When we consider employee engagement, it is not the only factor that would create a motivating experience at work. What do you think are the best ingredients to achieve a great working environment?
Employees are no longer just coming to work to get paid. They are coming for the overall experience they have. Successful employee engagement is a result of individuals feeling that they are in a good work environment. Are they challenged? Are they learning? Do they get to travel? Do they get exposure to senior leaders? Employees should get opportunities to be involved on meaningful projects and to learn from others. And ultimately, what makes someone feel motivated is when they feel valued. It is very important to not only give employees opportunities or create an environment that allows them to feel positive about coming to work, but also to focus on making them feel valued and appreciated for the work that they're doing.
"Employees today measure work through their experience. They want opportunities to be heard, to provide feedback, get involved in new projects and learn from others. Ultimately, what makes someone feel motivated is when they are getting exposed to new things and feel valued"
Creating an environment that speaks to the entire employee experience—the area in which you work, how you work, who you work with, the opportunities that person or group creates for you, how you learn and grow, and then ultimately how you are recognized for the value you provide—is critically important.
Can you tell us about some of the trends that pertain to employee experience that you have observed in your current role as CHRO?
This is a really important question in terms of the employer-employee relationship. Maybe 20 or 30 years ago, employee expectations were very different. You focused on a specific job; you came to work to earn a living; and if, along the way, you learned, you grew, and you got promoted—that was great. Today, a new generation of employees is measuring work by their experience. For example, they don’t just go to a restaurant and eat; they take and share pictures of their food; they evaluate and chronicle the occasion. Similarly, today’s employees gauge and assess virtually all aspects of work, from the perks they receive to the food in the cafeteria, to the projects they get to work on and the exposure they get to company leaders. I have two millennial daughters and I can confirm they measure every experience. So why should the workplace be any different?
When an employee comes into the workplace, they are measuring all of the things that are important to them. They ask, “do I have the right desk?” “Do I get to leave at a reasonable time?” “Can I have flexibility?” “Does the office have a gym?” “Can I work from home when I want to work from home?” “Is there great food in the cafeteria?” “Do I get to talk to the CEO if I want?” “Do I get exposure?” “Am I provided with the right tools and technology?“ These questions all speak to experience. As the head of HR, I'm constantly thinking about creating those moments and opportunities, and allowing people to have experiences in the company in a way that I would have not thought about 10 years ago. So, it's very different. It's not just people coming to work to get paid. It's people coming to work to have an experience. This experience is comprised of every interaction they have, every day, which either adds up to something positive in a given week, month or year—or something that's not.
What are some of the challenges that employers face in implementing the right environment to improve the employee experience?
The hardest thing for an employer is making sure that the employee is having a consistent value-added experience. A company might have many leaders who manage different ways and each can have an impact on an individual employee’s experience. The challenge is really around fostering consistency. We do that by having leadership competencies and behaviors and providing learning on how to lead and how to think about and grow your talent. Our CEO is constantly talking about our relentless focus on talent, so we let our employees know we value them. One thing I've done in HR is to create an Employee Experience group and have that leader report to me.
The Employee Experience group is responsible for ensuring that all of the questions that employees have from the moment they engage with us about a job until they retire are answered in a consistent fashion. The goal is to provide employees with the support and information they need quickly, seamlessly and consistently.
What is your take on partnering with technology solution providers to enhance your employee experience or engagement?
You can’t outsource the employee experience because it’s based on the company’s values and a collective set of interactions within the company, but we do partner with third parties to add credibility to some of what we do. For example, we use a third party to conduct an engagement survey of our employees. It's really important that we not do that in-house because our employees need to feel that it's a confidential, anonymous process, that the data is protected and that they can answer questions openly and honestly. So that's a great partnership. We have other partnerships with third parties who provide very specialized learning and development support, such as coaches that focus in particular areas of development. There are also things, from a transactional standpoint, that we outsource. What I don't think you can outsource is the subject matter expertise because it's collective knowledge that your talent has within the company. This collective knowledge is shaped by the values of the company and that can't be done by a third party.
How do you see the HR space evolving in the next few years?
Organizations are having to do a lot more with a lot less. The global competitive market place and the access to information and data require organizations to be highly competitive and responsive to market forces. HR plays a critical role in helping to ensure that organizations have the right talent that they need for today and the future. You can't just hire talent today and hope that in 10 years they're going to be able to accomplish the goals you’ve set, because things are changing so quickly; HR will need to help organizations change just as quickly, whether by adapting the organizational model, re-skilling existing talent, bringing in new skills, or identifying tech skills needed for a strategy that hasn't even been deployed. Organizations are quickly pivoting to rethink their approaches, deploy learning, and help employees learn how to be nimble and pivot to new work based on automation, technology and new data or information that's coming toward them. The role of the HR person is changing to better anticipate and prepare for the market forces that the business faces.