Why it’s time to ditch the duvet with a great employee experience

by Claudia Quinton, Head of Workplace Transformation

I’m not one to ‘throw a sickie’. I enjoy getting out of bed and heading in to work each day. But can you say the same about your employees? Or are your people frustrated and demoralised by the high level of of process and bureaucratic hoops they have to jump through to complete even the simplest of tasks, such as booking leave or submitting expenses?

I’ve been turning the spotlight on employee experience in a series of papers and blogs recently. And this idea of a frustrated workforce unwilling to get out of bed in the morning is something I discuss in my latest paper*. That’s because, whether it is a high level of employee attrition or too much absenteeism, the impact of a poor workplace experience can have a hugely detrimental impact on the business.

Counting the cost of employee attrition

For example, the costs of searching for new employees, reviews, screening, interviews, offers, negotiation, on-boarding, co-worker networking and the inevitable learning curve can quickly mount up. One estimate suggests that UK organisations alone are losing £340bn from employee attrition. So, there is clearly a need to retain talent for as long as possible.

Pivotal to this is providing employees with a positive experience in the workplace. That means enabling them to engage seamlessly with HR and business processes, through the channel of their choice, from anywhere, at any time. It’s about empowering employees to self-serve and manage basic requirements themselves; and enabling managers to spend less time chasing up resourcing approvals and more time managing their teams and getting new joiners embedded in the business. How? With robotic process automation speeding up talent onboarding and handling labour-intensive tasks.

This latter capability doesn’t have to come at a huge cost to the business. Simply by adding a digital tool on top of an existing process, it is possible to transform a laborious admin task, quickly and at relatively low risk.

Happy employees equal happy customers

In my paper I quote Sopra Steria’s Engaging Generation Me brochure, which states: “Crucially, the workplace that empowers its people with real-time data services, intuitive easy-to-access employee services and automated self-help will be better placed to achieve broader strategic customer experience goals.” I use this quote to illustrate how a positive employee experience has wide-ranging strategic ramifications. In this instance, I suggest that a happy, empowered employee is a more productive employee, one more committed to delivering customer-service excellence.

This is nothing new in the world outside the workplace. Tech giant Apple has been giving customers an intuitive, personalised experience for many years. It is constantly bringing out new products apps that work around people’s lifestyles. Now it’s time for HR to follow suit. Working with other leaders across the business, including IT and finance, HR needs to re-define how people engage with the organisation, using intuitive, tailored employee services that make people want to ’ditch the duvet’ and come into work.

For more on this, read my opinion paper ‘A transformation business case that writes itself’.

“I am your Father”… my experience with Shared Parental Leave

By Dave Parslew, Senior Internal Recruiter.

As well as looking after internal recruitment, Dave is a first time dad. In this post he talks about anticipating the birth of his first born, the decision to utilise Shared Parental Leave and why more men should be utilising SPL.

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) for me seems like a fantastic opportunity to be able to spend some quality time with my first born, Sam. During our pregnancy, my wife Anna and I decided that SPL was definitely for us and when it came to ‘D’ day, we agreed that she will take the first 9 months and I will take the last 3. I always joked that May to August will be a perfect 3 months in the sun for me, though now with the birth of my child and all the work to look after a new baby, my views have of course changed!

Baby and DAve

The resemblance is already uncanny for Dave and baby Sam.

Quite a few years ago, I assumed that when I did actually have kids, I would have to go back to work after my 2 weeks of paternity and leave the all-important first year of quality time to my wife. I thought that was the only option and at the time it was! However, things have changed and the question I asked myself and all the other eligible fathers out there is why wouldn’t you?!

Around 285,000 couples in the UK are eligible every year for shared parental leave, but take-up “could be as low as 2%”, according to the Department for Business. Nearly three years after it was introduced around half of the general public still are unaware the option exists. Experts say that as well as a lack of understanding of what is on offer, cultural barriers and financial penalties are deterring some parents from sharing parental leave.

There seems to be a lot of “research undertaken by trusted organisations” about SPL out there but I say don’t just rely on the headlines and newspaper write-ups; delve a little deeper into the detail and look at the research for yourself!

Research shows the poor take-up of the policy is due to concerns about lack of financial support for fathers. I say, if you manage your finances correctly and are prepared for the eventuality that you might be slightly out of pocket for a few months of your life, you will get to spend some amazing time with your children (time you will NEVER get back) so just go for it!

