Building a Better Employee Experience

The pandemic and Great Resignation have made employee experience a business imperative for companies everywhere. Pete Schlampp discusses how we’re striving to better meet employees’ evolving needs, including using data and technology to personalize experiences and ensure people feel supported in moments that matter.

2022 is upon us, and with the new year we’re optimistically looking ahead at how we can continue leading through change to better support our people. Our employees have always been a top priority at Workday, and keeping them happy, productive, and engaged has long been our goal. And now, we’re seeing employee experience emerge as an even greater business imperative due to the pandemic  and the Great Resignation. As people face mounting pressures at work and home, are companies thinking about their employees’ experiences in the right way?

According to this month's U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November. To add another layer of complexity, job growth has come roaring back, so organizations not only need to focus on keeping the workers they have, but attracting the employees they want. 

While this presents a significant challenge, it also provides an opportunity for businesses to reimagine their people strategies. People want to be heard, and they want a simpler, more personalized experience. They also want to learn and grow. Employers need to listen, take cues from their employees, and uncover insights that will help them build the right programs to accommodate these needs. And more often than not, technology is needed to drive a meaningful employee experience.

We believe that businesses thrive when employee voices are heard and employers respond.

But what does employee experience really mean? It loosely translates to how people feel about their employer based on all the interactions they’ve had and what they’ve observed. It could include how they connect with their manager and colleagues, the support they get during critical moments, the growth opportunities they have, and the access to tools and technology that help them perform at their best. 

The Workday Approach: People at the Center

Our vision is to deliver an employee experience that meets the evolving needs of each individual with a personalized approach. Using technology, we can better understand the distinct needs, preferences, and goals of each person, then apply machine learning and data-driven insights to optimize experiences in a way that will help people grow, be more productive, and feel more supported in moments that matter. 

We aren’t the only ones that see this tailored approach as key to the future of work. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends research, 68% of executives agreed that workforce strategies will be more customized in the future to individual needs. 

From the beginning, Workday has built software with people at the center, with the employee experience as a top priority. Employees are also our number one core value and foundational to our success. While we’ve made great strides in this area, we continue to evolve the applications we offer to customers and use internally, as well as our own people strategies, to adapt to an ever-changing climate. 

One thing is certain: What a positive employee experience entails, and how  employers communicate and interact with their people, has drastically changed due to the events of the past two years. 

An Evolving Experience

Years ago, employee experience was based on what employers believed would make their employees happier and more productive, including open concept offices, perks such as free lunch and snack programs, and gaming areas. 

But with the global pandemic, proliferation of intelligent technologies, and hybrid work models have come greater expectations from the workforce. This requires a shift to more meaningful two-way communications, where employers are listening to and taking guidance from each employee on what they want and need, then applying technology to create more connected experiences that help them to be more engaged and productive.

To bring this to life, we are pursuing a three-pronged strategy focused on the following: 

  • Voice of the employee. We believe that businesses thrive when employee voices are heard and employers respond. That’s why, when we realized that we shared this common vision with Peakon last year, we were excited to welcome them into the Workday fold to help us improve the two-way dialogue between employees and employers about the issues most important to people. For Workday—and many of our customers—Workday Peakon Employee Voice surveys enable us to keep a pulse on our employees’ experience, health and wellbeing, and sense of belonging, so we can factor in their concerns and feedback, more deeply analyze their sentiment, and take meaningful action in response. 

    For example, we introduced “Thank You Fridays”—company-wide holidays—during our remote work phase of the pandemic, as a result of our employees telling us they need a break to recharge and focus on their wellbeing.

    We also recently announced a new product—Workday Scheduling and Labor Optimization—to support how employees want to work, taking into account their scheduling needs and preferences while empowering the business with insights needed to effectively staff. With these innovations, we’re elevating the voice of the employee by listening to and supporting their unique needs. 

  • Employee engagement and development. Engaged employees are more likely to be happy, productive employees. When we apply advanced analytics and machine learning to Workday Human Capital Management (HCM) data, we can surface the kind of insights that enable us and our customers to create effective employee programs and objectives that help improve engagement. 

    For example, we’ve heavily invested in our Skills Cloud technology, which—as part of our Workday Talent Marketplace offering—identifies skills gaps, and then provides relevant development recommendations by matching people to opportunities and suggested learning that are a fit based on their role, preferences, and career interests. Skills not only help us to stay agile and deliver on our business strategy, but enable us to promote employee growth and development so we can engage and retain our best people.

  • User experience and experience design. The tools and technology we use every day to get our jobs done speaks volumes about the investments a company makes in us, or lack thereof. That's what makes the application design (the UX) an integral part of the overall experience equation, and it’s why we’ve hired our first Chief Design Officer, Jeff Gelfuso. We are more committed than ever to creating an incredible digital experience for every Workday user, and are focused on improving the discoverability and usability of key Workday tasks such as time off and expense reporting. 

    We also know the best design keeps employees productive, and we want to meet people where they are, regardless of where they are working. Our recently announced Workday Everywhere is a great example of how we do this by infusing Workday into other digital environments (think Slack or Microsoft Teams) to make work simpler and more connected for everyone. 

Driving Experiences with Unified Data for Faster Response

An effective employee experience requires much more than a portal, or an attractive user experience layer that makes various cobbled-together technologies look cohesive and connected (when they’re really not). Personalization requires a strong data foundation, and having all your people data securely in one place, where it can be combined with third-party data and then analyzed, enables us and our customers to pinpoint issues, then quickly create and execute strategies for a targeted audience to help remedy the problem.

The tools and technology we use every day to get our jobs done speaks volumes about the investments a company makes in us, or lack thereof.

For example, with Workday Journeys, insights can be turned into actions using machine learning to match data with recommendations for a specific employee; this ensures that the right experience is delivered to the right person, at the right moment. With this approach, we are looking at employee experience from every angle, taking into account the whole person when shaping their experience. Even within the Workday customer community, which includes more than 55 million workers, I think it’s safe to say that no two experiences are exactly the same. 

Let’s look at it this way: an employee could be an individual contributor moving into a people manager role, preparing to remotely manage a diverse, global team, while also serving as a caretaker for an elderly parent at home. How these nuances are handled separates an average experience from a great experience, and that’s why investment in a tailored experience matters. 

We are currently facing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape our businesses. All this disruption is driving positive change around how we work and lead, and never has there been such an important time to connect with and take cues from our people. I’m confident that leading with empathy, listening to employees, and providing learning and growth opportunities—with help from the right technologies—are the right things to do to support our employees and keep them engaged, for the better of the business.

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