The CHRO’s Evolving Role in the Employee Experience

When I talk to HR leaders, they often mention how frustrated their employees are by how difficult it is to get timely answers to simple questions about corporate policies, benefits, workplace amenities, and other everyday issues.

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In the past, addressing these concerns might have taken a backseat to hiring, training, and other “traditional” HR functions. But in today’s competitive labor market, it is no longer possible to ignore this feedback from employees.

The unemployment rate is at an 18-year low, and job openings are at a record high. In order to attract and retain talented workers, HR leaders need to take responsibility for the full breadth of employees’ experiences at work.

But where do you begin? By focusing on the easier, higher-volume tasks that often feel too complex and unstructured for employees, HR leaders can take a bold step forward on the path to transforming and modernizing employee experiences across their enterprise.

Employment-verification letters, which people typically need when they buy a house and for other life events, provide a great example. When employees ask for one, they usually need it right away. Yet it can often feel like the request disappears into a black hole—an e-mail hole, to be exact. Employees usually don’t know who’s responsible for issuing the letter or how long it’s likely to take.

Onboarding is another area where far too many companies come up short. I recently spoke with a young worker who, on his first day at work, had no computer and nowhere to sit. He was anxious to meet his team and get started in his new role, but the lack of preparation on the part of his new employer made it seem as if no one else shared his excitement. It set the wrong tone from the beginning, and after a few months, he quit.

In these cases and others, technology can help turn a slow, unstructured manual process into one that’s less costly for the company and produces a better experience for employees. And, indeed, the smart application of technology is quickly becoming one of the main factors that separates the best-run HR departments from the pack—allowing them to create an employee experience that’s designed to drive deeper engagement, higher productivity, and better business results.

Take the employment-verification letter example. I recently visited a company that produces an average of 200 of these letters a week and has two people employed full-time to create them. If this process, or even part of it, were automated, these people could work on more strategic tasks like talent development, accelerate turnaround time, and give employees better visibility into the status of their requests.

One of the common misconceptions about technology is that it takes people out of the equation. In fact, in many ways, it can help put the “human” back in human resources. Automate those processes where the high-touch factor is of little importance and team members will be able to have more face-to-face interaction with employees and candidates when it matters most.

My company, ServiceNow, recently interviewed more than 500 chief human resources officers (CHROs) and found that many now see the technology-enabled employee experience as a new way to win the war for talent. Nearly two-thirds of CHROs in our survey said it’s their responsibility to drive corporate performance. More than half said the ability to create a digital, consumerized experience will define their roles during the next 3 years.

To get started, the best first step is to think about what processes would look like in your organization with the EMPLOYEE at the center, not HR. You could begin by identifying the guiding principles for the employee experience you want to create. How do you want employees to describe their experience? What are the attributes of each guiding principle, and what measurements will help you determine if you are on the right track?

For example, one guiding principle may be that your employee experience must be trusted: Employees trust that the information they get from HR is accurate and that the company is protecting their personal information. Bring together people from across your organization to help you define your guiding principles. Each company will have different priorities based on its business needs and culture. From there, everything you do should align with your principles.

While the technology options available to HR leaders today are vast and very intriguing, it is absolutely critical to start with process before technology when embarking on a transformation initiative. Too many HR organizations do it the other way around, investing in some big system and then modifying the way they work. This approach rarely leads to successful outcomes. Automating an overly complex process will only get you to a bad result faster. Ask the tough questions: Do we need to do it this way, and is this process even necessary?

By implementing these few simple strategies, HR can lead from the front rather than chasing business outcomes that may or may not positively impact the employee experience. An employee-centric business case that incorporates the thoughtful use of technology can lead to an environment where employees seldom have to ask “Why does everything have to be so difficult?”

Jen Stroud is an HR Evangelist and Transformation Consultant at ServiceNow.  In her role, Jen communicates the HR service management value proposition to HR leaders and is a trusted advisor to the company’s community of HR customers.  She comes to ServiceNow from TeleTech where she spent 10 years in HR and most recently was the Executive Director of Human Capital Services