I would like to start this post by asking you to take a moment to think about a number of experiences you had recently, along the next paragraphs:

Think back for a moment: when was the last time you experienced great customer service? Did you buy something online, or went to an actual shop? Did you receive all the information you needed, on time, to make the right decision? Were you able even online to ask questions and be directed to the product that is right for you?

Now take a moment to think about how your communication with your friends and family has changed. Do you still write and receive e-mails? Or does most of the exchange happen via WhatsApp, Messenger, or other messaging platforms? How do you stay up-dated about friends and family and their major life events? Facebook? Phone calls? E-mails? And what about booking a holiday, organising a party or sorting out the babysitter.

For the third, and last part of this game, think back to either your first day at your current job, or the last time you were interviewed. You may also take some time to think about a typical day in your work. How is the communication between colleagues and the hierarchy? How are meetings arranged, topics designated or work-stations chosen?

The point I am getting at, is that the way we communicate and organise our lives have undergone significant changes in the past couple of years, perhaps not even a decade. We are navigating on seamless platforms, switching between apps to suit a particular need or provide relevant information, chat or speak with family and friends on the go are part of our everyday world. In the space between 2010 and 2020, the number of connected devices will grow exponentially, reaching approximately 27 connected devices per person in 2020. This amount of connected devices will bring with it a number of great opportunities, as well as important considerations such as data protection and security, in addition to impacting on the way we live and work.

Employees now expect the same digital experience at work that they are used to at home. Click To Tweet

How digital tools can help HR

Sooner rather than later, organisations, in particular employers will need to reckon with the digital revolution. There are a number of pioneering examples of companies harnessing connected devices, automation and data analytics to benefit candidates, employees and the organisation – as well as offering improved service to customers.

The aim of this article is to explore how digital tools, automation, and in some cases even AI can be put to good use to make new employees feel more welcome, facilitate their induction and orientation in their new organisations, develop talent, enhance collaboration and even provide fun and reinforce organisational culture.

The rule of thumb? Not jumping on any new tech trend or platform bandwagon without evaluating first what added value it will bring to the team and the organisation. Test, test, test.

The caveat is of course, that talking about the digital employee experience opens a whole new can of worms, in particular for HR professionals, small business owners and line managers… and even CEOs. As terms like “gamification”, “design thinking”, or even “automation” can be daunting, and increasingly hard to decide what to invest in, what makes sense.
How can businesses engage in the digital transformation while maintaining the human connection and respecting data privacy? What are some possible uses for the technology, and more importantly, would this work in your organisation? How not to overburden HR, line-managers and clutter employees with multiple platforms and apps. In addition they should be sleek in design and not feel like something from the 80s. That is the tightrope organisations need to walk.

Attracting and recruiting

This is perhaps one of the most automated section of human capital management. Online platforms like LinkedIn and Xing, as well as organisational review sites like Glassdoor and kununu offer options both to recruiters and jobseekers to get a glimpse through the keyhole – either about the candidate or about the organisation. The most noticeable place is the LinkedIn algorithm that shows you jobs you may be interested in, based on your profile. If you have a profile on that platform, you are often reminded to update it, as it will increase the chances for the right fit. And applying to one of these jobs is also made easy, with some employers offering the one-click application via LinkedIn. Alternative platforms however are hot on the heels of these well-established companies, like 1-page, which allows candidates to pitch themselves based on their talent and interest, without tailoring their application to a specific job, allowing prospective employers to find a perfect match, mainly based on intrinsic motivation – every recruiter’s dream: the perfect match.

Companies and organisations that value diversity have also gone down the anonymity path – by posting totally anonymous challenges online. BBC Digital is one such company, recruiting their programmes purely based on the online challenge, and not based on education, experience or skin colour.

Companies and organisations that value diversity post challenges online to recruit new employees. Click To Tweet

At Salesforce, when a candidate is arriving at the HQ for the interview, a text message welcomes them to the building, offering directions to the meeting room and informing them if any delay may be expected. The hiring manager also receives a reminder message shortly before the interview, with an overview of the profile of the candidate. Once the candidate leaves the building, they receive another automated message thanking them for their time, and giving them a bit more information about the next steps.

Salesforce and other pioneering companies not only have mastered the automation of processes – that’s the easy bit. They have understood that a bad interview can cause as much harm, as an unhappy customer.



Onboarding and induction

In my career I had very mixed onboarding experiences, in one of my jobs I had to walk around the building searching for an available desk to bring to my office… no kidding. Was I ready to leave that job after the first day? You bet! I did stay, but that situation left its mark.

