In each case, technology is necessary to support the talent strategy, giving IT leaders an essential role in helping shape the business environment. We call this collection of workplace attributes "the workforce experience," and it's built on three pillars: engagement, productivity, and impact.
1. Engagement: How Invested Are Your Employees In Business Success?
A successful workforce experience engages employees, sparking productivity, which leads to positive customer outcomes. Achieving engagement requires HR departments help executives build and steward engaging environments and IT departments that provide the tools necessary to create the necessary transparency and flexibility.
[ Do your employees know how to act on social networks? Read Bulletproof Your Social Business: Train Employees. ]
Many of our clients point to the work of Daniel Pink for inspiration for creating engaged and productive workforces. Pink says the secret to high performance and engagement is: 1) the deeply human need to direct our own lives; 2) the desire to get better at something that matters; and 3) the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves -- in short, autonomy, mastery and purpose. Let's look at each of these values more closely.
-- Autonomy. Feeling comfortable taking action on behalf of the firm without having to ask permission is a sign of trust and is empowering. And giving workers this latitude inspires belief in the company's products and services. Our workforce surveys show 64% of workers who would recommend their company's products and services believe their company encourages them to find new ways to solve new problems versus only 21% of employees who would not recommend their company's products and services.
-- Mastery. People need a path that leads to personal and professional success, and that means providing them with new skills and preparing them for the next step in their careers -- not just training them on the things you need them to do today. Be careful: paths that appear clear and transparent to leaders might not be as clear to employees.
-- Purpose. There is perhaps no stronger motivator than belief in a cause and the willingness to sacrifice to help achieve the bigger goal. To tap into this sense of purpose, you need to understand whether your employees believe that the firm's leadership is taking the company in a direction that they want to go and that their work contributes in a meaningful way to success.
Forrester's workforce studies reveal that 75% of employees who would recommend their business as a place to work say they understand how their work contributes to the company's success versus just 36% of workers who would not recommend their company as a workplace.
2. Productivity: How Effectively Do You Translate Engagement Into Value?
Although having a disengaged workforce pretty much ensures that your business won't succeed, simply having engaged employees doesn't guarantee business success either. You must be able to convert the potential energy of engagement into the kinetic energy of productive work. In today's digital world, productivity is the combination of three dynamic variables:
-- Connectivity. In today's workforce, 29% of employees use at least three devices for work, use lots of apps and work from multiple locations, up from 23% a year ago. As this number increases each year, you need to reduce employees' frustration with not being able to access the company tools and resources from wherever they are whenever they need them.
--Collaboration. Employees need to easily connect to people in the organization with the knowledge necessary to solve business problems. Forrester's data shows that the increasingly mobile workforce uses email and productivity tools such as word processing and social business apps to connect to their peers, customers, and partners.
-- Content. Employees need access to all the appropriate sources of data and information in the firm on any device and in multiple locations to solve problems, make decisions and do their work efficiently. Data that is scattered among numerous internal systems and repositories must be easy to find and accessible.
3. Impact: How Readily Do Your Customers Benefit From Employee Productivity?
Customers, whether they are internal employees or external paying customers, must feel and be able to recognize the benefit of your engaged and productive employees. The temptation might be strong to focus your efforts on improving the workforce experience for people who engage with customers directly, but you need to think about how to connect all employees' work to the business mission. Firms need to ask themselves:
-- How can we improve customer engagement for all employees? Customer-facing employees -- sales reps, field support, and customer service, for example -- have the greatest potential direct impact on customer experience and satisfaction. But for those employees who don't usually engage with customers directly, the potential for positive impact on customer experience is harder to pin down. Can your back-office and other supporting employees make a direct link between their work and clients? Creating these connections often requires cultural shifts in the organization, as well as mechanisms to allow employees to contribute to customer conversations, such as ideation sessions where you solicit product feedback from workers across the organization.
-- How can our employees help accelerate processes for their customers? There are useful ideas and knowledge across any organization, which can help narrow the time to resolution for customers. Business leaders can help surface that information by reducing the barriers between individuals and information. We see vendors like Salesforce.com introducing social technologies on top of customer processes in order to allow all employees to view customer issues and provide insight for a solution.
-- How can all employees serve their customers better? Customers expect to use a broad variety of communication channels -- self-service, voice, digital and social -- to interact with your company. In the past three years, Forrester has seen an 18% rise in online Web self-service usage, a 39% increase in the use of communities for customer service, and a 43% rise in chat. Technologies that cull information from systems that aggregate information from these sources allow every employee to meet customers at those touch points and provide meaningful advice.