HR Strategy

The Top 3 Employee Experience Tools by 2020

Big data insights, bots, portals … Employee Experience Management is going high-tech in the very near future. Here is what to expect to see leading the pack by 2020.
—By Sharon Ross

CEOs worldwide agree that talent is the only sustainable competitive advantage. Toward that end, there has been an increased emphasis on improving Employee Experience (EX) for current and prospective hires. Currently, the ripest fruit for making improvement possible comes from the same tools that have improved customer experience at many firms, namely real-time data-driven portals, bots, and artificial intelligence (AI) applications.

Out of these tools, only a few versions truly apply to the EX side of the equation. Those that do are quickly being modified for in-house use by HR teams at industry leaders like Deloitte, Airbnb, and LinkedIn. Of the processes in “beta” right now, which will dominate in 2020? Read on to find out.

Employee-Centric Portals
On the consumer side, there was a major shift when systems were reorganized for customers’ convenience, rather than the businesses’ need. Satisfaction soared, and a similar surge is expected over the next year to 18 months as an increasing number of employee management systems are reorganized to be fully oriented to staff desires, needs and preferred use methods, according to Bonnie Graham’s “September 2018 Flash Briefing” for D!gitalist magazine.

Of all the expected EX tool shifts, this is one which could have a major impact on how HR functions. Employee-centric portals do not cater to HR reporting needs or compliance mandates as their top priority … they serve employees.

HRZone notes that the most modern portals significantly move the bar on EX by providing an integrated, consistently branded and always-available HR experience. Done right, they can accelerate the speed at which routine requests are handled by highlighting popular topics or query forms, offering company-wide consistency in HR service delivery, and give employees the same high-touch experience as VIP customers of the same firm.

Chat Bots … Here by Employee Demand!
One of the most effective pieces of a high-touch employee-centric portal is an AI-assisted chat bot. A far cry from the detested automated phone tree systems, these chat bots work much like real-time messaging with a friend. The simulated conversations they offer to staff are capable of resolving between 50 percent to 80 percent of employee requests, according to studies by HRZone.

Yet it is not just about the incredible gains in HR productivity that are possible when hours upon hours are not “wasted” on routine requests. Employees are used to smart chat bots in their day-to-day lives as consumers. Many have smart speakers, talk to Siri or Alexa daily, and opt for the instant message function when dealing with returns or utility services. They want this level of always-on service at work, too, and complain when they cannot get it. Firms moving to more chat bot use are seeing meaningful gains in EX metrics.

Lest one think this only applies to millennials or Generation Z; older cohorts also often prefer chat bots. Clear transcripts of conversations, instant answers on routine queries about pay, leave, or policy, and cross-device availability make bots extremely useful, and for 64 percent of workers of all ages, the issue is not the AI but rather transparency around the presence of AI, notes CMS Wire. In other words, workers do not mind talking with bots as long as they know they will be talking with bots.

Firms moving to more chat bot use are seeing meaningful gains in EX metrics.
Plus, since smart bots can learn from employees how to better phrase answers or redirect queries, their effectiveness improves over time. Not only does this help under-staffed HR functions offer higher levels of service, but it also positions firms using such bots in the same company as industry leaders LinkedIn, Airbnb, and Deloitte.

Real-Time People Analytics
A final tool HR teams can expect to see helping them deliver on their EX goals by 2020 are better real-time people analytics systems. Linked together with employee portals and chat bots, these systems comb through activity data to quickly red-flag issues and deliver actionable trend reports.

One area where this can make a big difference for Canadian firms is in the compliance space. Violations or missed targets can be harder to spot where portals and chat bots are absent, or HR teams may face weeks of delay when dealing with manual reports from the field. Real-time people analytics can assist with tracking everything from timesheet issues and payroll errors all the way up to hiring biases and diversity initiative implementation.

In fact, according to AI provider Saketa and Coleman Parkes Research, real-time analytics can even help organizations uncover systemic biases playing out in ongoing meetings and team conversations. When conversational analysis bots are added to conference calls and team chats, they can pinpoint phrases and habits that may no longer be wanted in the company culture so that HR teams can quickly coach and redirect employees toward more inclusive behaviors.

Enabling Tomorrow’s Success Today
While all of these tools have the potential to be major game-changers for EX and the HR function, there is one critical thing that must be done now to reap the benefits. It is simple, but not easy. Companies have to have reliable, functional analytics and data systems already in place.

Why the need for basic systems, even with such innovative tech on the near horizon? Even the smartest chat bots and AI systems come out of the box completely ignorant about their new home organization. To serve employees … and HR … the machines and data systems need to be taught exactly what to do and where to find the answers they need in milliseconds.

According to MIT Sloan, some 85 percent of CEOs believe that AI, bots and similar tools will give their companies a competitive edge in the near future. Yet only 20 percent have the systems in place to support the effective use of such tools.

Knowing what the best-in-class tools will be in 2020, there is no time like the present to upgrade existing systems and lay the groundwork for a leap to the cutting edge in the next 12 months.