New recruits often feel as if they have been courted by a Prince charming during the recruitment phase, only to be left with a frog once the contract has been signed. Yes, HR and line-managers are overwhelmed, and nothing can replace the human touch of those first crucial days, when the candidate so often is still unsure about a major life-decision, and feels like there is still time to run…

At Google, when a new employee starts, an automatic e-mail reminder is sent to his or her line-manager, reminding them that the new employee is starting, and set 5 tasks for them:

  1. Discuss roles and responsibilities
  2. Assign peer-buddy
  3. Help build a social network
  4. Set-up on-boarding check-ins
  5. Encourage open dialogue

Nothing worse to make a new hire feel like a filler for an empty chair… then showing them to the (!) empty chair… of their predecessor. I don’t have any data on this, but how many organisations buy a new laptop or computer for the new colleague? Or a new keyboard? Or at least, bring in an ergonomist and adjust the chair to fit him or her, and not the former occupant.

Nothing worse to make a new hire feel like a filler for an empty chair #recruiting #digitalisation Click To Tweet

A lot can be done with onboarding too. Sending out an online form for the new staff member to fill in with the details, perhaps scan documents even before their first day can save all that uncomfortable administration on your first day filling out forms. The first days can be really about getting to know the person, the team, the organisation. And not traipsing round corridors with a binder.

Keeping and developing talent and employee engagement

According to some studies, the honeymoon period ends about a year after the employee started. What do organisations need to do afterwards? Re-recruit them. As the excitement about the new job is fading, employees need new challenges, new learning opportunities, and some argue, more intrinsic motivation.

In particular in some sectors with very high churn like sales, retail or healthcare, online platforms or apps can really increase employee engagement. These visual, interactive platforms allow users not only to track their results, benchmark against others and look at the team results, but also see forecasts about the day or the days ahead. Just like to glimpse on your phone ever so often to check for the weather up-date, these tools give retail employees an insight into what to expect on that day in terms of customer numbers, and can even forecast which sections of the shop may be particularly busy, to help them plan their work. Some of the platforms even allows for easy communication between team members and swapping shifts with a couple of clicks.

In some sectors with very high churn digital tools can increase employee engagement Click To Tweet

The digital tools can also be a great vehicle to showcase the culture of the organisation in action. Supportive messages from managers and peers, feedback, exchange of ideas and brainstorming can all happen via our smartphones, desk-tops or in real life.

These digital platforms allow employees to connect to management and leadership, collaborators, experiences and everyday learning in a user-friendly, accessible manner. Gone are the days someone had to miss a doctors’ appointment or a school-play for a training seminar. On-demand, and on-need are the keywords to remember here. Think as if Netflix and Facebook had a child.

On some of these company internal platforms by up-dating your profile regularly, the system and HR will offer you other exciting opportunities within the same company as well. We all have friends who went from historian to pastry-chef, financial services to HR, project manager to graphic designer. These career shifts (and not job-changes!) are more and more frequent in the real world, so why lose talent on the inside? By sharing your passion and skills on the intranet, it is possible to make sideway changes in the companies who implement these systems.

Letting go – how to say goodbye

Checking in with people a year, or even five years after they left the company. Does this sound crazy? Why not find out how they are doing, what they are up to, how the experience at your organisation served them, and what would they change looking back? Or perhaps, would they even be interested in being sent new opportunities? The exit interview, which is barely conducted anywhere, is a fantastic, underutilized tool to learn a lot about our organisations. But having a conversation with people who have gained perspective on their experience with us can be even more enlightening. Not to mention keeping part of this talent pipeline open as well.

Everything else in between

From virtual health coaches to personal development motivators, meditation and mindfulness practice to Employee resource groups – the opportunities to engage with employees digitally are endless.

Perhaps all of this feels too overwhelming and burdensome, having to deal with additional tasks on top of everything else. Dave Ulrich continues to stress the importance of HR to deal with their constituency as their internal customers, and transform HR into an outside-in model, driven by value creating for the people and the organisation, and ultimately for the clients.

The future of work is digital, how much, or how little should be decided by the employees, workers and leadership together. Organisations need to have their “we need to talk” moments about digitalisation, and HR can be a great facilitator of this conversation. The tools should seamlessly integrate with the culture, facilitate desired behavioural outcomes and not make employees more overburdened or cynical about yet another top-down initiative.

The opportunities to engage with employees digitally are endless. #Digitalisation Click To Tweet
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