The Future of Work: How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform The Employee Experience
Artificial Intelligence is on the verge of penetrating every major industry from healthcare to advertising, transportation, finance, legal, education, and now inside the workplace. Many of us may have already interacted with a chatbot (defined as an automated, yet personalized, conversation between software and human users) whether it’s on Facebook Messenger to book a hotel room or ordering flowers through 1-800 flowers. According to Facebook Vice President, David Marcus, there are now more than 100,000 chatbots on the Facebook Messenger platform, up from 33,000 in 2016.
As we increase the usage of chatbots in our personal lives, we will expect to use them in the workplace to assist us with things like finding new jobs, answering frequently asked HR related questions or even receiving coaching and mentoring. Chatbots digitize HR processes and enable employees to access HR solutions from anywhere. Using artificial intelligence in HR will create a more seamless employee experience, one that is nimbler and more user driven.
Artificial Intelligence Will Transform The Employee Experience
As I detailed in my column, The Intersection of Artificial Intelligence and Human Resources, HR leaders are beginning to pilot AI to deliver greater value to the organization by using chatbots for recruiting, employee service, employee development and coaching. A recent survey of 350 HR leaders conducted by ServiceNowfinds 92% of HR leaders agree that the future of providing an enhanced level of employee service will include chatbots. In fact, you can think of a chatbot as your newest HR team member, one that allows employees to easily retrieve answers to frequently asked questions. According to the ServiceNow survey, more than two thirds of HR leaders believe employees are comfortable accessing chatbots to get the information they need, at the time they need it. The type of questions HR leaders believe employees are comfortable using a chatbot for range from the mundane and factual ones; such as how much paid time off do I have left, to the more personal ones; such as how do I report a sexual misconduct experience. The comfort level with using AI to answer employee inquiries is shown in Figure 1:
According to Deepak Bharadwaj, General Manager, HR Product Line, ServiceNow "By 2020, based on the adoption of chatbots in our personal lives, I can see how penetration in the workplace could reach adoption rates of as high as 75% with employees accessing a chatbot to resolve frequently asked HR questions and access HR solutions anywhere and anytime." Bharadwaj points out how fast we are changing our behavior as consumers, given the dramatic rise of conversational AI technology and its ease of use. For example, Amazon's Alexa now has more than 15,000 “skills” (Amazon’s term for voice-based apps), nearly all of which were created in the last two years since Amazon opened Alexa to outside developers. In fact, 10,000 Alexa skills were created since fourth quarter, 2016.
As we become comfortable with chatbots in our everyday lives, we will expect to use them in the workplace.There are already a growing number of technology firms targeting HR with artificial intelligence solutions for sourcing (Textio), interviewing (MontageTalent), on-boarding (Talla), coaching (mobile Coach), social recognition (growBot), and employee service centers (ServiceNow).
Capital Group HR: On The Journey To Digital Transformation
Artificial intelligence and chatbots are revolutionizing both the candidate and employee experience. As Diana Wong, Senior Vice President of HR at Capital Groupsays,"Technology is an enabler to delivering world-class Advisor and Investor experiences to our customers. So, we believe HR must mirror these best in class experiences by leveraging artificial intelligence for all phases of the employee life cycle from recruiting to on-boarding and developing employees."
Capital Group is piloting a number of artificial intelligence technologies in HR, from using Textio to write more effective and bias free job descriptions to using predictive analytic web based video interviewing through the MontageTalent platform. Wong believes the piloting and usage of artificial intelligence not only improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the candidate and employee experience, but also enables Capital Group to be seen as a modern employer with Millennial workers.
However, there are barriers along the journey as HR experiments with artificial intelligence. I recently spoke about the impact of artificial intelligence to a group of senior HR leaders in Milan last week. This group identified a number of barriers to using artificial intelligence in HR, namely the fear of job loss among HR team members, lack of skills to truly embrace these new technologies and the change management needed to adopt to new ways of sourcing, recruiting, and engaging employees. Wong emphasizes this when she says, "One of the critical success factors to adopting artificial intelligence for HR is the cultural orientation around change and on-going employee communications on how and why the organization is digitally transforming HR."
