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?’

2020: The Digital Employee Experience

As organisations adopt new ways of working and technology to increase their competitiveness, the employee experience – the interaction between an organisation and its people – is radically changing. So what might the employee experience be like in 2020? Here are some ideas…

Agile loyalty: The ability of an organisation to respond effectively to rapidly changing market conditions is a key source of advantage in today’s global economy. For example the sharing platforms created by digital disruptors like Airbnb or Uber have helped lower supplier costs and increased customer choice.

Arguably this sharing platform capability could be developed further to create other forms of competitive advantage such as enabling collaborative or even competing organisations to share their human resources on-demand. In 2020 an employee may be expected and supported by their parent organisation to work in different areas of the same sector as a form of short-term resource exchange that delivers mutual benefit for all participating organisations.

Traditional and digital integration: In B2C markets today there is a strong focus on integrating the traditional and digital experience of a brand to create seamless, insightful customer offerings anywhere, anytime. The adoption of Bluetooth beacons in stores to personalise the physical shopping experience as a complement to digital channels is an example of this omnichannel approach.

For such integration to be commercially successful the employee experience needs to blend offline and online work tools together effectively. The use of smart devices like tablets by shop floor employees to access stock information instantly to support the sales process demonstrates the positive impact of such change. Yet as digital technologies mature, such integration is likely to accelerate further – for example van manufacturers are now prototyping drone-equipped delivery vehicles. In 2020, an employee may need to have the skills to work successfully with a range of old and new technologies integrated together for customer benefit.  

The trust economy: The digital employee experience is fundamentally changing the intrinsic relationship – the bond or trust – between an organisation and its employees. Driven by disruptive factors such as the globalisation of the labour market and proliferation of social media, the need to have aligned cultural values between these stakeholders is critical to realising the advantages of employee self empowerment and agility.  

Today, many organisations are making the public move from a corporate social responsibility approach to the combined goals of social, environment and economic sustainability – a shared set of values with their employees. In 2020, such trust may be essential to the employee experience with an organisation communicating daily updates to its people about its performance against its sustainability goals to help intrinsically motivate their performance.

If you would like more information about how digital employee experience design can benefit your organisation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

How innovation can drive change in Local Government

I have been recently considering how innovative technology can support the future of health and care services as part of the contribution that Sopra Steria is making to Lord Patel of Bradford’s report ‘Breaking Barriers’ that was released on the 28th of June.

This consideration led me to look again at some of the recent innovations that Sopra Steria has introduced and particularly to reflect back upon the annual Sopra Steria innovations awards ceremony that I attended earlier in the year. I was very impressed by the number and quality of solutions that my winning colleagues across the world had developed through a wide range of innovation projects. In this blog I highlight five of the projects that seem to particularly resonate with the provision of our own local public services.

Our overall innovation winners came from France with a project to assist schools and pupils to plan the school day.

Pack ‘n’ school – the connected schoolbag

This project provides a small device to incorporate into a school bag that links with the pupil’s timetable in the ‘cloud’. At the beginning of the day this device checks the contents of the bag and ensures that the pupil has all the books needed for the day’s lessons.

This simple solution would be a valuable aid to help teachers to deliver lessons more efficiently by ensuring pupils are ready to start learning at the start of lessons.

Another team from France proposed an inspection module that could be mounted on a drone to automatically detect variances from blueprints and plans.

The Foreman Drone

This innovative project equips a drone with software that can 3D scan a project under construction, make a real time comparison with a digital plan and detect discrepancies.

I can see a number of inspection and maintenance uses for this project in Local Government within services such as building control and planning, Street Scene management and Highways management, allowing a much more efficient usage and targeting of resources.

An interesting project from Spain provides a game to support better recycling.

Green World Gaming

Citizens can play the Green World Game alone, with friends, family or neighbours. Points are awarded for the frequency and amount of recycling undertaken and then points can be converted to rewards.

The Green World game provides a novel way for Local Government to promote recycling and to attain targets.

Our colleagues in India have provided a project to build a real time water pollution monitoring system.

Real time water pollution monitoring system

This solution combines innovative software with a network of quality monitoring probes installed directly on waste outlets of factories to measure the quality of the water entering the main sewerage system. The data is then tracked and compared to defined norms, immediately highlighting all violations of pollution standards.

This innovation provides a clear opportunity for improving the efficiency and inspection routines of environmental services combining both immediate alerts with an accurate record to support potential prosecutions.

The final example I’d like to share is an excellent project from the UK, where biometrics, the internet of things and cloud technologies are combined to provide a solution to track and monitor farm animals.

The Connected Cow

This project uses biometric tags and tracking technologies to monitor farm animals, this tells the farmer immediately if an animal is sick, poisoned or simply lost. The immediate access to this data allows the farmer to react quickly to give the best chance of remedial treatment.

But how does this help Local Government you ask?  Well, the next development of this product would be to move it into the health care sector. By the use of wearable monitors such as smart watches the same technology can be used to monitor vulnerable citizens. If set parameters are broken such as heart rate or body temperature carers can be alerted to take immediate action to support the vulnerable individual. This could become an invaluable aid to health and care services and a life saver to vulnerable people.

These few examples will I hope stimulate some debate about how digital solutions can support Local Government. The range and number of innovative ideas produced this year have been exceptional and solve so many problems across so many areas of life.

Why don’t you challenge us to find a solution to support your own business, somewhere across the world, we will definitely have someone who has an answer just for you. Leave a reply below or contact me by email.