HR Transformation

Reinventing Employee Experience: The CHRO’s Secret to Success

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Companies have always valued talent. But in today’s market where expertise comes at a premium, there is a need to disrupt how talent is attracted, managed, and retained. This is the reason why employee experience is now at the front and center of all CHRO initiatives.

Secondly, our talent needs are becoming more homogenized. Today, finance, IT, line of business, and even human resources are continually searching for data-savvy, analytical, and innovation-driven minds who can drive data-driven decisions. At a market level, different industries are trying to lure talent from the same pool. It makes employee experience a competitive differentiator and not just “good-to-have”.

The next generation of employees is not going to be motivated by the same ideals. In the past, companies assumed that junior apprentices will learn from their senior colleagues. But social media, mobility, consumerization, and technological advancements color the lens through which the next generation sees the world. It has also given them different ideals and expectations.

Many of these new employees will also be assigned to positions that were created specifically for them, or recruited for capabilities (e.g., analytics) that the current workforce lacks. This can impact power dynamics, shape culture, and disrupt organizational structures within companies.

To lure and retain these new talents, CHROs will need to create a strong employee experience. Companies have always understood the value of user experience. But much of their efforts have been on transforming the customer experience, offering innovative client-facing front ends and integrating the various touchpoints for customer convenience. As companies wage talent wars, CHROs will need to take these customer experience lessons to transform the employee experience. To do this, they need to start with a clean slate, shift the perspective of HR from a resources-driven function to become people-centric, and start with a new vision for transforming HR services.

7 Ingredients for the New HR Vision

A vision offers the rudder to any transformation journey. For CHROs, their vision needs to put the employee in the center and ensure it is aligned with the company’s values and market demands.

Owning the employee experience vision cannot be done alone. As strategic talent advisors to the company, CHROs need to collaborate and regularly engage with other parts of the organizations to create the right one.

Based on IBM’s HR transformation experience, the new employee experience vision should cover seven areas:

Attract: CHROs need to relook at how their company attracts potential candidates. Here employer branding will play a huge role in luring the right interest, and CHROs need to work closely with other stakeholders.

Hire: Job requisition times get longer and more unpredictable in a talent-starved economy. Yes, filling up vacancies is crucial, but it is equally important for companies to spend time in identifying the right candidates. After all, mismatched or wrong talents can significantly impact on bottom lines.

Engage: Shifts in motivation or opinions must be fed back to first-line managers, which makes listening to employees vital. CHROs will need to go beyond annual employee surveys and pulse polls to understand current employee sentiment.

Retain: Many valuable employees tend to leave because they feel undervalued. CHROs need to create personalized compensation schemes that help them retain HiPOs (high potential employees) and influential employees.

Develop: The next generation of employees wants continuous learning. But they want it to also cater to their personal ambitions and goals. CHRO, in turn, will need to develop personalized training programs that meet these requirements.

Grow: Many companies depend on career coaching to grow the employees’ potential. But it can be high touch, time-intensive, and expensive. It is the reason why much of these efforts were focused on underperforming employees or HiPOs. In an employee-centric organization, CHROs will need to find the right balance to scale career coaching.

Serve: HR teams are asked to be strategic. But many are snowed under administration burden. CHROs will need to find ways to free their team members to focus on talent management and not be sidelined by resource administration.

How AI Can Reinforce the Vision

Addressing all these seven areas can be challenging for any organization. For IT companies like IBM, it is even more critical as our most significant asset lies in our human potential. So, we used our AI technology – Watson – in HR.

Watson helped to address gaps and enable our HR vision. For example, we used machine learning to sieve through the thousands of CVs we received. It kept us aligned with our recruitment goals while rooting out human bias inherent in recruitment processes. It ensured that no potential talent was overlooked.

AI drives IBM employee engagement while alleviating HR’s administrative burden. For example, our Watson-powered chatbot offers quick answers to queries on HR policies and services, freeing up the HR department’s time for more strategic tasks. It also connects with different department processes to answer employee questions. For our employees, the chatbot has become an essential, single contact point for all their needs.

The AI-based learning app “Your Learning” personalized training to individual employee’s needs. It takes into account their career aspirations and allows them to access the vast number of online courses at their convenience. Such an approach allowed us to maximize the potential of each employee and nurture their talent.

Lastly, AI offers valuable employee insights. In turn, it allows CHROs to architect the right HR initiatives and use the right metrics like NPS and ROI to gauge its effectiveness and adoption. The insights also will enable CHROs to uncover gaps and risks in the current talent management strategy and address them. Fundamentally, it changes the CHRO conversation with other CXOs as they work toward a corporate vision.

Reinventing HR for an AI-driven Future

Transformation is never easy. But with Talent and HR transformation, it is especially challenging as it impacts all parts of a company. So, it needs to involve all stakeholders and done with strong sponsorship from the top management.

Technology innovation can help. But simply modernizing the current HR systems with new features is not transformation. True HR transformation needs to begin by rethinking the core HR systems and core employee data. Having the right vision and processes can then help CHROs decide what innovation matters to their companies.

CHROs also need to prepare for an AI-driven future. Deploying chatbots, taking advantage of machine learning, and reducing labor-intensive administration with robotic process automation can only help if HR manages their data well, have AI-ready processes and people ready to do HR in new ways.

This is a tall order for any CHRO looking to build the right roadmap. It is also the reason why many leading firms are choosing to partner with us.

Journey with us in future blogs as we examine the trials and tribulations of HR transformation, and how you can maximize the AI potential. Meanwhile, take the first step by visiting here.


Partner, Talent & Transformation, Global Business Services, IBM Greater China Group

Sushil Asar

Hong Kong Leader, Cognitive & Process Transformation Services, IBM Global Business Services

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