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Solving People and Technology Challenges with AI

By Criss Marshall, CMO and Employee Adoption Evangelist at Espressive

The pandemic has caused seismic shifts in our world. Work from home mandates suddenly changed our day-to-day work life. From a personal level, health and wellness priorities as well as job and safety concerns have increased. McKinsey and Company reported that 62% of employees are now working from home. And while 41% of these employees are more productive, 31% are struggling. Not surprisingly, nearly 70% of employees also say this is the most stressful time of their lives, bringing employee burnout and the importance of employee well-being to the forefront. Employees are challenged to get things done and without the advantage of “shoulder tapping” colleagues, it is harder to get answers to even the most basic questions. Employees expect their work lives to be as easy as their consumer lives, which means the employee experience has become the digital experience. When getting help isn’t as easy as in their consumer lives, they struggle.

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Stressors from the pandemic and the current political climate add to the challenging workplace dynamic. A July 2020 Gartner survey found that for 60% of U.S. employees, consuming political news has impacted their ability to get work done. Changes accelerated by the pandemic and unease about the current political climate have amplified “change fatigue”––a phenomenon that’s impacting many employees and concerning HR and business leaders across industries. Employee change fatigue has doubled post pandemic—and day-to-day change was found to have a 2.5x greater impact compared to big organizational transformations.

What’s Employee Experience Got to Do with It?

What can HR leaders do to help employees during times of uncertainty and change? Two words: employee experience. If an employee’s experience at work is positive, their ability to handle and adapt to change is enhanced. To maintain the employee experience and build trust, it’s critical for employers to communicate with employees and receive feedback before enacting day-to-day changes. According to Gartner, engaging with employees at every stage and building trust can increase employees’ average capacity for change by 2.6x greater.

Naturally, employees want seamless, effortless experiences enabled by digital technology. However, the number one digital experience problem for employees is that it’s too hard to find the right answers to their questions via the HR portal and more than half (53%) are not able to keep track of where to go for an answer. This leads to additional stress and frustration.

Many organizations also have an HR service delivery system that is manual and inefficient. While 37% of HR teams have access to a formal ticketing tool (i.e. ServiceNow or Jira), many have a manual approach (i.e. dispatch requests via email, track on a spreadsheet, or using a shared inbox with multiple team members potentially fulfilling the same requests) or no formal system at all. This is problematic because HR needs an efficient way to approach service delivery in order to better support employees and free up resources to work on larger HR initiatives instead of answering repetitive questions for which virtual employee assistants are well-equipped to respond to.

Improving the Employee Experience with AI

One way to improve the employee experience is to enable automation and AI adoption for a fully connected digital experience across all functions. According to Kumud Kalia, CIO of Guardant Health, “We’re in a new wave of ‘intranet’––one that is mobile centric and virtual support agent based. Employees seek an instantaneous response to their questions and prefer automated technologies.” In other words, automated technologies can help provide these positive employee experiences, and one way to achieve this is through virtual employee assistants or virtual support agents (as it’s referred to by IT). By doing so, HR leaders can reduce the impact of change fatigue and improve employee well-being.

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A virtual employee assistant can provide employees with a consumer-like experience, resulting in immediate, personalized answers to questions 24/7, reducing the impact of change fatigue. A virtual employee assistant can also engage employees, improve their trust, and improve the overall efficiency of HR service delivery, freeing up HR staff to focus on more critical issues.

Overall, AI and virtual employee assistants, in particular, have the ability to solve the people and technology challenges of today’s new world of work including change fatigue, employee well-being, and the efficiency of HR service delivery tools. With increased questions and employees struggling to be productive at home, now is the time to provide a frictionless employee experience.

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