Agility and employee experience are two of the most debated subjects in HR community. Both agility and employee experience are integral to business sustainability and employee engagement. While agile HR practices enable organizations and employees respond promptly to changing business and workplace dynamics, employee experience can be instrumental in winning the talent war.
So, the comparison between agility and employee experience from HR perspective seems inapt. In fact, HR can make agility and employee experience work in tandem to achieve desired workplace results. Let’s delve deeper into this discussion.
Defining Agility and Employee Experience
Agility is an ability of an organization to respond to an internal or external change faster without allowing its impact hinder business operations, employee productivity or customer satisfaction. Aaron De Smet, Senior Partner (Houston), Mckinsey & Company defines agility as the ability of an organization to renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment.
Employee experience, a concept borrowed from customer experience, is a set of perceptions that employees hold with regards to their workplace experiences. It is the way how employees view their engagement and happiness from their perspective during their work lifecycle. In his book ‘The Employee Experience Advantage: How to Win the War for Talent by Giving Employees the Workspaces they Want, the Tools they Need, and a Culture they Can Celebrate’ based on the survey of more than 250 global organizations, the best-selling author Jacob Morgan highlights that employee experience is a combination of three factors – culture, technology and physical workplace.
Importance of Agility and Employee Experience
In the wake of rapid technological advancements and expanding the digital footprint, agile operations are more of a dire necessity than preference. In today’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) business scenario, it is crucial for organizations to stay prepared for responses – there is no scope for reactions!
According to the PwC report, ‘Indian Workplace of 2022 Are Organisations Ready for the Future?’, megatrends such as demographic shifts, rapid urbanization, economic power shifting and technological breakthroughs are radically reshaping the workplaces. Distinct ideologies, competitive approaches and employee value propositions are driving organizations to become more agile. The speed with which it is able to adapt to the change eventually decides the success of organizations.
An increasing number of organizations are redesigning their workplaces to offer humanized experiences to their employees. Employee experience has become a key to build employer brand, attract and retain top talent as well as foster engaging culture. Today, employees are not loyal to any organization. They move to greener pastures as soon as they find a new work opportunity. While a better compensation package still remains the primary motivation to change jobs, the new age workers (especially, millennials and Gen Z) are also hunting for superior workplace experiences because workplace enjoyment is one of the key criteria for them to render their services to the organization.
Hence, organizations are offering health and wellness programs, flexible work hours, self-service tools, tech-savvy, smart and fun office spaces, creative freedom, collaboration tools, learning apps, social recognition, paid vacations, etc. Some of them are even deploying technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and robotics to offer personalized work environment to employees. For instance, the smart parking system of KPIT Technologies allots an automated parking slot as soon as an employee drives in. When they leave, it gives phone notifications on time they will take to reach home. PeopleStrong has launched a chatbot called Jenie which works like a personal work-life assistant for employees.
What is More Important for HR - Agility or Employee Experience?
Traditionally, HR has been associated with rigidity. But, with digital transformations and employee workplace expectations undergoing a rapid change, top management expects HR to implement agile work culture in the organization. When HR embraces agile practices, it can pave the way for flexible people processes; promote creativity and innovation; and eventually create an atmosphere of trust in the organization. If HR is agile, it can re-skill and re-align their workforce to accommodate the changing business requirements and talent trends.
Similarly, employee experience is an aspect that HR can’t overlook anymore. It is being considered the future of work and even the Indian organizations agree. According to a joint study by Forrester Consulting and Dell, about 43 per cent of business and IT leaders in India (higher than the average 38 per cent for Asia-Pacific and Japan) consider employee experience as a critical aspect of achieving their business objectives.
Employee experience enables organizations to give their best outputs at work. Also, delightful employee experience has a far-reaching positive influence on the employer brand reputation in the job market and employee loyalty.
Kshitij, Vice President Human Capital of Optum Global Solutions says, “In response to the digital transformation wave, the Human Capital function has to strive to maintain a fine equilibrium between talent and digitization to sail in the ever-evolving agile world. HR will need to play a critical role by looking at optimizing workflows, automating processes and spending less time on compliance issues, thus, investing in the tools to help HR become more agile, setting the necessary groundwork for offering great employee experiences. Technology platforms such as Big Data, AI, NLP, Robotics, IoT, need such employees, who understand the culture, strategy and vision of the organization to enable organizations to elevate their array of offerings. Therefore, to say that one is more important than the other would be unfair!”
Optum Global Solutions is already merging agility and employee experience to deliver optimal business and human capital outputs. Kshitij further says, "The first step is assessing the organization’s readiness to adopt a new set of principles and behaviors to support the agile environment. Re-skilling and upskilling of existing employees are critical to the ongoing digital transformation. HR teams have to be highly responsive to this change and prepare the organization to make the shift from old to new skill-sets, in an agile manner. Collaboration and relationships would be the key to getting closer to this goal. Optum is in that journey of reshaping itself using the Human Capital Transformation design methodology to bring its teams together so that the function itself becomes a primary driver of agility. Integrity, Collaboration, Relationship, Innovation and Performance – the organizational values are instrumental in enabling Human Capital to embark on this journey, leading to a new kind of organization-one designed around highly nimble and responsive talent.”
In order to be future-ready, HR needs to elevate its game on both agility and employee experience fronts. Employees expect the best of both worlds. So it is critical for an organization to commit to undertake an agile transformation initiative along with positive employee experience across businesses, transcending beyond geographies.