage.
Rather than looking at your workforce as a whole, thinking about a specific person with a name, role and personality will help you to step into their shoes and get a better sense of what they could be experiencing. How does Jane feel about your performance review process? What factors could be inhibiting her from gaining the growth benefits this practice should provide?
4. Design: New ways of thinking
Once you’ve identified the potential pain points in your employee’s journey, it’s time to rethink processes and propose new strategies specifically designed to eliminate these barriers. Design thinking can help you. Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends found that HR departments that provided the most value were 5 times more likely to be using design thinking. The exciting possibilities that can be opened up with design thinking have even flowed upward with 79% of executives rating it as an important or very important issue.
After analyzing the pain points identified, designers put themselves into the mindset in order to create UIs that will enable a comfortable and engaging experience for users. This means departing from traditional models of onboarding and performance management, which have been HR cornerstones for decades.
5. Communications: Storytelling
Storytelling is a key skill every HR manager needs to learn. While executives have awoken to the importance of metrics like engagement, HR continues to face the struggle of putting their ideas on the agenda. Even if the C-suite wants the department to solve the engagement problem, selling the major overhauls you would like to make to traditionally ingrained processes will not be easy.
What we have to remember is that people analytics is not just data. This information tells a story about the people in your company. HR’s role as a storyteller is essentially to translate this information into (at times provocative) stories that explain to the executive level what your employees are going through and what the company needs to do to improve. Learning this skill will pave the way for the new designs you have in store for your company.
The most important skill HR will need to learn is how to make HR data human. Low engagement cannot simply be solved by offering a new ping pong table or better lunches. Getting other departments to share their learnings will allow you to upskill your team and get HR that seat at the table.