The mismatch between employees’ experience in the workplace and outside of it can contribute to a higher level of disengagement and unhappiness. Photo: File
DURBAN - The mismatch between employees’ experience in the workplace and outside of it can contribute to a higher level of disengagement and unhappiness. 

A recent Gartner survey indicated that only 29 percent of employees feel their human resource (HR) department really understands their needs.

Deon Smit, Western Cape Chairperson of the South African Reward Association (SARA), agrees and sais that HR departments are not “tapping into the full customer experience” in the workplace.

Employees are used to getting fast, instant responses as consumers or customers, but in the workplace, they are confronted with many policies that are obstacles and manual processes that impact the employee experience.

The customer-centric HR department

"It comes back to having a customer-centric HR department. Employees are our clients and we have to facilitate the customer experience," said  Smit. 

According  to him, employees want to work in an environment where they feel wanted, valued and where they can “buy into” the purpose of the company.

Three key elements which impact an employee’s experience in the workplace are the culture of the company, the employee value proposition and overall employee engagement levels.

Smit said that in many instances companies do what they think their employees want, instead of taking a step back to listen to what it is that they need.

That is why focus groups, engagement surveys and social media analytics help one to understand that employee sentiment are about a wide range of topics, including the economy, politics and their own sense of security in the workplace.

Well-designed reward structures and impact on employee experience

Smit says reward structures are more than simply the salary package of an employee and will have a significant impact on the employee experience.

Well-designed reward structures:

1. Are open and transparent about the process the company follows to design the remuneration policy;
2. Have built-in flexibility which allows employees to structure benefits to fit their life-stage-needs or their unique situation;
3. Do not stagnate – they are reviewed and improved on regularly; and
4. They use technology through which employees can access information and better understand their remuneration package and benefits structure.

What should we be focusing on?

HR departments need to focus on using new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning - having bots answer questions for employees around remuneration and benefits that are available in an instant and at any time an employee wants to access the information.

This will not only improve the employee experience but increase the capacity of HR departments.

Smit says employees’ experience is impacted by five key factors:

1. The feeling that the employee’s work is meaningful, and that they are making a contribution to the organisation’s objectives;
2. They have the support of management;
3. The work environment or culture is a positive one;
4. They have growth opportunities; and
5. They can trust their leadership teams.