Improving The “Human Experience” – The Ultimate Frontier For HR 0

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This article is a part of the All Things Talent Magazine (July 2018 Edition) – An Initiative By iimjobs.com | hirist.com

Life outside work is way bigger than life at work and that fuller, larger real life and its happenings have gigantic implications at work. I believe the real and ultimate frontier of any organization and their HR function is improving the human experience (HX), not just employee experience (EX) and they can achieve this by “putting people first”.

A single mother who works three shifts, to make ends meet and support her family. A man who has to commute four to six hours a day to go to work. A young, recent grad that’s buried in student loans and credit card debt, living with the parents with no savings, and worried about whether she will ever find a good paying job. A sixty-year-old man who’s been forced to retire after working for 40 years of his life and doesn’t know what to do now. An immigrant worker who left his family behind in a ravaged country to financially help them from far away. A man whose insurance isn’t covering a sick child or spouse.

“If any organization wants to ensure that their people are actually performing at their best, unleashing their creative potential and giving their full 100% at work, they will have to look beyond the life of their employees at work and understand what that life is about, with its successes and failures, its ups & downs and more importantly, with its struggles and challenges.”

A woman who was sexually harassed. A gay man who was discriminated against. Some co-workers have had better opportunities than others to progress in life. But a lot are struggling with challenges and stories like the ones above. Stories those are very often invisible to everyone at work, except them.

At work, we ask everybody to bring their “full self to work” and give their “100%”, but very often most of us don’t have any idea about the myriad stories of lives behind the scenes. We end up missing people’s larger life picture and their day to day reality beyond work.

For them, the concept of “employee experience” is interesting, but somewhat ethereal. They want to be happy at work, they want to deliver their best performance, they want to give their 100% while having the best experience at work, but they can’t let their other selves, their full (and real) selves on the side. They are one. They are real people, real humans dealing with several real challenges outside work that affect their life at work.

From Employee Experience To Human Experience

Over the past few months, I’ve been talking about the important responsibility of Human Resources (HR) in creating and delivering the best Employee Experience (EX). I’ve called this idea-“putting people first”. People before processes, systems, policies and technologies.

But I must confess that I’ve made a huge mistake: in talking about “putting people first”, I didn’t consider that life outside work is way bigger than life at work. And that fuller, larger real life and its happenings have gigantic implications at work.

However, I believe that the real and ultimate frontier of any organization and their HR function is improving the human experience (HX), not just employee experience (EX), of the people who happen to work at their companies for the time being.

Some might say that this is not HR’s responsibility, let alone a company’s one. They could argue that the personal and professional lives of their employees are two separate instances and that the company is only responsible for life at work (or a little piece of it).

But if any organization wants to ensure that their people are actually performing at their best, unleashing their creative potential and giving their full 100% at work, they will have to look beyond the life of their employees at work and understand what that life is about, with its successes and failures, its ups and downs, and, more importantly, with its struggles and challenges. From there, the organization and its HR could think what they can do about that life outside work to make it better, more pleasant and enjoyable.

This next frontier, improving the human experience, isn’t just about HR. It is about the entirety of the organization and its leaders. HR has a unique opportunity to become a beacon of hope, change and transformation. It can take the organization to a level where only a few ones have ever been before.

It can transform a company from one that is only concerned with what happens to their people inside the company’s walls, to one that is truly interested in their lives as a whole. In doing so, not only could HR transform the organization and become more socially responsible with their people, but HR itself could become a real “human” role.

HR has a unique opportunity to become a beacon of hope, change and transformation. It can take an organization to a level where only a few ones have ever been before. It can transform a company from one that is only concerned with what happens to their people inside the company’s walls, to one that is truly interested in their lives as a whole.

How can HR improve the human experience?

These are some of the things that HR can do to evolve and improve HX:

Practising empathy:

As a uniquely human characteristic, a little empathy can go a long way. If HR is only focused on making people comply with rules and policies, it is missing the point of why those people come to HR in the first place. Practising genuine empathy is powerful. It opens the road to compassion and understanding. When HR really understands what their people are struggling with, they won’t need heavy and intricate policies and rules anymore. Instead, they will be able to craft solutions that are unique to that person’s story and life situation.

