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Personalizing the employee experience

Posted by  Shivkumar Gopalan

By Shiv Gopalan, Chief Information Officer and Cloud Delivery Leader, Unit4

Motivation is key to business success, especially in people-based services sectors. It’s no secret that motivated employees contribute more to both the companies they work for, and to their customers – so it stands to reason that business leaders should deliver an active, supportive people experience. 

However, this experience looks different to every employee, and the workplace has never been more diverse. In the 2020s, a new batch of young people will come of age, entering the professional world alongside more established, experienced colleagues. Organizations will need to meet the needs of all team members – and emerging technology, combined with the right cultural mindset, provides a solution by personalizing their employee experience.

A time for digital and social revolution

The workplace is going through a social and digital revolution. Colleagues from multiple generations are working together, all of whom have been shaped by their environments and experiences.

The newest entrants to the business world, Generation Z (born 1995-2010), have different priorities to Millennials (born 1981-1995). Fresh out of education, these young professionals are industrious and entrepreneurial, as they grew up in the insecurity of a recession economy. As a result, Accounting Principals research has found that Gen Zs are 55 percent more likely to start their own business than their Millennial counterparts.

Equally, many businesses are being managed and led by Generation X (born 1965-1979) or Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), whose concerns are even more contrasting. For instance, while Gen Z has an appetite for independent learning, Upwork research has shown that most Baby Boomers expect employers to assume responsibility for reskilling staff.

How do employers meet these differing emotional and career needs between generations, in a way that works for each individual staff member in their part of the business? The ability to personalize their people experience is vital.

Technology as a foundation for flexibility

I don’t know about you, but I worked much harder for teachers that took an interest in my progress and who listened as well as led the conversation. I wasn’t just a number; they wanted to understand and mentor me. I see the same approach thrive in the workplace.

I realize that for large, global organizations, with employees running into the thousands, such personalized engagement is challenging – but many technologies are making it easier. Algorithms, AI, interoperable systems, and chatbots, can be used so employees feel understood, are clear on their objectives, and are valued.

In the fast-moving digital landscape, technology can analyze employee communications to identify existing and emerging skills of individuals so they can be encouraged where needed for both the individual and the company’s benefit. Personalization can begin before an employee has even started, as chatbots could potentially provide proactive information on new recruits to their manager.

Talent management technology can also help all employees ask for immediate feedback, at any point throughout the work process. And if this tech includes sentiment analysis, it can analyze communications to flag any problems that team members may be experiencing, so managers can respond appropriately – providing personalized support in a way that engages that particular person.

Culture working with technology

To ensure technological innovation personalizes the employee experience, company leaders need to ingrain a new way of working into their culture. And this future level of engagement is too much for HR alone to deliver.

Every manager (and team member, to an extent) needs to know their role in supporting an individual’s journey in the workplace, by providing an environment that will help them thrive. That means feedback, mentoring and coaching are weaved into the cultural fabric – and 9 in 10 employees with this type of support in place are happy in their job, CNBC research says.

With the right technology and culture, personalization is possible

The most significant corporate shift we’re going to see in the next ten years is the role that emerging technology plays in changing workplace engagement. Software will provide staff with the sophistication and flexibility to build working processes that best fit their needs, creating a personalized working environment.

Furthermore, I believe that best-run businesses will use enterprise technology to embrace every professional’s differences and idiosyncrasies, rather than trying to create a homogenous working culture.

But it will be a significant shift for any business that uses legacy processes. It is imperative the move, therefore, is strategic and driven from the top-down, with C-suite personnel not just endorsing digital, but using it themselves to understand the individuals and teams that make up their business.

Shivkumar Gopalan

Shivkumar is a senior professional with core skills in digital transformation, bringing a balance of technical knowledge and human skills to the environment he works in. With deep experience in interacting with business stakeholders, he enjoys driving outcomes, not just programs.