However, the main problem with childcare take up remains – many men just wouldn’t want it because they’re scared it would impact their careers. It’s not that men’s attitudes are anti-childcare these days. It’s more that this fear outweighs fathers’ enthusiasm to have a stint at being a stay-at-home dad or the desire to exercise their legal right. It’s the dated belief that a man better serves their family by sticking to a traditional career path.

In my opinion, if you care that much about money, then perhaps you shouldn’t have kids in the first place as they WILL most definitely suck you dry of most of your finances. However if you see it as I see it then everyone’s a winner!

This is a government funded scheme remember, so in my case the company I work for (Sopra Steria) will have to cover my work for 3 months but they have been very accommodating about it and in some ways educated by it due to the lack of uptake.

Fair enough I won’t get paid for 3 months but there is an option to plan some ‘Staying in Touch’ days with HR (paid in full for the day) and I still accrue holiday while I am off along with Bank Holidays.

Hopefully my example will encourage others to do the same. To top it all off of course, I will have an awesome few months with my new son. I am looking forward to this immensely and the bottom line is, ”You only live once”!

Below are the key points about SPL, learn more about the intiative here.

What is Shared Parental Leave?

  • Shared parental leave (SPL) was introduced in April 2015
  • It allows parents to share 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay after they have a baby
  • Parents can take time off separately or can be at home together for up to six months
  • SPL is paid at £140.98 per week or 90% of your average earnings, whichever is lower

 

Taking a weather check on employee experience

by Claudia Quinton, Head of Workplace Transformation

This week has seen the ‘Beast from the East‘ shut down much of the transport network causing confusion and delay (Thanks Thomas!). But I’m safe in the knowledge that I can just hunker down at home and continue to work as usual, accessing work remotely. This has been possible because Sopra Steria’s analytics platform predicted the level of additional bandwidth and resilience needed in our VPN network when more people than usual are working from home.

So, what has this got to do with employee experience? The 2017 Management Today survey in partnership with Sopra Steria found greater flexibility in working and career development were most likely to enhance employee experience. Thus, there is a clear correlation between a good employee experience and a company being able to both predict a sudden increase in remote users and take preventative action against the network slowing.

Investing in data and analytics

I use this example of the power of analytics in a new opinion paper discussing the business case for enhancing the employee experience. In it I point to the value of having a data and analytics team able to use artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics to allow the business to prepare for peaks and troughs of employee activities.

I make the case for using digital capabilities to support forward planning and enable intervention before challenges become issues, such as spotting patterns of absence and identifying those who need extra support.

By being able to correlate different types of data – hours worked, the weather, absence rates, etc. – it is possible to gather a picture of the things that have the most impact on rates of employee absence or reduced productivity.

I am excited at this potential for using data and analytics to help create a differentiating employee experience. Indeed, our own analytics platform already sits alongside our virtual HR Assistant, speech activated applications and robotics know-how to form a set of industry-leading capabilities focused on improving the employee experience.

Making the Business Case

Deciding what technology and process transformation to invest in to enhance the employee experience must go beyond being purely an HR decision.

To make the business case, HR should work with IT who understand the new technologies in areas such as data science and analytics.

In my paper, I point out that it is important to recognise what it will take to get the most out of your structured and unstructured data to support your future workforce management – and this requires specialist knowledge.

And if the business case suggests now is not the time to rip and replace legacy IT and move to a new cloud-based platform, HR must collaborate with finance. Why? Because while the business might not be ready, there still needs to be a discussion about the investment required in the workforce to ensure processes fit employees’ current needs and continue to support them into the future.

For example, it is possible to place digital front-end tools, such as real-time employee analytics, on top of legacy IT using Sopra Steria’s DiAL (Digital Abstraction Layer).

So, come snow, ice, or even a summer heatwave melting railway tracks, it is possible to give employees the flexibility to work from home by predicting future outcomes – without it costing the earth.

For more on this, read my opinion paper ‘A transformation business case that writes itself – download here.

Making the case for a better employee experience

by Claudia Quinton, Head of Workplace Transformation

A happy employee is a productive employee: one likely to stay with you for the long term. I think we can all agree with that sentiment. But what does it take to make your employees happy?

In a new opinion paper on HR transformation and employee experience*, I consider the commercial impact of keeping your workforce engaged and yes, happy. I look at the business case for the HR and business process transformation needed to put your employees at the heart of today’s increasingly digital workplace. And I ask whether the enabling technologies underpinning this transformation are worth investing in.

