Why the time is right to re-think employee experience

Digitisation has transformed the way we live. Is it now time for it to transform the way we work? Starting with a radical re-examination of us what ‘experience’ means.

The time has come for all of us to take a long, hard look at employee experience. Indeed, I’d say it’s long overdue for a radical reassessment.

After all, we’re now living in a very different world. Digitalisation has transformed how we live our lives, a transformation the pandemic has accelerated.

Where once experiences were curated for us, we are now the ones driving those experiences, using technology to create our own very individual ways of enjoying what is all around us.

In short, thanks to the technology, we have the autonomy to decide what we want to hear, see, connect with, belong to and share with others.

But while this is – and will continue – to define the way we live, this kind of autonomy has yet to have a real impact on the way we work. But it’s time it did.  

Because the way we work has fundamentally shifted. What’s more, the genie is out of the bottle, and it isn’t going back inside.

Working from home, flexible work patterns, the way we encourage and develop our talent, the call for diversity and the need to drive out the hidden biases which hold back far too many of our employees, even the value of work itself: these are just a handful of the issues which HR is now having to having to address. 


HR: the custodian of experience  

The good news is that HR is ideally placed to be the driver – and deliverer – of this kind of radical change.  For me, HR’s role is as the custodian of people. That means designing and facilitating the experiences which enable individuals, leaders and organisations to maximise their performance, and to allow those individuals to reach their full potential.      

Autonomy in the workplace – the ability to take decisions about these fundamental issues, and drive your own career, assess your performance, and make fundamental choices about how that career develops – is now something which more and more employees expect to have in terms of their role and their workplace.   

Even if, and it’s a very big if right now, the job market shifts and we find ourselves with an abundance of talent - this change is, I believe, with us for good.

So the sooner we address the fact that our employees are no longer passive pieces to be move about within some business machine, and individuals who increasingly want to have more control over every aspect of their working lives, and have the technology to enable them to do that, the better.

And that means reassessing just what we mean by ‘employee experience’ and how we can ensure that that experience is delivered more effectively in this new age of digital autonomy.


Technology: the great enabler

Emotion is the true driver of experience. HR therefore needs to create emotional experiences which in turn drive meaning, a sense of belonging, of excitement, growth, collaboration and connection to others.

These are the very things which anchor people to their organisations. Those same people want to now be able to achieve those things autonomously by using the same kinds of technology which allow them to experience those emotions in their autonomous lives outside work.       

To create a true experience in this sense, for each individual, technology needs to be purposeful and relevant. It has to be able to deliver for the wide diversity of ages, genders and ethnicities in today’s workplace.

It has to allow the employee to develop every aspect of their working lives, from career guidance to work patterns. Above all they need to be something people really want to use and engage with. That means designs which are easy to use and free from bias. Any AI driven system will only be as diverse and intelligent as the people who created it.

Autonomy delivered via intelligent systems, which respond to the needs of each and every individual: that the basis of real experience. It may sound like science fiction, but we have the capabilities to design and build such systems right now. What’s required is the imagination and commitment to deliver.

The pace of change will continue to be relentless and shifting, like sand in the wind. That isn’t going to stop. Not ever. You have to build not just for today, but for a tomorrow which could be very different again.

But the good news is that so have the technological solutions required to meet those expectations. As a direct result employee experience has just got a whole lot more exciting. And that’s what we’re here to help you deliver.


Michael Esau is global HR advisor at SAP 

Wherever you are right now, and whatever other issues you are working to solve, SAP can help you find the right innovative solution for you. Visit us at SAP HCM to join the debate and discover more about the technology and solutions which we have to help you drive your business.