What to EXpect in 2019

Companies like Airbnb, Netflix and HubSpot pioneered the employee experience movement to transform the workplace as an experience place where all the elements of work (sense of purpose, human interaction and collaboration, personal and professional development, work/life integration, digital transformation, you name it) are designed and crafted with the people in mind, inspiring and engaging employees.

2019 will continue to see successful companies embark on or improve on their employee experience initiatives as a way not only to differentiate themselves, but to be competitive in the talent space. Competition is now more about talent than it is about products.

Put people first. Re-humanize the workplace.

Most products and services are now commoditized, and unless you are a clear disruptor in your industry (Uber or Airbnb come to mind), the real differentiator lies in the employees. When employees are engaged, and find a strong sense of purpose, they foster innovation, bring creativity and deliver higher customer service to your organization.

To build the workplace of tomorrow, it’s become critical to empathize with and understand employees’ needs, motivations and aspirations; provide employees with the freedom and empowerment to define what their own experience should be. As customers are now accustomed to drive their own experiences, employees expect the same level of personalization from their employees. Gone are the days where organizations treated their employees as the same bunch.

Employers must change their mindset and adopt more of a consumer approach to engage with their employees.

Technology (think of people data, AI, machine learning) plays an important role in the design and delivery of those experiences, but the human element will always be at the center of the EX. Analysts, HR futurists and forward-thinking business leaders are challenging HR leaders to think about whether or not they are ready for a future of work that incorporates both an emphasis on technology, robotics and AI, alongside a requirement to embrace the people side of work and human needs.

Tomorrow’s successful workplaces will be the ones who put people first.

HR must become data driven.

Digital technology completely transformed the marketing function 15 years ago. Today, we live in a data-driven world, which empowers companies to better identify and understand human behaviors and needs, fueling corporate strategies to deliver more engaging and personalized experiences. As consumers, we are now accustomed to it, and we take it for granted. The next frontier is for HR to implement it on the employee side. Companies sit on a ton of employee data. The challenge for most companies is that they often don’t know how to leverage this data and what to do with it. Some companies have begun to figure it out and use data to create engaging employee experience. However, EX advocates still face C-suite’s reluctance to embrace the opportunities as the direct impact or ROI of an Employee Experience strategy is still difficult to measure.

Break down silos.

Historically, the HR function has existed to police and protect the organization itself, and has been limited to an administrative role. As the HR function is being dramatically disrupted, CHROs are being pushed in a more strategic role, are asked to create winning cultures, develop strong employment brands and be competitive in the war for talent.

This is why more and more organizations bring a mix of talent to the HR function as a whole, including marketing professionals and customer experience (CX) experts. These brand and CX experts bring an empathetic approach that HR did not have in the past, using design thinking, journey mapping, segmentation, gamification and leveraging technology tools such as chatbots, AI and marketing automation to communicate their EB and EVP to a more targeted employee/talent audience via multiple channels.

EX is a priority, but it’s also a formidable opportunity to break down silos between HR, Recruiting, Marketing, Customer Experience, Operations, IT to work on this EX journey. EX is innovation, it is collaboration, it is engagement.

EX as much the employer’s as it is the employees’ responsibility.

The EX journey must start at the top. If the Leadership doesn’t not believe in the value of a positive employee experience, doesn’t invest time and resources (dollars and employees) in it, EX has no chance to succeed. 

Employees have a key role to play in the EX as well. They are the ones who are going to bring the EX to life daily. As employees become EB advocates, not only will they be more engaged in the EX initiative, they will also be more productive, they will collaborate to bring new ideas forward and to foster innovation, and they will deliver higher customer service.

Employers must create a work environment where employees want to come to work, not just a place where they have to come to work. Bring fun to the workplace, create opportunities for personal and professional growth, create a culture of candor, transparency and inclusion, are all key elements of an engaging and positive workplace.

EX is about testing and iteration.

Many organizations have not yet embraced the concept of employee experience because they fear failing. The CEO’s vulnerability is critical to bring EX to life. If the leader of the company is afraid of employee’s feedback, is afraid of failing first before eventually succeeding, nothing will happen.

For most companies which have successfully implementing an EX strategy, there wasn’t a culture book (although HubSpot or Netflix for instance have published a comprehensive culture code or book). The common denominator is that all these companies have succeeded through trial and error, embracing failure as a stepping stone for future success.
EX is a bit like software development, it is all about being agile, testing, iterating. A culture is never “finished”, it evolves as the company grows and employee behaviors and needs change.

2019 will see a huge mindset shift, as EX is a business and HR transformation. We could even change HR to HT (human transformation).

Stephan Vincent