The truth of the matter is that, in the battle for talent, a heightened employee experience is everything. I argue that with outcomes such as improved productivity, reduced employee attrition rates and an empowered workforce committed to your customers, the transformation business case pretty much writes itself.

Re-designing services demands teamwork

But pulling together all the different elements of this business case is not just the task of HR. The outcomes are clearly strategic, so the onus is on HR to work with business, finance and technology leaders. Together, they must balance the cost of what it will it take to deliver re-designed services (process automation, self-service, etc.) with the commercial outcomes. And the scales are weighted in favour of those outcomes.

As an example, let me take the reduction in employee attrition resulting from people feeling empowered by simple, standardised processes that are easy and quick to engage with. One estimate suggests that UK organisations alone are losing £340bn from employee attrition. Thus, the longer you can retain talented employees, the better for your bottom line. Here we can see HR (employee retention) combining with business (improved productivity), technology (automation) and finance (the bottom line) coming together within a single business case.

Using technology to improve processes

Outcomes are pivotal in all of this. For example, the deployment of robotics, automation and process improvement can reduce HR Back Office administration by 50% or more. HR managers freed up by robotic process automation taking over labour-intensive tasks, or robots (chatbots) handling simple queries, can play a more strategic role in the business. And, a process by which an automated artificial intelligence (AI) tool checks a leave request against a team’s booked leave will give an almost real-time response to the employee, enabling people to better manage their time.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. I believe that by using automation, smart tech and AI, it’s possible to help smooth the flow of processes and remove unnecessary manual activity, making people happy to come into work. But these outcomes must be clearly communicated and understood across the organisation. This will ensure, firstly, that there is board-level acceptance of the need to invest in change, and second, that those people using the improved, automated process and enabling technology – your employees – understand the impact (and value) of this transformation on their own workplace experience.

For more on this, read my opinion paper ‘A transformation business case that writes itself – download here.

In pursuit of frictionless digital engagement with HR

by Claudia Quinton, Head of Workplace Transformation

What do I mean by frictionless engagement? And why is it relevant to today’s HR function? People like to book their holidays, make doctors’ appointments, shop and bank online. There’s no real need to talk with a travel agent, a GP’s receptionist, a shop assistant or a busy bank cashier – unless you want to, that is. This is the sort of ‘frictionless’ world that a large proportion of the modern workforce is used to – where everything is automated, clever and personalised.

And they expect a similar frictionless experience in the workplace. Only it seems they’re not getting it. A new survey report from Sopra Steria in partnership with Management Today reveals that employers have been slow to understand and implement the automation, analytics and other technologies that can facilitate a better workplace experience. And less than half (45%) of chief executives and directors were prepared to say their organisations had a clear, specific strategy for improving the employee experience.

Investing in robotics and artificial intelligence

I believe they’re missing out on a huge opportunity to transform the way in which employees engage with the business, especially with the HR services that help to define a good employee experience. In a new paper[1] discussing the survey findings, I take a look at how some companies are achieving frictionless engagement. Sopra Steria, for example, has developed a clever chatbot – we’ve named it Sam – that uses robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence to facilitate a range of HR services, such as booking holidays – all with no human intervention.

I question why more companies aren’t investing in greater automation and why the HR analytics that would drive a more personalised employee experience continues to be lacking in so many organisations. Failing to adopt the type of digital enablers employees are familiar with outside work is giving the wrong impression. It suggests a business unable or unwilling to invest in its people and to give them the tools and processes that will enhance their experience at work. That’s a dangerous impression to create, especially in today’s business climate where it can be difficult to attract talented people, and even harder to retain them.

Adding value at board level

I understand that changing entrenched processes and moving to new technology platforms, such as a cloud HR solution, can be met with resistance. Will automated process take away my job? I’ve done it this way for years, why should I change? How will I be able to monitor progress and quality when there’s no human intervention for key HR processes? There will always be fears and uncertainties like these. But what I am certain of is that only with investment in automation, analytics and AI, along with changes to IT infrastructure that equip employees to self-serve from anywhere, at any time, can today’s HR leaders remain a trusted and valued presence on the company board.

[1] For more on this, read my opinion paper ‘How can HR stay relevant in the 21st century?’

Are your HR processes truly fit for purpose?

by Claudia Quinton, Head of Workplace Transformation

As digital transformation programmes begin to make an impact, new IT service delivery models, such as cloud, will increasingly be the norm. Yet while employees themselves enjoy a highly connected life outside work, too often their expectations for a connected digital experience in the workplace are not being met.

