An example of positive employee experience

From Commodity to Asset: The Evolution of Employee Experience Strategy

Employee experience is quickly rising to be a priority alongside customer experience today, with employees often considered as the single most valuable asset of any organization. 

But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, the employee from a century ago, and even a decade ago, is quite different from the employee we are starting to see today.

We’re only at the beginnings of a comprehensive employee experience strategy. And yet, we have the benefit of looking back at almost 100 years of how employees were treated and how that treatment impacted productivity. This is a journey through that century, culminating every variable that informs workplace experience today.

The 1920s: employee utility.

The early 20th century was what we now know as the age of industrial engineering, with many technological breakthroughs still informing today’s post-industrial economy. Naturally, that extended to employee treatment, as well.

Back between the 1920s through the 1950s, people didn’t really have careers or career paths. Many organizations were simply looking for utility. In fact, experts like Frederick Taylor, who studied the behavior of steelworkers, informed how many businesses considered their employees.

In his book The Principles of Scientific Management, Taylor calculated the optimal efficiencies of workers in a factory environment, looking at their productivity from a purely scientific perspective. Workplace experience, at this point, was not even an afterthought.

You would show up for work, do what you were told, go home, rinse, and repeat. The office wasn’t a place people went to be happy or engaged. For the employer and the employee, it was a means to an end.

The 1950s: employee efficiency.

The Taylor trend of 1920 found its culmination in the 1950s when efficiency and productivity became absolute key to success. On assembly line processes, managers began to look for the best possible ways to exercise tasks. With limited automation, humans were relied upon to be as dependable as possible. 

As technologies evolved, organizations were able to see the bigger picture and grow their organizations with the right talent. The ultimate goal was to look for ways to get more work out of their employees at a faster rate. It was all about efficiency. But it was seen from the employer’s point of view. The employee’s ideas were rarely considered.

Careers became more crucial in the process, but they were built solely on that productivity equation. More productive employees rose up the latter, regardless of their experience or abilities beyond the core abilities required to get the job done at maximum possible efficiency.

The 1980s: employee engagement.

Through continually maximizing productivity, organizations across industries began to see a trend in the 1980s that culminated in the 1990s. Increasingly, the best workers would leave to go to the places where they would be most engaged, and fulfilled beyond work. 

So, by the 1980s, organizations started to gear themselves towards employee engagement. Moreover, companies wanted to win the war on talent and looked for ways to keep their employees happy while attracting the best recruits.

This was a fundamental shift in focus. Rather than simply thinking about maximizing value from employees as a passive resource, organizations began to realize that the most effective way to maximize human (employee) resources is to keep them happy and engaged, which is how they’ll maximize their contribution to the organization.

That shift accounts for the fact that in the late 90s, we started to see the quick rise of new employee perks such as free food, games in the break room, and bring your pet to work. Some companies even began to offer free daycare, dry cleaning, and a car wash on site.

The idea was right, and still underlies the shift that led to the move towards employee experience today. But it came with a caveat. Many of these short-term perks were almost by nature underutilized and, therefore, unsustainable. Enter the rise of employee experience strategy.

Today: employee and workplace experience.

Today, we’re officially in the age of EX. According to an Accenture study, 65% of customers would prefer to buy from a company that treats its employees well. Meanwhile, 85% of employees are more productive when receiving consistent, helpful internal communication. 

Employee experience strategy involves designing company practices and the organizational structure around the needs and wants of employees. The short-term engagement needs of the 1990s are no longer enough or desired. Instead, companies are prioritizing the actual needs of their workforce in designing processes and opportunities to keep them engaged and happy.

That caveat mentioned with the perks above? They will no longer be left underutilized because the only perks offered are the ones employees actually want. 

Perks have also become a core piece in the way employees are attracted to organizations, who are now vying to become an employer of choice. The goal of attracting top-end talent follows the assumption that modern employee needs go far beyond the basic skills match. Happy and engaged employees have proven to be more productive, making the prioritization of employee experience a win-win proposition.

Of course, you can’t create the right EX if you don’t actually take the time to get to know your employees. Guessing and assumptions won’t work here. You want a team of managers who can lead but also connect with people.

That means providing your teams with the right communications tools and background knowledge to remain engaged and successful. Platforms like our CoPilot Console, for instance, can help your employees do less work about work and focus on productivity, on the helpdesk, and elsewhere, while its user-friendliness offers easy onboarding and optimum user satisfaction.

AI-optimized chatbots are one of the many ways to improve the employee experience. Beyond their obvious benefits, they provide actionable data and analytics that reduce human touches. Similar to the passive human resources on assembly lines in the 1920s that have now been replaced by automation, AI-enabled chatbots allow your teams to focus on more strategic work.

Finally, analytics can become a core way for your teams to work better, and better together. It enables employees to enhance their decision-making, creating a more consistent foundation for success that benefits them as well as the organization.

In short, technology has played a core role in the rise of the modern employee experience.

Are you interested in building your employee experience strategy through an AI-optimized platform?

Gabriel B. is available to chat
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