One of the best advocates for HR modernization was Anne M. Mulcahy, the former chair and CEO of Xerox. She might not have realized it, but she summed up the need for managed employee services in a 2003 speech.

“Employees are a company’s greatest asset — they’re your competitive advantage,” she said. “You want to attract and retain the best, provide them with encouragement [and] stimulus, and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company’s mission.”

Mulcahy’s comments augured a growing trend: Employees empowered by polished consumer technology expect similarly streamlined experiences from their employers every day.

CIOs understand the need for what IBM calls “experience-based design” when handling employees. People skills are the most important external force that will affect the enterprise inside three years, according to 61 percent of the respondents to IBM’s Global C-Suite study.

The problem is delivering that experience when faced with a growing volume of information about candidates and employees. Distilling it all to better serve employees remains a key challenge of the modern enterprise. Consider these seven steps to overcoming this challenge and transforming the employee experience through HR modernization.

1. Focus on process

Technology is a big part of the HR modernization solution, but it’s far from the only part. Before applying technology, companies must first examine their HR processes. There is no point automating broken workflows.

2. Create smart workflows

After redesigning processes to better serve employees, managers can codify processes in workflows supported by cognitive technologies. AI-powered processes can adapt based on parameters like the employee’s role and regulatory requirements. Cognitive technology enables the workflow to evolve with the business.

3. Integrate everything

Nothing works without a 360-degree view of your employees. It’s time to move on from siloed legacy HR systems that restrict visibility and prevent a seamless user experience. Invest in a single-platform environment that integrates interfaces, workflows and data, which will allow you to analyze employee data to gain new insights and enhance the employee experience.

4. Simplify access

“Filling out this web-based expense form is fun,” said no one ever. Use modern interfaces that work for the employee. AI-powered agents such as IBM’s CELIA pre-built HR Virtual Agent can help by taking input in plain English and providing straightforward answers. Virtual agents are the perfect front end to the intelligent workflows that underpin managed employee services.

5. Engage and include

Employees want to contribute when companies develop services that affect them. Involve them from the beginning using an innovation center such as the IBM Garage, the experience design process of which is inclusive from the outset.

6. Sense and respond

Employees are human. They act irrationally and might not behave as you expect. Use cognitive dashboards, such as IBM’s Change Insight Dashboard, that highlight employee behaviors and monitor the uptake of new digital processes. Use this data to tailor and adapt your project implementation.

7. Embrace change

HR modernization is an ongoing process. It’s never finished because your employees never stop growing. Make your managed employee services project a continuous cycle of improvement in which you regularly rethink and refine your processes and technologies.

Getting started

These steps can look daunting to enterprises with thousands of employees. How should you begin?

An executive envisioning session is a good place to start. Begin by testing your current practices and determining your pain points. As you determine where you want to get to, remember to engage employees early in the process.

Next, decide who will tackle the project. Will you conduct it in-house or hand it off to an expert third party such as IBM and its Managed Employee Services program? Outsourcing is often the fastest path to HR modernization.

Then pick one area where you can deliver a minimum viable product. Start with a problem area, such as a broken onboarding or expense management process. Tackling problem areas discretely will teach you valuable lessons and help justify subsequent projects.

Employees are the engine for a successful company. By investing in their experience, you supercharge that engine. Propel your company to new heights by adopting an employee-centric approach to HR today.

Learn more about how IBM can transform your workforce

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