This word ‘experience’ is key. It’s how employers can gain competitive advantage with a more engaged, energised and productive workforce. But in a recent research project conducted for Sopra Steria and Management Today, 51% of respondents said their organisations cared less about employee experience than the quality of service they gave to their customers.

This is so wrong. As the white paper discussing the survey findings (‘Engaging Generation Me: creating competitive advantage through excellent employee experience’) points out, “With the economic uncertainty of Brexit and possible talent crunches and skill shortages ahead, employers ignore at their peril Generation Me: employees who demand the same quality of experience as customers.”

20th century thinking for a 21st century business

I believe that part of the problem lies in the failure of HR processes to keep up with the demands of the modern workplace. In a recently published opinion paper*, I describe the missed opportunity for HR to review and update its processes some 30 years ago. At that time – and driven by the CIO – there was a shift of legacy IT estates to on-premise ERP and other big corporate IT systems. And while HR’s IT was migrated across, its entrenched processes didn’t follow suit. There was simply a ‘lift and shift’ of existing, largely paper-based practices onto the new system.

Fast forward three decades and HR faces a big problem. While there has been a growth in HR operations, this failure to update processes and ways of engaging with employees has become a barrier to HR becoming a true business partner. But I believe digital has now put us (as HR professionals) in a position to transform this situation altogether. How? By using all the latest workplace tools, systems and approaches needed to give employees a truly differentiating workplace experience.

From chatbots to RPA

Of course, there must be an understanding of what processes might be enabled by new technology. In my paper I describe some of these enablers, such as digital engagement tools like chatbots that help to speed and facilitate employee interaction with HR services, for example booking holidays. Or the use of artificial intelligence to monitor employee behaviour and better predict their career or wellbeing needs. Then there is robotic process automation (RPA) that takes over repetitive tasks requiring minimal human intervention. This frees up HR professionals for more strategic value-added activity, such as succession planning, which can be further enhanced with the very latest data and analytics tools.

All of this makes today an exciting time to be an HR professional. With processes and technologies that are fit for purpose in a modern digital enterprise, HR can play a crucial role in attracting, nurturing and retaining the very best talent around.

For more on this, read my opinion paper ‘How can HR stay relevant in the 21st century?’.

Relevant or obsolete? The role of HR in the 21st century

by Claudia Quinton, Head of Workplace Transformation

The workplace is changing rapidly. Digital is transforming both how employees work and the way in which they expect to engage with their employers’ HR services. At Sopra Steria, we’ve recently partnered with Management Today on a survey that looked at the extent to which companies are using digital (data analytics, artificial intelligence, automation) to deliver a more consumer-like employee experience. And the findings don’t bode particularly well for the future of the HR function.

That’s because HR appears to be way off the curve when it comes to all things digital. For example, two thirds of CEOs and directors responding to our survey acknowledged that they had not yet fully implemented HR task automation and self-service technology in their organisations. Yet today’s employees – and not just Millennials – increasingly expect employers to make it easy for them to engage with HR how and when they want to (booking leave from home, whilst on the move, hot desking, etc.) and this can only be enabled with greater automation and digitalisation.

In search of flexibility

In fact, our survey found that greater flexibility and career development were the most likely to enhance employee experience. And the better the employee experience, the more productive and loyal an organisation’s workforce will be. Yet half of all managers and non-managerial staff told us in our survey that they had zero access to HR processes on their mobile devices. And only 4 in 10 non-managers – largely Millennials – said they believed that employees would be fully connected and operationally mobile in the next three years.

Taking this a step further, I find myself asking why so few business leaders have still not correlated a positive employee experience with greater automation? Is greater automation perhaps viewed as a threat, rather than an enabler, with concerns that robots will take people’s jobs outweighing the fact that robotic process automation can free up HR professionals from mundane, repetitive process activities? What I do know is that, with far more traction for improving employee/user experience and engagement, the tide is turning.

Connecting the modern workforce

I explore this in a new opinion paper digging deeper into the survey findings. In it I write, “by not embracing the technology that will connect and enable the modern workforce and free up HR for more strategic activity, the role of HR as a business partner could be obsolete, sooner rather than later. Indeed, being slow in the uptake of new, enabling technologies could well be the demise of the HR function as we know it”.

So, my question to all HR leaders is ‘do you want to remain relevant or become obsolete’?

For more on this, read my opinion paper ‘How can HR stay relevant in the 21st century?’