HomeEmployee ExperienceHR StrategyHuman Experience Management: Enabling business performance through human-centered design

Human Experience Management: Enabling business performance through human-centered design

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Technology and artificial intelligence are gaining more popularity. To enable business performance, HR leaders must also focus on human-centered design through human experience management.

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Sue Lam Headshot for article on human experience management

Companies are thinking about the impact of technology and data on jobs—this is not new. From the first Industrial Revolution to the recent Digital Revolution, companies have had to adapt new technology to their business. There are two differences today—the speed at which companies are adopting generative artificial intelligence (AI) into their operations and the adjustment of employee attitudes about work. The answer to enabling business performance considering these developments is to center HR on Human Experience Management (HXM).

Companies took years to integrate technology such as machinery, electricity, and cloud computing into their operations. However, each time there was a technological advancement, companies became quicker at embedding it. The adoption of generative AI is unlikely to be different. A recent study by McKinsey found that in 60% of all jobs, organizations could automate nearly 30% of activities.

Concurrently, employees have indicated they want more than “just a job”. Workers want a unique experience where their labor makes an impact. They want to find purpose and meaning in their work. Employees want to align their values with the company values and the top talent will have their choice in which companies they work for.

While it can be tempting for companies to use AI for cost-cutting or productivity increases, to thrive in today’s environment, organizations can attract and retain the best talent by focusing on differentiated human experiences at work.

How to center your HR strategy on Human Experience Management

We live in an experience economy where the most successful companies create the best experiences for their customers, yet they commonly fail to do the same for their employees. In onboarding, for example, HR is responsible for helping new employees with legal and paperwork. IT manages the employee’s company devices such as a laptop and cell phone, and the office or workplace team is responsible for ensuring access to the building. All these activities are usually siloed, and the onboarding experience hinges on the line manager’s skill and knowledge. Now, imagine if the end-to-end onboarding experience was developed with the employee’s experience first and teams organized themselves backstage to deliver this experience. How would this look? What would HR’s role be?

Here are four ways for organizations to start thinking in a more human-centered manner about their people practices.

Build and align your HXM strategy with the needs of your company

Sometimes, leaders are concerned that if a company is human-centered, it means they are ignoring the needs of the business. Human-centered design does not mean giving employees everything they want when they want it. HXM simply means we first focus on the needs of people when defining and solving problems. However, solutions must meet 3 criteria.

  1. The solution must be desirable, one that the employee needs. Are we solving the right pain point?
  2. The program must be feasible, meaning we are building on the strengths of our current operational capabilities. We must be able to deliver the solution repeatedly, so all employees enjoy the same experiences.
  3. The solution must be viable or meets the needs of the business by being profitable or having sustainable value creation. Otherwise, the business will no longer exist, which impacts employee jobs.

We are designing programs that are good for people, but they must be great for the business too. If we miss any of these three criteria, implementing the solution becomes riskier and more costly.

Create experience principles that cross organizational boundaries

Experience principles are a set of guidelines to which a company commits and follows from strategy development all the way to experience delivery. Each company will have different experience principles because of its organizational culture. Following these principles helps to produce mutually beneficial experiences for employees and businesses.

Organizations can use the principles across all teams that design solutions for employees. An example of an experience principle is “Make it seamless and simple, wherever and whenever possible.” This principle refers to the ease of employee interaction with the solution whether it’s simple language, process, or technology. Notice that HR, IT, office/workplace, finance, and other functions could all use this principle.

When asked, many teams that support employees believe they are already human-centered primarily because they deal with employees on a day-to-day basis. However, many times they build solutions around current processes or service constraints. This way of thinking may be one of the most difficult barriers to overcome when shifting to a human-centered approach. By creating a set of experience principles that span organizational boundaries, teams have a practical way to check whether a solution is human-centered.

Create processes and ways of working that help drive Human Experience Management

Focusing on human experience does not mean stopping all processes and policies. A true HX focus requires clear and strong processes, roles, and responsibilities. HR leaders must highly align teams to the same set of goals and understand each other’s roles to create the best experiences for employees.

Use different HX delivery methods

Many senior leaders think that delivering great human-centered experiences require employees to be in-person.

Though nothing can truly replace in-person connection, the pandemic has shown us that we need to prepare for all scenarios. Thus, employee experiences require a hybrid approach. A recent survey of more than 2,500 business leaders globally showed that 90% of companies are working with hybrid work models, allowing employees to work away from on-site locations for some or much of the time. More than 4 out of 5 employees who have worked in a hybrid model want to retain them.

Given these trends, companies will not deliver all experiences completely virtually or completely in person. Companies may risk missing a portion of their employee population if they deliver their experiences solely in person.

The rise of Human Experience Management

Human Experience Management is the next evolution of HR. In the past, HR was focused primarily on building policies and systems at work to ensure the company maximized employee performance in service of its strategic goals.

In contrast, human-centered design focuses on employees first to drive better performance. By anticipating and understanding human needs, companies can deliver individualized experiences through the employee lifecycle from recruitment to offboarding. The HXM approach recognizes that work experiences impact the employee both at work and at home.

There is an increased understanding of the link between work, mental/physical health, and productivity. Globally, $1 trillion USD in productivity is lost due to depression and anxiety. Helping people to thrive not only improves business performance, but decent work is good for health.

Many organizations want to deliver the best end-to-end experiences for their employees, but they often struggle to get it right. Companies tend to structure so that work happens in siloes whereas the best experiences require collaboration with teams that extend beyond HR. Many times, leaders also do not truly understand the needs of their people. Delivering better experiences requires leaders to develop greater empathy and spend more time understanding employee problems. When we deliver better employee experiences, we set them up to help the business grow and thrive.

 Sue Lam is responsible for shaping the future of Coca Cola’s workforce by developing and executing the company’s long-term people, analytics and engagement strategy. Working closely with the leadership team, she develops and leads global culture and change management efforts on the company’s journey to emerge stronger after significant organizational change. She is also responsible for the creation and execution of the people analytics vision, strategy and operating model.

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