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3 min read

Employee Experience Underlies These 5 HR Topics to Watch in 2019


In 2019 improving employee experience will top many organizations’ to-do lists. When you think of the resources companies devote to studying and improving customer satisfaction and overall experience, it makes sense to do the same with employees. After all, these are the people that make or break a company’s success, so their experience is critical to its welfare.

Isn’t “employee experience” just another way to talk about workplace culture or engagement? According to author and futurist Jacob Morgan, it’s more comprehensive than that. It also includes the tools, knowledge, and technology available to get the job done as well as the physical environment and things like work-life balance and feeling like a valued participant at work. Think of it as job satisfaction in the largest possible picture: feeling positive about your job while at work and off the clock.

We’ve identified five trending HR topics that are important to small and medium sized businesses (see Appendix A, Table 3) that also point to the growing value of the individual employee experience. Each shows how companies will demonstrate their commitment to employees on a personal and professional level in 2019 and beyond.

  1. Training and development focus on “upskilling” and personalization.

HR Executive cites research that 67 percent of U.S. employees say they feel they need more training and skills to stay up-to-date. Investing in continuous training shows them they’re valued within the company, helps narrow the technology skills gap, and can even influence employee retention. What’s more, instead of offering the same seminars and workshops for everyone, focus on skills and tasks individual learners need, in smaller content chunks, when they need it. Providing it in formats that are easy to access helps: in addition to written materials and classroom training, a series of Youtube mini-tutorials, webinars, mobile content, and individual coaching are all options.

  1. “Soft skills” remain critical.

Soft skills like conflict management, decision making, professionalism, empathy, and collaboration are just as important as ever. Opportunities for miscommunication are everywhere in today’s workplaces:

  • Digital communication tools mean coworkers communicate by email, instant message, or conference call regularly without face-to-face clues to context and meaning.
  • Ensuring that everyone is included in diverse workplaces requires mindful communication and listening skills, maybe even changing old and unproductive patterns.
  • Growing numbers or remote, freelance, and contract workers don’t always build relationships the way office mates traditionally do.
  • Reliant on informal texting and social media, younger digital natives moving into the workforce don’t always learn standard business etiquette.

“The cliché is people get hired because of the hard skills, they get fired because of the soft skills,” says author Bruce Tulgan. He notes managers must identify and screen for high-priority soft skills when selecting candidates, then further develop these skills with individual employees.

  1. Diversity and inclusion are linked to employee engagement.

According to Gallup, only 33% of US employees are engaged at work. Increased diversity (of people and of thought) is one way to boost engagement, but it’s about more than just who you hire. Engagement also requires inclusion, which is about mutual trust and involvement. An employee who feels included and valued will be happier with their job, more engaged, and more productive. Another benefit for the company, according to research by McKinsey, is companies with higher levels of diversity “are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.”

  1. Companies are taking a more robust view of employee wellness.

In the interest of attracting and retaining top talent, companies are realizing that wellness is about more than just physical health. It also includes emotional, mental, and financial health. Each of these can impact an employee at work. For example, as Alan Kohll writes in Forbes, “if an employee is having difficulties with their financial wellness, they are most likely feeling the emotional and physical impacts of that as well. When one aspect of wellness is lacking, it’s difficult for employees to feel and perform their best at work.” Consider offering a variety of programs and opportunities for employee wellness, such as access to mental health resources, flexible scheduling, or lunch-and-learn workshops on financial or retirement planning.

  1. Artificial intelligence and automation expand to small business applications.

Many assume that AI and computer automation are only feasible for large corporations, but emerging applications for small businesses are out there too. They can be a great way to find new talent, keep tabs on employee questions and needs, and reduce time spent on repetitive administrative tasks, freeing time for more meaningful work. Examples include:

  • Chatbots can be customized to answer employee inquiries about perennial HR topics such as leave policies, holiday hours, benefits, or onboarding.
  • Recruiters can use AI-powered software to avoid human bias in selecting and evaluating job applicants, and for designing questions that are not slanted or leading.
  • Automation software can perform administrative tasks like scheduling appointments and interviews, simple accounting, and report preparation.
  • Data analysis software can check time and attendance data, evaluation notes, and training history to pinpoint skills gaps, training needs, and even identify and address absenteeism.

Considering that the employee experience spans the entire employment lifecycle, from recruiting to onboarding, development to eventual departure, there are plenty of opportunities to influence how your employees experience working for you. If you’re not sure where to start, Horizon can help. Contact us today!

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