As HR leaders begin developing a strategy and roadmap for artificial intelligence, I believe there are five work streams to begin this digital transformation.
1. Embrace artificial intelligence by experimenting with a range of piloting a range of chatbots
Chatbots are already ubiquitous in our lives as consumers, and now they are starting to appear in the workplace. Rather than just read about them, consider embracing a productivity chatbot as your newest HR team member. There are a number of new digital virtual assistants led by Amy, Zoom, and Shae. Each represents new way of working using natural language processing to schedule meetings, automatically generate documents, and provide you with personalized health data. So why not have your HR team pilot these as a way to understand the power of artificial intelligence on behavior change?
2. Develop a shared vision with cross functional stakeholders of HR, IT, Real Estate, Communitarians, and Digital Transformation
Delivering a compelling employee experience is a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining talent. Companies are realizing that transforming employee experience is not an HR initiative, rather it is a business initiative. This means senior C-level executives from HR, IT, Digital Transformation, Real Estate, and Corporate Communications need to develop one common shared vision on what a memorable and compelling employee experience is and define the elements of the employee experience over the short, medium, and long term.
3. Understand the implications of implementation on the technology roadmap
All new technology based initiatives such as using artificial intelligence in the workplace require the design of a technology roadmap outlining the short-term and long-term goals and how the organization will meet these goals. This means the cross functional team of HR, IT, and Digital Transformation will need to agree on a shared vision for employee experience and define the technology roadmap to bring this vision to reality.
4. Identify new job roles needed to fully leverage AI in HR
Adding a number of new job roles is part of the journey to transform employee experience in an organization. This starts with creation of the Head of Employee Experience role. I interviewed Mark Levy, the first Head of Employee Experience for Airbnb in a Forbes column, “The Workplace As An Experience: Three New HR Roles Emerge.” This role is responsible for bringing to life the Airbnb mission of Belong Anywhere to life by creating memorable workplace experiences which span all aspects of work space, recruitment, development, volunteer experiences, and even the menus in Aribnb facilities. Other roles I have seen created during the implementation of an employee experience transformation include Head of Conversational Design at Capital One, which aims to create conversational interfaces for customers to access account information and complete financial tasks. GE Digital has also created the unique role of Recruiting Scrum Master. This role applies many of the scrum techniques used in software development to recruiting by breaking down the massive hiring needs into incremental and iterative steps, where the highest value hiring challenges are addressed first for the hiring manager.
5. Upskill HR team to understand the power of artificial intelligence in HR
Build an expertise on how AI will impact HR within your team. Designate one team member to partner with your IT and Digital Transformation group to provide HR with the latest information on new AI products, services, and how other areas in the organization such as marketing or IT are embracing AI to create more compelling customer experiences.
Enterprise AI adoption is still in the early stages, but the opportunity to develop a concrete understanding of AI, its ecosystem, and the implications of augmenting new HR job roles is massive. We are only at the beginning of this journey where artificial intelligence and chatbots transform all aspects of HR processes. What is your company doing to transform the employee experience using artificial intelligence?
Culture and engagement: The naked organization
Employee engagement and culture are now business issues, not just topics for HR to debate. And there’s no place for organizations to hide.
· In an era of heightened corporate transparency, greater workforce mobility, and severe skills shortages, culture, engagement, and retention have emerged as top issues for business leaders. These issues are not simply an HR problem.
· Culture and engagement is the most important issue companies face around the world. 87 percent of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges, and 50 percent call the problem “very important.”
· Organizations that create a culture defined by meaningful work, deep employee engagement, job and organizational fit, and strong leadership are outperforming their peers and will likely beat their competition in attracting top talent.
