Has HR Finally Found A New Name?

Michael Dean
Has HR Finally Found A New Name?

Is anyone really happy with the name Human Resources? Or do we just stick with it because working in HR we struggle to call ourselves anything else while keeping a straight face? I mean, becoming a “Chief Happiness Officer” makes me think of a clown, rather than someone dedicated to helping people do their best at work.

But still, human resources sits uncomfortably, and even Google’s famed “People Operations” seems rather cold, and the wording a little clumsy. The idea of a resources being something you need to put into a process to extract value from, like other things you’d put on a factory production line, is at odds with the modern knowledge economy and the functions many HR teams perform today.

Enter, the Chief Employee Experience Officer – leader of the Employee Experience team. Or at least, this is the suggestion from new research by Deloitte, and a key take-away from Josh Bersin’s talk at HR Tech World, earlier this week in London.

The idea takes the principles of design thinking and applies them to cast HR in a new role. This goes beyond creating processes and programmes, and provides the mandate to ask “what does a great employee experience look like from end to end?”

“Just as successful companies continually ask how to improve customer experiences and how those experiences compare to their competitors’, HR can approach employee experiences with the same rigor.”

Being responsible for an end to end experience first means contributing to the design of fulfilling job roles, constantly evaluating recruitment flows, and using feedback from new employees to improve onboarding.

There is, of course, a lot of technology involved here – for example, how easy is it to apply for a job on your website – but given how employees interact with some form of technology at almost every minute of the day, that’s exactly what this approach promotes across the board.

Are people so overburdened with emails that they can’t get anything done? That’s a poor experience. Must employees use an infuriatingly outdated SAP setup to request PTO? That’s another poor experience. The employee experience team would be responsible for developing “user journeys” – a set of tasks an employee would want to accomplish using the company’s IT services – and then working with IT to ensure these can be done efficiently and stress free.

There are also implications for HR’s own tech – moving away from generalised training processes towards tools that help employees take a self-directed approach to learning, based on the context of their work and their individual ambitions.

Putting the employee experience first also hammers another nail into the coffin of annual performance reviews and surveys. If someone’s got something to say – be it praise or to voice a problem – feedback mechanisms need to be in place to enable employees to share their thoughts now, and for managers to take action. 

My eyes are prone to rolling at the first site of a new gimmick, but what we have here is not a hollow repackaging. The challenges of improving employee engagement, talent retention, and productivity cannot be met in silos – which is exactly why it’s such an exciting time to be in HR. Adopting the Employee Experience model and name could better fit the emboldened role HR needs to play its part.



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