Talent Matters: The Employee Experience
I don't mean to alarm you, but it's the end of HR as we know it. You'll remember the old cliches "People are our most important asset" and "HR should have a seat at the table." Well, we looked into it, and sorry, but no they aren't and no it shouldn't. It's time to rethink the cliches. HR is dead and the era of employee experience is upon us. A colleague of mine plays rope-a-dope with conference audiences using that "people as an asset" bit. The game involves picking the odd one out from a bunch of balance sheet items and an organisation's staff. The punchline goes that while the balance sheet items are assets, the people are something different --they are investors. That would mean some sort of investor relations role for HR, then, which we'll come back to.
First though, we should recognise that organisational terminology around people has become unfit for purpose. People as an asset; to be bought and sold. Human capital; another way of saying people are assets. Human resources; passive, unthinking, unfeeling things to be utilised and exploited.
The language around HR just doesn't feel right for the contemporary world of work. As relationships between employees and employers have changed, the semantics have fallen out of sync. This has happened before, just ask Dirty Harry what he thinks of "personnel".
One thing that defines the contemporary world of work above all others is flexibility. Flexibility to work different hours, in different places, at different times, with different organisations, and above all the flexibility to choose. Freedom to frequently change the terms of employment, and to change employer, puts employees in the role of customers. So, the organisational approach to people shifts from the management of resources to the cultivation of satisfied customers.
Before we get too far into employee experience though, let's finish off HR once and for all. The seat at the table request has been going out of style over the last few years, thankfully. Nothing diminished the people function more than its leaders tapping on the window of "the business" pleading to be allowed in. While some mourned the humble status of the function, knowing all the while how important people were to business success, the smart leaders were busy showing impact.
Willis Towers Watson investigated the link between superior employee experiences and predictable financial performance. They found that a...