Today’s organizations live in the Glassdoor era. Every corporate decision is immediately publicly exposed and debated. Once-private issues are now posted online for every employee—and every potential employee—to read. An organization’s culture—which can be loosely defined as “the way things work around here”—is increasingly visible for all the world to see.
Given the harsh spotlight of this new transparency, an organization’s culture can become a key competitive advantage—or its Achilles’ heel. Culture and engagement are now business issues, not just topics for HR to debate. And there’s no place for organizations to hide.
This year, employee engagement and culture issues exploded onto the scene, rising to become the No. 1 challenge around the world in our study.1An overwhelming 87 percent of respondents believe the issue is “important,” with 50 percent citing the problem as “very important”—double the proportion in last year’s survey. Two-thirds (66 percent) of HR respondents reported that they are updating their engagement and retention strategies (figure 1). Along with decreasing readiness, our data also showed substantial capability gaps in engagement and culture across countries and regions (figure 2).
Research shows that in most companies, engagement is low. According to the Gallup polling firm, only 13 percent of the global workforce is “highly engaged.”2 Upwards of half the workforce would not recommend their employer to their peers.3
Despite this challenge, a substantial proportion of the respondents in this year’s survey (22 percent) report that their organizations have either a poor program to measure and improve engagement, or no program at all. Only 7 percent rate themselves excellent at measuring, driving, and improving engagement and retention (figure 3). And only 12 percent believe their organizations are excellent at effectively driving the desired culture.
This is a new and systemic problem for organizations worldwide. Why has it become so acute?
· Employees are now like customers; companies have to consider them volunteers, not just workers: As the job market has heated up and new technologies have exploded, power has shifted from the employer to the employee. Websites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Facebook, and others not only increase transparency about a company’s workplace; they make it far easier for employees to learn about new job opportunities and gain intelligence about company cultures.
· Leaders lack an understanding of and models for culture: Culture is driven from the top down. Yet most executives cannot even define their organization’s culture, much less figure out how to disseminate it through the company.
· The new world of work changes the way we engage people: The world of work is very different from and more complex than it was only a few years ago. Employees today work more hours and are nearly continuously connected to their jobs by pervasive mobile technologies. They work on demanding cross-functional teams that often bring new people together at a rapid rate. Flexibility, empowerment, development, and mobility all now play a big role in defining a company’s culture.
· Employees’ motivations have changed: Today’s workers have a new focus on purpose, mission, and work-life integration.4 Research shows that a variety of complex factors contribute to strong employee engagement, including job design, management, work environment, development, and leadership.5 Today, more than twice as many employees are motivated by work passion than career ambition (12 percent vs. 5 percent), indicating a need for leadership to focus on making the work environment compelling and enjoyable for everyone.6
Culture and engagement is no longer an arcane topic owned by HR. It is now an imperative for every leader and every executive in the organization. Many studies now show that highly engaged companies can hire more easily, deliver stronger customer service, have the lowest voluntary turnover rates, and be more profitable over the long run.7
Google, a highly rated “best place to work” in many studies, focuses heavily on culture.8 The company regularly measures dozens of factors to understand what makes people productive and happy. This research has shaped Google’s workplace culture in myriad ways—from the company’s open workplace design to the provision of free gourmet food and on-site laundry services for employees.
Although culture and engagement play such a critical role in business performance, most organizations do a poor job of measuring their achievements or shortcomings. Historically, companies have relied on annual engagement surveys, often costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and taking months to deploy. And very few companies have a process or tools to measure culture and learn where it is strong, weak, or inconsistent. At a time when corporate cultures are being continuously debated, shaped, and redefined on social networks, the once-a-year survey is perilously obsolete.
While most leaders are measured on the basis of business results, organizations must begin holding leaders accountable for building a strong and enduring culture, listening to feedback, and engaging and retaining their teams.
