In December, we were hosted at IBM’s futuristic APAC HQ and client service centre in Singapore, where ‘Taking the Pulse of the Organisation – Employee Experience & Engagement’ was the hot topic at one of our HR leader roundtable discussions.

We were joined by over 20 friends from the HR and Talent Management Community. Neha Pareek, Talent Leader APAC at IBM and Makarand Tare, Chief Talent Officer at McCann Worldgroup were our key presenters. They both shared insights and cases to stimulate a lively discussion amongst their peer group.

Our session reiterated the importance that today’s organisations need to attract, retain and develop top-performing talent, create engaging social and collaborative cultures, and connect the right people to get work done. Both HR and business leaders need to make employee experience and engagement a top priority, especially in this digital era where employees have multiple platforms to exchange their views and opinions.

Employee experience and engagement is the new competitive battleground

The workplace needs a transformational approach at all levels for any organisation to succeed. We are now at the threshold of the cognitive era. This era is characterised by machines that can learn, reason and interact with humans naturally. The boundaries between people and technology are getting blurred. But will machine learning & AI diminish the role of the human workforce? While the answer to that is multi-dimensional, it is important to highlight most are looking at machine learning and AI from the wrong angle. Rather than waning the role of people, in the cognitive era, the human workforce will be at the forefront of working with and realising the benefits from new technologies to achieve more than was ever possible before. In fact, the cognitive era is just as much the human era, too. It is now, more than ever that we need to attract and retain the workforce that would enable the competitive edge. And therefore, providing positive employee experiences is incumbent on all organisations – traditional and new age.

Clarity, direction, authenticity

Business leaders and HR play a significant role in setting the overall tenor and direction of an organisation, effectually laying the foundation of a more positive employee experience. This starts with a high level of clarity around future direction and why employees matter in successfully achieving the organisational goals. While leadership inducts momentum towards a positive employee experience, it is through human workplace practices that this momentum is carried forward. Workplace practices that acknowledge the unique human qualities of the workplace at all levels are largely the ones that are the flag bearers of the positive employee experiences. Ultimately, a positive employee experience is associated with improved employee outcomes such as better job performance, increased discretionary effort, and higher retention.

Take the first step to create a world-class employee experience

Organisations seeking to enhance their employee experience and engagement can begin by espousing the employee perspective as an important starting point. This can be measured using data and analytics to identify needs and its impact on business outcomes. Recognising the key milestones in the employee journey can further refine insights into areas where experience/engagement may be lacking and what actions can be most effective. Many progressive organisations have moved past the traditional annual employee engagement survey, and are using cost effective software, applications such as ‘Officevibe’ and ‘Rebuscloud’. Some larger organisations have invested in tailor-made Chatbots, to provide instantaneous employee feedback.

While it is a good first step to have implemented tools to measure employee experience and engagement, everyone agreed it is the actions and communication generated from the feedback that really defines your organisational values and dictates the true experience employees have.