Josh Bersin’s 5 principles for creating great experience-based HR

Creating a great employee experience through experience-based HR

Employee experience is now one of the biggest topics in business, according to Josh Bersin, who explains that HR needs a redesign in order to springboard a great experience for employees more broadly

As the labor market remains highly competitive, organisations are redesigning jobs with the intent of building a positive employee experience in the workplace – one that promotes productive work, wellbeing and resilience, and a sense of fairness, trust, and inclusion.

This focus on employee experience is more profound and far-reaching than initially thought. At first, companies equated employee experience with new types of employee surveys, designed to provide better engagement data to help managers become better leaders, improve coaching, and give people more developmental growth. But now, leaders are realising that to truly impact all aspects of employee experience, an “experience-based” HR organisation is needed.

Consider the whole focus on HR technology and employee self-service. For decades, companies have built and bought complex payroll and employee data management platforms to help manage the complex issues in HR. These platforms cost millions of dollars to buy and implement; they are stuffed with functionality for hiring, onboarding, compensation, talent review, performance management, development, and careers. In fact, the whole category is called “human capital management” because it focused on “management,” not “experience.”

“Leaders are realising that to truly impact all aspects of employee experience, an “experience-based” HR organisation is needed”

However, as we now concentrate on making work easier and more fulfilling for people, we’re finding the need to change our approach. Rather than build processes that include steps, approvals, and data elements we can track, we want to build experiences that delight people in the flow of their jobs. This is not just a better user interface; it’s a radical redesign. Every vendor from SAP to Workday is redesigning their systems in this way.

Consider how HR teams solve organisational problems. Most recently, professionals have been organised into centres of excellence (COEs) designed to reduce costs and centralise expertise. Typically, COEs are far removed from employees, managers, and workgroups, because they are focused on process design and efficiency. But now, as we shift from efficiency to experience, we’re discovering that HR professionals have to sit in the business, co-design solutions with managers, and include business leaders in their process planning.

Think about basic services such as payroll, benefits, and time tracking. These have long been considered as once-a-year or once-a-month process delivery operations, designed to focus on accuracy and speed. Now we want these functions to be highly flexible, infinitely customised, and so easy to use they can be swiped on a phone. For instance, real-time pay and automatic deductions for savings and other uses are turning payroll departments upside down.

This shift is changing the way leaders are now thinking about HR as an organisation and a profession. In my recent meetings with HR leaders in Sydney and Melbourne, a recurring conversation topic was around ways to make HR organisations more agile. Innovative leaders are developing hybrid roles and moving people into agile talent pools. We are realising that HR organisations of the future must be cross-trained, highly mobile, and filled with people who look more like consultants and designers and product managers, and much less like HR generalists and HR specialists.

“HR organisations of the future must be cross-trained, highly mobile, and filled with people who look more like consultants and designers and product managers, and much less like HR generalists and HR specialists”

The business climate has changed, and experiences are now everything. HR as a function is going to have to adapt, and I’m excited to say this wave is happening faster than we thought.

5 principles for experience-based HR

  1. Identify an individual on your team whose job includes thinking about and studying employee experience. This person should complete at least one project in the coming year to analyse and improve at least one important employee experience – such as onboarding, a promotion, a relocation, or a personal issue – on behalf of an important business stakeholder.
  2. Rethink your HR technology strategy from your employees’ perspective. Require your vendors to give you an experience view of their applications. Prototype solutions with your team and iterate to see how easy and useful you can make them for employees, as well as for administrators and managers.
  3. Start moving your HR staff around from project to project. Build a few agile teams to solve some immediate problems and ask them to prototype solutions in weeks or months. Force your organisation to iterate and improve continuously.
  4. Bring design thinking and principles of agile into your HR development programs. Spend some time educating your HR organisation on the concepts of employee experience, design, agile work practices, and analysing employee feedback and other data.
  5. Spend more time with your business counterparts – in their offices and workplaces. Work with your HR business partners to see what productivity challenges people have and take ownership for fixing them. You’ll be a hero if you do.

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