Technology has altered the employee experience in a major way. For most of us the days of legal pads and filing cabinets are long gone, replaced by software suites and apps we use every day. “Technology is 30% of the overall employee experience,” says Jacob Morgan, a futurist, speaker and author. “It is the central nervous system of the company.”
But technology is doing more than just changing the workplace. It’s also creating opportunities for leaders to improve the employee experience. And with the annual HR Technology Conference & Exposition around the corner, there’s no better time to figure out how you can make technology work for you. We spoke with several experts and practitioners about how HR tech is creating new avenues for leaders to improve the employee experience.
Make Work Easier — and More Profitable
Advances in automation and other technologies make work easier by eliminating tedious tasks — not just in HR but across an organization. “What we see with AI and machine learning is if there’s a high-volume task going on, then we can get technology to do that,” says Alexander Noren, co-founder and engagement strategist at Forgeant. Automation lets employees focus on higher-level tasks that require creativity and innovation, allowing them to achieve more in the workplace. “Technology, when implemented properly, does nothing but allow employees to better achieve their potential at work,” he says.
This translates into more engagement, and it can directly affect the organization’s balance sheet, says Kristen Ruttgaizer, director of human resources at Igloo Software. “A positive employee experience drives creativity, productivity and the bottom line,” she says. “By keeping employees well-informed and engaged, businesses will organically reap the benefits of an improved employee experience.”
Create a Better Onboarding Process
It doesn’t matter how often we’re told not to judge a book by its cover; first impressions are important. And in a hiring marketplace that favors candidates at historic levels, first impressions carry even more importance. A poor onboarding experience can send a new hire straight to LinkedIn.
However, there are numerous HR tech tools that can help organizations create a better onboarding experience. These tools start by transforming the candidate experience itself. Assessments during the interview process provide valuable information about a potential hire’s strengths and weaknesses. Tech can help us understand that data and apply it to onboarding experiences, says Robin Stenzel, chief solutions officer at OutMatch HCM. This helps managers address skills gaps that new hires may have, and it also sets a tone for new hires. “Their experience gets better because they’ve gotten feedback,” Stenzel says. “It really starts to show them where they have to tie back into actual performance and how they get measured against these things.”
Additionally, a more streamlined onboarding process gives new hires more opportunities to acclimate themselves to the organization, says Jonathan Burg, group senior vice president of marketing at Reward Gateway. Burg points to research that examined what factors make a new hire successful. “The only thing that they could find after controlling for all variables was how quickly they built relationships with other people in the company,” he says. “If you think about that, you can create an onboarding experience where people are able to learn quickly and tools are also able to facilitate the right types of conversation and create connections within the organization.”
Enable Work-Life Balance
Technology created a whole new employee experience: remote work. Research indicates that 70% of the global workforce works remotely at least once a week.
Working remotely helps employees better maintain work-life balance, and it also shows trust by giving employees a measure of flexibility in completing their tasks. This option has become so important that if your organization’s remote-work tools aren’t up to par then employees may look elsewhere for an employer that can offer a smoother experience. “Approximately 7 in 10 employees who work remotely deal with challenges that they wouldn’t encounter in an office setting,” says Ruttgaizer, citing research by her organization. “Companies that recognize this are able to bridge the gap by leaning on digital workplace solutions.”
Ultimately your tech solutions can only go a certain distance toward improving the employee experience. They allow you to gain intelligence and data while also empowering employees. However, technology can’t turn a poor employee experience into a great one. “Some companies assume that simply having cool tools is a magic bullet, but it’s not,” Morgan says. “Technology is just a tool.”
As a leader it can be difficult to put your finger on the pain points in your employee experience, but many HR tech offerings have anonymized survey tools that better allow you to get the pulse of the organization. “That can help facilitate more open communication and get to the heart of what’s working and what could benefit from improvement,” Ruttgaizer says.
But if you don’t have a plethora of HR tech tools, don’t fret. Tools like SurveyMonkey and Google Forms have an entry-level cost of zero, and the insights they gather are worth quite a bit. In fact, surveys such as these can inform your decisions on what your organization should buy. They can help you better understand your unique organizational needs. “And this will allow you to be a more informed buyer for the technology you get,” Noren says.