Businesses and organizations have had to work hard in recent years to stay relevant in a quickly changing digital landscape. They know it’s important to be on top of social media and consumer tech trends in order to keep in touch with potential customers, members, and partners.
But it wasn’t until more recently that employers started realizing the importance of these tools to connect with another important audience: their employees.
As the influence of digital tools and media continues to grow in our personal lives, the average employee — not just the younger generation — has come to expect the same streamlined digital experience at work.
That’s why employers will need to provide that same kind of user-friendly experience if they want to impress and retain the best talent.
Efforts to “consumerize” internal business functions include making the internal apps and processes used for things like onboarding, training, and evaluations easier to use, easier to access, and in some cases, even fun. Consumerization also often means leveraging software features that encourage employees to connect, share, and collaborate, just like they can on social media.
Here’s why companies and organizations that fail to get on board with consumerization of HR may find themselves lagging behind competitors in marketing, recruiting and even productivity.
“Consumerized” HR Contributes to a Strong Brand
Companies and organizations have long been aware of the importance of branding, at least as it relates to sales and growth. Savvy companies have brand manuals that specify which words, colors and images are consistent with the personality they’re trying to cultivate.
At the heart of any brand are the values that leaders have established as important. But what many organizations fail to realize is that brand consistency isn’t just for outward-facing materials. It should also apply to internal procedures and processes.
When your internal procedures aren’t consistent, your employees get the message that a company’s stated mission and values are just for show. And your employees are the chief ambassadors of your brand to the public — responsible for actually making the product and interacting with clients and customers. That’s why these contradictions can completely undermine your marketing efforts, regardless of how much you’ve paid for ad campaigns.
For example, if you’re trying to brand yourself as a modern, tech-savvy company but your internal training methods are outdated, your employees will get the real message. If you say you care about user experience but your internal systems are difficult to use, your real priorities will come through loud and clear.
Showing your employees that you’re serious about your values both internally and outwardly helps create a strong brand and an intentional culture.
Better Internal Tools Impress Recruits (and Current Employees)
Besides sending a clear and consistent message to your whole staff about your organization’s values, internal tools also play an important role in recruiting and engagement. Competition for top job candidates can be intense, and recruits will be impressed by a recruiting and hiring process that’s simple, clear, and pleasant.
There are plenty of recruiting software tools that specialize in consumerizing the hiring process. These programs put a company’s best foot forward, from the “careers” page to the online application forms to the official job offer. (These tools also “consumerize” the back end of the hiring process, making it much easier for your HR team to manage applicants and compare candidates.)
Companies can continue to use these types of innovative tools to impress new hires throughout the onboarding and orientation process, as well.
The benefits of user-friendly tools and a consumer-like experience don’t have to stop there, though. Committing to consumer-like tools to manage internal operations and HR functions can improve engagement for existing employees, too.
Today’s employees are increasingly expecting their workplace to be an “experience,” writes Jeanne Meister in Forbes. Some companies are now referring their heads of HR as heads of “employee experience,” and having their HR departments collaborate more directly with their colleagues in marketing and real estate so they can fine-tune all the details of that experience.
Part of optimizing the employee experience is making sure that tasks like benefits enrollment and mandatory training don’t distract from employees’ core work or add to the frustration of their workday.
Better Tools Are More Effective
Most of your HR efforts have the potential for huge returns on investment, whether you’re trying to encourage healthier lifestyles that will reduce health costs or ensure that employees understand what constitutes unacceptable (and liability-inviting) behavior.
By giving HR pros the tools they need to execute these efforts most effectively, you’re increasing the odds that they’ll succeed. If you’re wondering exactly how you can make your HR and other internal processes easier or more fun to use, here are a few general rules:
Make it Mobile
We all love our smartphones. By giving your employees the option to access training, benefits, and other work-related tasks through apps, you increase your odds of their participation. You also can make it more likely that you’ll reach them in real time.
Make it Familiar
As we mentioned in our post on how HR professionals can keep their training fresh, it helps to use tools that employees are already using or familiar with to deliver training videos and other work-related messages. Programs that employees are already comfortable using could include the company chat program or a tool like Facebook for work.
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Make it Personal
As this piece in HR Trend Institute points out, it’s still common for HR to generalize employees, putting them in simple groups by age, generation, or place in the management hierarchy. This leads to “untested assumptions” that can be “used to design policies and career tracks.” Think of generalities such as “People above 55 want to slow down.” A truly employee-focused organization will use all the tools at their disposal to tailor programming to individuals based on their unique preferences, learning styles, schedules and more.
Make it Social
Leveraging the power of social accountability can be a great way to get people more interested and more likely to participate in your HR initiatives. Many new innovative tools can even gamify certain initiatives, awarding points and rewards for levels of participation and encouraging employees to compete against each other.
Make it Flexible
As an increasing number of sophisticated tools have made it possible for employees to make their own schedules and communicate from anywhere at any time (even face-to-face with video conferencing technology), it’s not as easy to tolerate when training and other tools don’t have flexible and remote options. Employees should be able to fit HR initiatives into their schedules easily.