The UK is on a “cautious but irreversible” route out of lockdown restrictions.

That means that some businesses are starting to look to the future after solely focusing on crisis mode during the pandemic. However, the same is true for employees. Those who were made to feel safe, supported and valued by their employer will want to stay, while many others are choosing to move on now that their initial panic about keeping their job starts to recede.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that UK job vacancies are at their highest since the start of the pandemic, with an estimated 657,000 vacancies in February to April 2021. This is up eight per cent on the previous quarter and could signal the start to the recovery.

Businesses need to prioritise employee experience if they are to recruit and retain staff and win the post-pandemic talent war. Here, technology can help the HR function to meet the needs of employees who are now working in new ways. Our Re-imagining HR research report has captured the sentiments of HR professionals as they face a whole new world of work. 77% agree that the pandemic has changed how they use technology and 45% say technological change is having the biggest impact on their organisation’s decision making. This technological change presents a huge opportunity to transform employee experience.

The consumerism of employee experience

At the start of 2020 less than 5% of the UK workforce had any formal arrangement to work from home; by the start of April 2020 that had leapt to just over 60%. Employees have proven that they can be productive when working remotely with the right technology and support. However, this has also contributed to higher expectations from other ways of working. During the pandemic they have been able to check their bank balance, book a supermarket delivery, and even listen to the radio on their morning run via apps, so why can’t they get the same smooth experience from their HR function? Why, when they are working remotely and flexibly, can they only get support from HR between 9am and 5pm? Why do they have to complete a form every time they need a new piece of IT equipment, or want to book leave or notify sickness? The disjointed nature of HR, which has historically functioned with a vertical mind set, is out of step with the consumerism of the real-world and can quickly become a source of frustration and delay for employees.

Technology can help you to focus on the moments that matter

The original role of HR Business Partners was to connect the function with business objectives and contribute to strategic planning and operations. However, the reality is they often become administrators for teams, taking on time-consuming tasks that could easily be automated.

Yet, a digital HR portal can take care of many repetitive administration tasks and respond to queries, helping employees to view their payslip or receive answers to pressing questions 24/7. When people are dealing with massive change this can help to allay concerns quickly, rather than leaving them to fester. It can also support line managers too, so if they want to know how to process an employee who’s leaving, a digital assistant can guide them through it.

Technology and automation tools can deliver end-to-end query management so your HR function can focus on strategic issues and supporting employees in the moments that matter. Take maternity leave where there are processes to follow, such as completing MAT B1 forms to work through maternity arrangements, and also emotional concerns the employee is likely to have. They may be worried about how their team will replace them when they are on maternity leave. Or what happens if their line manager changes while they are away from work? By using technology and automation to deal with the transactional and process driven side of HR, professionals can support employees and show the company is thinking of them in the moments that matter.

Seizing the opportunity of the technology revolution

Our research shows that 63% of HR professionals believe that accelerating the technology revolution will be the prevailing positive outcome of the pandemic. While 50% believe they have the resilience to deal with future change. This is a great opportunity for the HR function to put disjointed processes behind them and use technology to create a seamless and connected employee experience.

It’s important to remember that you need the right strategy to support any technological change. It’s easy to put a digital solution on top of a bad process or over-buy technology that won’t help to meet your needs. Yet, as our research shows, there has never been a more pivotal time to seize the opportunity to re-imagine employee experience.

Written by

Peter Wallace

Peter Wallace

Managing Director, HR Solutions

Peter is Managing Director of the HR Solutions business within Capita, helping clients transform their HR and payroll operations delivering cost, employee experience and digital service improvements. Peter has a Psychology degree, post graduate management diploma and taught for several years on degree and Master level HR programmes at Queens University Belfast. He was formerly Vice Chairman of the Northern Ireland branch of the CIPD.

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