#Nextchat: Combining Anthropology and Technology for a Better Employee Experience



Do you get the “Sunday night blues,” or do you work for an organization that offers such a great experience that you can’t wait to show up to work each day?

Employee experience is the latest trend to hit the world of work, and it’s not the same as employee engagement. You can engage an employee with a perk, but it probably won’t last. Employee experience, however, is about how you design your workplace so that the tools and technology meet employees' needs. It’s also about creating an organizational energy that will motivate and empower workers. 

In The Wall Street Journal online article, Show Don’t Tell: Use Personalized HR Technologies to Increase Employee Engagement, Martha Bird, business anthropologist at ADP, said that “engagement or being ‘consistently energized,’ as she prefers to say, comes from feeling respect, connectedness and being cared for as a result of having shared values with a company.”

Employers are now developing HR technologies “that predict employees’ needs and create a personalized experience for each person. The employees interact with these systems for payroll, benefits and their performance, which empower employees while increasing interaction, collaboration and visibility.”

After implementing this technology, HR has an important role in ensuring that a personalized experience is created for each employee. “Getting technology to be assistive, not simply automated, so that it anticipates users’ needs at the right time and in the right place while alleviating some of our mental load will increasingly be a feature of building digital tools and experiences that support genuine engagement,” said Bird. “By carefully considering both your organization’s and your employees’ needs, you can thoughtfully integrate technologies that will help your employees leave work each day feeling like they made a difference.”

Bird’s work at ADP includes designing technologies such as conversational user interfaces and chatbots. It involves thinking about the connection between technology and people—about the cultural aspects of human-machine relationships.

How can employers do this? In an interview with Computerworld, Bird said that employers can better understand employees by "deeply hanging out"—or the idea of respectful active listening. It’s about trying to understand employees’ expectations in life generally and how these relate to their work life. "What would we want, how would we use this, how would I want to be treated?" A lot can come from that, but it’s essentially trying to understand what's relevant to others. Bird said it’s also about “stepping back and listening with respect. I call it ‘active listening.’ "

How are you designing a better employee experience?

Please join @shrmnextchat at 3 p.m. ET on September 20 for #Nextchat with special guest Martha Bird (@anthro_tweeter). We’ll chat about how organizations can create better employee experiences for increased engagement.


Q1. Why is employee experience more important that employee engagement in today’s workplace?

Q2. How do you build a more personalized employee experience for a diverse workforce when employees’ preferences may vary so widely?

Q3. Active listening is critical to improving employee experience, but few know how to do it. How can managers develop this critical skill?

Q4. What are some ways managers and HR can engage in “deeply hanging out” to better understand employees?

Q5. All the customized and assistive technology in the world won’t help the employee experience if an employee has a bad boss. How can people managers provide the best employee experience?

Q6. What are the most important considerations for employers when building digital tools and experiences that support employees’ needs?

Q7. HR, how have you been working to create a personalized experience for each employee at your organization through technology or in-person experiences?

Q8. What can HR learn from anthropology and how can they apply that knowledge to build a better workplace?   

If you missed this #Nextchat you can read all the tweets here






The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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