Fortunately, new tools are emerging to provide organizations with real-time sentiment and employee feedback. A new breed of vendors offers pulse survey tools, employee sentiment management tools, culture assessment tools, and real-time employee monitoring tools to help leaders and supervisors rapidly assess when engagement is high and when problems are arising.9 These new tools make it possible for organizations to monitor employee sentiment with the same level of rigor and speed as they measure customer sentiment.10
Ultimately, the issues of culture and engagement are driven by leadership. Companies pushing aggressive growth plans, experiencing financial stress, or going through layoffs or mergers often see a radical shift in culture. While most leaders are measured on the basis of business results, organizations must begin holding leaders accountable for building a strong and enduring culture, listening to feedback, and engaging and retaining their teams.
HR should also understand the impact of performance management, work-life balance, and flexibility on engagement. While management practices once pushed companies toward a highly competitive performance management process, in 2015, many companies are finding that pressure and competition often lead to high turnover and ultimately poorer business results.
Lessons from the front lines
A series of events at one global financial services company not only fed a negative public perception of the company, but also generated a lack of trust internally. To turn the organization around, the company launched a five-year transformation program, a key component of which was to build a sustainable, values-driven culture across the organization.
This cultural transformation had three key distinguishing principles that were critical to the program’s success:
· Leadership drives culture which in turn drives performance: Company leaders should drive the change and be highly accountable
· Processes, policies, and systems should be congruent with the company’s new purpose and underpinning values
· The results should be measurable and reported both internally and externally, providing a highly visible yardstick of progress
To jump-start the transformation, HR introduced a series of leadership and development programs to support employees in being willing and able to live the new values. There was an initial focus on informing, engaging, and empowering senior leaders and culture carriers to promote the company’s new values, equipping them with the necessary insight, knowledge, and tools to drive the change. All processes, policies, and systems were then aligned with the new culture, with performance management, talent management, recognition, and learning all transformed to reflect the new values and behaviors. The company also deployed a cultural assessment tool to understand and measure the conditions for successful transformation.
These activities had a strong and measurable business impact. The result: an improved public reputation; an aligned senior leadership group with culture at the top of their agenda; a growth in trust both internally and externally; and stronger employee engagement and commitment to the organization’s new culture and values.
Where companies can start
· Engagement starts at the top: Make engagement a corporate priority, and modernize the process of measuring and evaluating engagement throughout the company. Benchmark the company, strive for external recognition as validation of efforts, and reinforce to leadership that the engagement and retention of people is their No. 1 job.
· Measure in real time: Put in place real-time programs to evaluate and assess organizational culture, using models or tools to better understand where it is strong, where it is weak, and how it really feels to workers.
· Make work meaningful: Focus on leadership, coaching, and performance management to help employees make their work meaningful. Reinforce the importance of a coaching and feedback culture, and teach leaders how to be authentic and transparent.
· Listen to the Millennials: Their desires, needs, and values will shape the organization’s culture over the next 10 years.
· Simplify the work environment: Read our research in this report on the simplification of work to help reduce the burden of today’s 24/7 work environment.
The old adage “culture eats strategy for breakfast” applies to every organization today. Business and HR executives must understand that highly engaged companies attract the best talent, have the lowest voluntary turnover rates, and are more profitable over the long run.11 Companies should use 2015 as a time for change. By focusing on driving engagement through the right corporate culture, companies can improve execution, retention, and financial performance.
Employee Journey Analytics: A new frontier in Employee Experience Management
Why should we care in HR?
What can HR actually do to improve the employee experience?
1. Visualizing journeys to break down silos
2. Journey Analytics: Measuring and Benchmarking
3. CXHR Governance structures and reporting
2018 Will Be the Year of Employee Experience
Now that according to Gartner more than 90% of businesses compete primarily on the basis of customer experience (CX), it’s no longer enough to make CX a corporate priority. The next competitive frontier is employee experience (EX) and the signs indicate so strongly that EX will become the next priority for organizations that I’m calling 2018 The Year of Employee Experience.
What Is Employee Experience?
Before I get into why EX will be the preeminent corporate priority this year, let me clarify what EX is. Since CX is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company, then:
EX is sum of everything an employee experiences throughout his or her connection to the organization — every employee interaction, from the first contact as a potential recruit to the last interaction after the end of employment.