HR has a unique opportunity to become a beacon of hope, change and transformation. It can take an organization to a level where only a few ones have ever been before. It can transform a company from one that is only concerned with what happens to their people inside the company’s walls, to one that is truly interested in their lives as a whole. Becoming a listener:

To practice empathy is good as well as necessary. And to make it happen, HR must become a powerful listener.

For real, nobody wants to come to HR to receive an X or Y policy document. People want to be heard and express themselves and find someone who understands the frustrations and challenges in their life that affect their work. I am not saying that just talking about these things will solve any of those challenges. But knowing that you have someone you can talk to about these struggles; someone who is there to attentively listen to you without thinking in HR jargon is important, to feel validated and heard.

Transforming “total rewards” in “personalized rewards”:

Ditching the old concept of “total rewards” and evolving to a fully personalized approach can be more significant for that young recent grad who would rather see his debt go down than a retirement plan that would yield a benefit in 50 years down the road. Or for the guy who commutes four hours a day to go to work, working from home is more powerful than a blue jean Friday.

These are small things. But in general, HR has created compensation, perks and benefits approach following a simple, but very wrong philosophy: that all their people are motivated by the same things and need to be compensated and rewarded in the same way. Today, this is one of the most absurd realities of the workplace.

Once HR gets to really understand their people’s stories, they will be able to craft a reward approach that truly speaks to each of them individually, instead of putting all of them in the same bucket. Technology allows HR to do that. All it requires is thinking out of the box, letting go of the obsolete concept of total rewards and truly making a difference.

At work, we ask everybody to bring their “full self to work” and give there “100%”, but very often most of us don’t have any idea about the myriad stories of lives be- hind the scenes. We end up missing people’s larger life picture and their day to day reality beyond work

Reskilling the workforce:

Anxiety is in crescendo these days. Technology seems to be offering a lot of opportunities for people and organizations, with a lot of head- aches to those who feel they will be left behind. Reskilling the workforce and making sure they understand the implications of the technological transformation we are living in is a powerful way to help them remain relevant. To do that, HR needs to work on changing the competency models.

Making it easier:

There are people who don’t like to work. But they are just a few. The overwhelming majority of all the people I’ve known in my life love working. They especially love doing some- thing valuable and meaningful.

Of course, they hate when their jobs turn into the same boring, routine chore to be performed day in and day out. They hate having to come to work with toxic cultures. They hate being treated disrespectfully when they do the right thing while seeing others climb the corporate ladder just by playing politics.

And, if on top of that, we put the hours that people have to spend commuting, the number of shifts they have to work every day to make ends meet, the preoccupations of their lives, it is evident that “work” becomes a miserable experience.

Why, though? Why would we make a transformative, energizing, creative, potentially enjoyable and transcendental experience such as working in meaningful things a miserable one? Let’s make things easier. Let’s transform our workplaces into places where people truly find meaning in life.

Only when the organization and HR can think more comprehensively about the human lives each company touches, will they be able to deliver the kind of value that nobody has ever seen before, yet everyone longs for.

“Once HR gets to really understand their people’s stories, they will be able to craft a reward approach that truly speaks to each of them individually, instead of putting all of them in the same bucket. Technology allows HR to do that. Letting go of the obsolete concept of total rewards and truly making a difference.”

This isn’t easy. This hasn’t been done in the past in too many instances. Companies have been mainly focused on making profits for their shareholders while neglecting the lives of those who spend 8-12 hours working for them. But times are changing. And while I understand that organizations are more important than any single individual, in the long run, the life of every single employee matters today and always.

Improving the Human Experience means having a progressive and pioneer HR. This is the kind of HR that people would die to have, and not the one they would dread talking to.

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Enrique is an HR and Tech Evangelist and founder of Hacking HR Forum. Prior to coming to the US from Venezuela as a Fulbright Scholar, Enrique was the CEO at Management Consultants, a firmed specialized in Human Resources and Corporate Social Responsibility in Venezuela. Before Management Consultants, Enrique worked in the telecommunications sector as a Senior Project Engineer for Telefonica. He currently works as an advisor for the CHRO at the Inter-American Development Bank. He is also the cofounder of Cotopaxi, an artificial intelligence based recruitment platform focused on Latin America and the Caribbean. Enrique is a guest author in several blogs about innovation, management and human resources.

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