February 8, 2024 By Jill Goldstein 4 min read

As the line between employees’ personal and professional lives becomes more blurred than ever, employees expect a more flexible and empathetic workplace that takes their full selves into account. This shift in employee expectation is happening in a challenging environment of rapid technological advancements, widening skills gaps and unpredictable socioeconomic issues. And to top it all off, the very nature of HR resists optimization, as employee experiences are hard to quantify, and organizations are difficult to change.

Despite these challenges, employees expect their interactions and experiences with a company to live up to their brand values. HR has a vital role to play in delivering on these expectations to stay competitive, and leaders believe generative AI can help drive HR and talent transformation. If businesses adopt a proactive and dynamic HR approach to address current and future challenges, attract and retain top talent and develop future skills, they can provide a world-class experience for all.

Rewriting the employee experience with advocacy and AI

HR leaders think of the workforce in a holistic sense, including current employees, contractors, candidates and past employees.

HR leaders increasingly view employees not only as part of the workforce, but also as unique individuals that play many roles. This whole-self approach is a paradigm shift that embraces the multifaceted nature of people and the landscapes they navigate. Coincidentally, employees already think of their personal and professional priorities as intertwined and mutually influential, and they want their employers to do the same. In a recent survey, well over 70% of employees highlighted working conditions and work–life balance and flexibility as most important to them.

During their time with a company, people undergo many changes that impact not only what they contribute, but also what kind of support they require from their employer. HR can help people navigate these changes in several ways, including developing a career roadmap that aligns with their experience and goals, providing support as they navigate different stages of family planning, creating a physical workspace that accommodates their accessibility needs and personality traits or providing flexible work arrangements.

HR is now tasked with enhancing employees’ full lives and transcend short-lived interactions through technology-driven experiences, such as generative AI-powered automation, intelligent workflows, virtual assistants, chatbots and digital assistants. Infusing AI and automation into every process frees up employees to focus on what is important to them as individuals. This charge is complex, but when thoughtfully executed, these investments yield a strong employee experience that can potentially help employees be both happier and more productive in their work.

While HR is not solely responsible for an organization’s employee experience, HR departments are increasingly becoming key advocates for the new employee experience. As HR helps reimagine the employee experience, they’re shifting to a consumer-inspired, flexible delivery model that is proactive, personalized, relevant and outcome-focused. Organizations must also harness enterprise-wide imagination, vision and empathy to creatively engage and serve individuals who yearn for simplicity and agency.

Holistic solutions through a whole-self employee experience

This whole-self HR approach to employee experience is about more than mandating digital access channels; it’s about making these channels so compelling that they naturally attract users. And crucially, employees still have access to human assistance for time-sensitive, urgent and highly personal situations.

The whole-self mindset empowers employees to access resources independently, anticipates their needs and provides proactive solutions. 

The benefits of this transformation drive business value through improvements such as:

  • Employee engagement and satisfaction
  • Talent attraction, development and retention
  • Personal and professional growth, and other dimensions of well-being
  • Workforce productivity, operational efficiency, effectiveness and cost savings

To navigate this shift to a whole-self employee experience and reap these benefits, companies must do three crucial things:

  1. Understand and anticipate employee needs and expectations. It is crucial to move beyond static segmentation models and acknowledge the deeper insights of underlying behavior. This means taking a holistic, dynamic view of who employees are and what motivates them. This will require managers and executives to develop, strengthen and maintain relationships with their employees and understand who they are within and outside of the workplace. Trust, communication, respect and collaboration must become central tenets to cultivating these relationships.
  2. Solve for shifting scenarios. Companies must adapt to a dynamic environment and offer relevant options across their services to accommodate changes in their employees’ lives (such as marriage, new parenthood, emergent health issues, caring for ailing relatives and retirement).
  3. Simplify for relevance. To create a culture of simplicity, companies must make decision-making easier for employees. This requires leveraging data, AI and expert inputs, so employees can identify relevant information and easily navigate systems.

The goal is to pivot HR into a modern service delivery model that flips the perspective and focus to the employee. It’s about understanding why people need specific experiences at specific times and making those experiences as seamless as possible. Designing from the consumer’s viewpoint means breaking through traditional silos both within and outside of HR in order to simplify tasks, support employees through life transitions and provide access to information and skills development resources. With generative AI, HR finally has a technology that can help scale these highly personalized, highly customized interactions.

The transition to delivering a whole-self employee experience includes the next evolution of HR.  It acknowledges the complexity and dynamism of individuals, the ever-shifting nature of external forces and the pivotal role of employee experience in navigating this reality. Businesses that embrace this model are positioned to attract, develop and retain the talent they need to compete.

Explore how IBM is helping clients deliver world-class employee experiences Put AI to work for your HR and talent transformation
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