Importantly, EX is not:
- New and improved HR — While HR shapes some of the most critical interactions within EX (recruiting, on-boarding, performance reviews and planning), EX involves so much more — including interactions that are usually the domain of facilities, corporate communications, and IT.
- Perks and parties — “Feel good” tactics such as free gym memberships and foos ball tables in the break room are simply that: Your EX may end up including such tactics, but EX is a strategic initiative whose aim goes well beyond making employment more fun and enjoyable. EX involves designing and delivering distinctive experiences for employees that are aligned with your desired culture.
- Employer or employment branding — To compete in the war for talent, many companies try to develop a external reputation to help improve their recruiting efforts, but EX is about the day-to-day experiences an organization provides to existing employees.
- Treating employees as customers — Although CX does provide a model for defining and understanding EX, a very different type of relationship and value proposition exists between employer and employee vs. brand and customer, so thinking about employees as customers is an incomplete approach.
- Employee engagement — Employee engagement — that is, employees’ commitment to your company and their jobs — is the end goal while EX is the means to that end. Too many companies only pay attention to the results from annual employee engagement surveys and don’t proactively design and manage EX to produce better engagement.
Mark Levy, former head of Employee Experience at Airbnb, provided me with an apt description of how his company defines EX: “Anything that sets employees up for success or improves our culture should be a part of EX.”
Why is Employee Experience Important?
Several workforce factors have raised the importance level of EX. First, many businesses currently operate in sectors where a war for talent rages. Whether it’s retail, high-tech, or jobs whose need for highly specialized skills is not matched by adequate compensation such as nursing and airline pilots, it’s getting harder for many employers to attract and retain talent. Henry G. Jackson, CEO and president of the Society for Human Resource Management, says, “The skills shortage is an ever-present challenge.” Offering a superior EX can give employers a competitive advantage in attracting recruits to them and then engaging them in ways that encourage them to stay with their organizations.
The popularity of websites including LinkedIn and Glassdoor make it much easier for prospective employees to assess the daily EX at a company they’re considering. No longer can companies hide behind employer branding campaigns or rely on skillful recruiters to position themselves among recruits. In fact, a sense of consumerism now pervades the recruiting process. Just as customers pick and choose from a plethora of brands based on reviews they access digitally, many people seem to use online resources to “shop” among potential employers — and decide to proceed with those companies that offer the kind of EX they’re looking for.
Also a new social contract between employee and employer is emerging, says a report by Deloitte. The stability that once characterized the best employee-employer relationships is being disrupted by employees’ tendency to change jobs more frequently and other factors. Therefore, “employers must provide development more quickly, move people more regularly, provide continuous cycles of promotion, and give employees more tools to manage their own careers,” the report concludes. Your efforts, they say, must be oriented around the different needs and expectations that today’s employees have. Adopting EX as a strategic priority enables you to do just that.
What Results Does Employee Experience Produce?
If you prioritize EX, you’ll be one of a growing number of companies discovering the power of EX to positively impact business performance in many areas. Research by Jacob Morgan, author of The Employee Experience Advantage, shows that organizations that invested most heavily in EX were:
- included 11.5 times as often in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work
- listed 4.4 times as often in LinkedIn’s list of North America’s Most In-Demand Employers
- 28 times more often listed among Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies
- listed 2.1 times as often on the Forbes list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies
- twice as often found in the American Customer Satisfaction Index
Most importantly, he finds that “experiential organizations had more than 4 times the average profit and more than 2 times the average revenue. They were also almost 25 percent smaller, which suggests higher levels of productivity and innovation.”
2018 The Year of Employee Experience
I’m excited and encouraged by the focus that is now being put on EX — and I plan to report throughout 2018 on companies that are using EX to increase not only employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention, but also brand equity, competitive advantage, and sustainable growth. If your organization has adopted EX as a strategic priority, let me know using the Comments section below.