Multi-channel experience in HR delivery

Over the last 10 years HR has increasingly shifted from a single individual point of contact to a multiple-channel model. First shared-service centres aimed to centralize routine contacts across the firm (or region / language areas). Secondly HR self-service has been introduced to move many of these queries online. The impetus for both, for many if not most firms, was a drive towards cost reduction. Just as in retail, or banking, adding channels has mainly served to provide additional options and expected savings have rarely been realized.

As the driver behind these changes was cost-effectiveness, rarely has the experience of the employees been a key design criteria. That is not to say that employees have not benefited from the changes, but in many of those instances the improvements have been accidental, or because the new channels give opportunities to side-step old, ineffective processes.  Rarely was why employees should want to switch channels considered,  apart from because ‘the old way will no longer be possible’.

Employees are increasingly expecting multi-channel approaches as the norm. As consumers they are increasingly dealing with firms in a multi-channel way and see benefits in doing so.  They fail to understand why these new ways of working can’t be used in HR interactions. Employees coming from other firms often have seen elements of internal delivery working well and expect that as the foundation level.

The reputation of HR in any organization in inherently interlinked with the experience it provides employees. Poor experiences lead to an impression of non-caring and/or incompetence. A poor reputation typically results in lower HR budgets, less involvement in strategic issues and an increasingly marginalised function.

Designing employee-centric processes, with experience as a key driver, not only improves HR reputation but it can reduce employee frustrations, enable them to focus on their roles, increase engagement and ensure that requests can be moved to more efficient and cost-effective channels.

These processes need to be considered together rather than the typical channel-specific manner. If the employee can’t easily find their answer online they will shift their question to other channels. If HR can’t easily match their needs they will look at ways that HR doesn’t control to getting resolution – to fellow colleagues. Doing so reinforces that HR is unnecessary (whilst often meaning that employees receive incomplete or inaccurate responses).

Pointers to delivering class-leading multi-channel employee experiences

  • HR needs to define a clear strategy of how it wants employees to experience the firm and their interactions with HR. These strategies should be based on a segmented approach using lifetime employee value as the key. Linking segments to consumer types could increase effectiveness through an implicit recognition of their preferences as consumers
  • Employee experiences need to be mapped across channels. Effective channel utilization insight often comes from these experience mapping exercises. It is worth considering how new channels such as mobile could be integrated. Increasingly employees will expect transactions through these channels and it’s worth considering how they can be used.  Looking at the best consumer utilization can provide innovation
  • When designing individual channels an iterative cycle of prototype-test-refine reduces the likelihood of needing to do fixes shortly after implementation. When purchasing systems, either to be installed internally or used as a service, including experience and usability testing significantly reduces the likelihood that it meets experience targets. At all times the overall employee-focus needs to be maintained. Process frustrations will switch behaviors to other channels
  • Measurement and targets need to be cross-channel and include experience-related measures. The measures need include segment-based lifetime employee value, retention, channel usage, cost-to-serve and the perceived effectiveness. Processes need to be designed at the onset to capture the needed metrics.  A well designed complaints process needs to be developed, both as a way of addressing negative perceptions but also as a way of identifying weak spots.