With a competitive labor market and more pressure than ever to win the ongoing war for talent, attracting employees requires new thinking. Companies are fighting over skilled workers, trying to catch their attention with what some consider “table stakes” perks like office baristas and free spin classes. However, perks are not a substitute for creating a strong culture, one with good open communication channels, a focus on employee engagement and clear alignment of job to business outcome.
I am a coffee junkie so having a coffee bar in our office is one of my favorite treats, but cold brew alone cannot create a great place to work. Creating a frictionless work environment, built around your talent, so that your employees feel supported, motivated and engaged on a day-to-day basis, is the key to winning in this market.
Showcasing your culture to candidates is a big part of successful recruiting, making sure they can see inside the walls to what life at your company is really like. Find smart ways to highlight your brand with authentic insights, stories straight from the mouths of other employees, all delivered through easily digestible bites on mobile apps and impactful career sites. Successful recruiters focus on the candidate experience from the very first interaction and treat the journey like a customer life cycle, thinking carefully about the connection points along the way. Getting this part right can make all the difference in catching the interest of an in-demand highly skilled candidate who has multiple job options available to them.
Hiring is just the beginning. Employees’ alternative career choices don’t cease to exist the minute they take a new job. With such a favorable market, people can consider quitting a new job within a few months and moving onto a new one with none of the judgment or consequences you might have expected even just a few years ago. It is dangerous to assume your team is settled and happy once they are on board. A leader once told me, “You need to re-recruit your best employees every day.” And he was right. Retaining talent has to be front of mind for every manager if you want to meet your business goals: engagement = productivity = greater corporate success.
“It is time to up the investment and think about digital solutions within the workplace to make work life easier, not only creating more time but also a more enjoyable work environment.”
If the goal is a productive engaged employee who feels valued and rewarded, many talent programs need to be in place to ensure that can happen, from reward and benefit programs, recognition platforms, and engagement surveys and pulse tools. Additionally, leadership and strong employee communications both have a big role to play in setting out strategy and linking teams' and individuals’ work to the bigger picture, so each of us can understand what we are expected to do and how it fits into the overall company success.
These are all critical, complex pieces of the engagement puzzle, and most HR leaders I know spend a lot of time thinking about these. I am a fan of focusing on the big rocks, one or two things that can really have an impact. However, I think the secret sauce may include spending a little time thinking about the multitude of little distractions that get in the way of everyday life and work and put friction into the workplace. How to go about taking those little problems off the table?
Consider these interesting points from a recent Guardian Workplace benefits study:
- 2 in 3 employers are now more digital than paper-based in managing their benefits and HR programs.
- 3 in 5 millennials wish it were easier to learn about and access their workplace benefits.
- 42% of millennials and 26% of baby boomers use artificial intelligence, such as their Alexa or Google Home device, to ask benefits or health-related questions.
Now consider the fact that we are operating in a time when employees have smart devices accessible to them all the time, with recommendation engines that suggest what to shop for, and apps like Siri that help provide answers to day-to-day questions. There is an abundance of technology that makes for a personalized and easier experience in multiple aspects of life.
Why wouldn’t employees look for the same personalized, digital, easy experience at work?
The tech companies I have worked at have been investing in making life easier for a while now, starting with the little things: dry cleaning drop off at work; on-site dental cleaning, eye exams, or even bike repair services; and car refueling. Reducing the time we need to spend on personal tasks naturally frees up more time to put into work or hobbies or family.
It is time to up that investment and think about digital solutions within the workplace to make work life easier, not only creating more time but also a more enjoyable work environment.
"...it’s about prioritizing the employee experience and making work life easier."
When we went remote-first, we began with streamlining IT support services. We’ve all had that moment when our computer won’t cooperate and of course, it always comes at an inconvenient time, 5 minutes before a presentation is due or in the evening when there is nobody around to help. Putting a ticket into the helpdesk is fine but doesn’t guarantee a quick fix. This sort of frustration affects how employees feel about their company and feeds into dissatisfaction. With slow support response time being one of the top end-user pain points (60% of users say the help desk interaction took too long and frequently didn’t solve the problem), companies need to invest in self-service tools. Time is a precious commodity in all of our lives and real-time, tailored answers that we can search out for ourselves can alleviate the frustration that comes from time wasted.
Self-service applications are a great first step, but purpose-built employee self-service tools can be a game changer, making it easier for employees to get the right first-time answers. This is not just applicable to IT support, where we launched a chatbot 24/7 support service. We then took the premise and applied it within HR. How could we best help provide answers to frequently asked questions, whether related to benefits, company holiday schedules, or policy information? Much of our HR information is traditionally stored across apps, documents, and websites, and designing a layout that works for 3,500 different employees in 15 countries who all search and pose questions in different ways inevitably means multiple employees’ searches will result in frustration. We decided to use AI to redefine what service looks like, creating a frictionless experience for our employees and resulting in quicker, more accurate answers and ultimately more satisfaction.
By reimagining the employee experience and focusing on the little points of friction, we built up a collection of solutions that amount to a significant “big rock” improvement in how we manage all our tasks at work and aim to provide a friction-free, supportive, and engaging place to work.
These tips represent a shift toward a truly employee-centric support system that will ultimately help you attract and retain digital talent by changing your workforce’s day-to-day life for the better. Putting employees at the core of any business is not just about perks or talking the talk — it’s about prioritizing the employee experience and making work life easier. What you do with that freed up time is up to you, though I highly suggest grabbing a latte and a chat with your colleagues.