The professional services market is evolving. As a recent Forbes piece points out, by 2022 more than 58 million new jobs will be created across employment categories that don’t yet exist (or have barely arrived) thanks to emerging technology. The result? For professional services firms to embrace digital transition and drive on-demand intelligence, they must recognize the critical link between staff and IT solutions.
But that’s just the beginning: While understanding how staff interact with technology informs business strategy, understanding the why of staff behaviors and interactions is a critical milestone on the road to adaptable, agile intelligence. Ready to bridge the “why” gap? Start with employee experience.
Just 20% of staff are satisfied with their jobs. According to the Economic Times, two factors dominate this dissatisfaction: lack of advancement opportunities and the influx of new technologies. Upon closer inspection, the two phenomena share common ground. Staff are worried that new tech solutions will put them out of work. While there’s a sense that professional service firms such as law firms, financial consultants, and accounting agencies are immune to this type of concern, the automation of key tasks such as data entry could help companies reduce total staffing needs, in turn limiting potential advancement.
What does this mean for professional services? That it’s critical to understand the employee experience. Now an essential aspect of the customer-facing market, experience measurement is rapidly becoming a must-have for firms laying the foundation of agile transformation and digital integration. Without reliable data about employee experience and how it impacts their day-to-day job satisfaction, long-term strategy development for professional service organizations is on shaky ground.
The empathy evolution
Data collection tools are now commonplace, but raw data lacks emotional context. The solution? Empathy. It’s the single factor most commonly preventing companies from simply deploying standard solutions to gather employee feedback and empower innovation.
While out-of-the-box tools are great at collecting simple datasets via standard survey models, they provide limited value for employee experience because they often face the dual problem of specificity and simplicity. Employees are concerned that specific data collected about their perceptions or preferences will be used to negatively impact their work experience, and the general nature of many experience surveys leaves staff feeling like no meaningful change will accompany any data collection.
The key to engaging with employee experience is the development of empathy.
In practice, this means deploying data collection mechanisms capable of engaging with employees in real-time in a way that values their experience, respects their effort, and aims to improve their workplace.
Consider a lawyer using new data discovery systems to prepare for litigation. Standard surveys provide no usage context: Staff are either using new systems or not. Advanced data collection tools can help identify pain points in current IT deployments along with potential future concerns to help streamline technology adoption.
As noted by HR Exchange Network, for enterprises to effectively collect and analyze employee experience data, they need systems that scale as the company grows and allow collaboration across departmental and organizational lines.
Cultural shift is also critical. For decades, professional service firms have used tried-and-true hierarchies to define seniority and management structure. The advent of cloud-based and mobile technologies, however, has brought into sharp relief just how little most companies know about their employees and their day-to-day experiences. The HR Exchange piece makes it clear: “Executives need to believe that employee experience management is fundamental to the success and survival of the organization.”
X’s and O’s
When it comes to measuring experience, companies have two types of data: operational data (O-data) and experience data (X-data). O-data is critical because it describes what is happening, often in real time. X-data, meanwhile, provides the why.
Companies are great at measuring operational data; advanced human capital management (HCM) tools can deliver O-data in near real-time and help organizations quickly make operational adjustments on demand. Capturing X-data, however, is far more challenging. Original experience models focused on top-down engagement surveys conducted once or twice a year, but the rigid nature of survey questions combined with a focus on benchmarking made it difficult to drive meaningful change.
The next generation of experience evaluation tools focused on feedback from agile surveys, mobile apps, and AI-based action plans. As the depth and breadth of employee experience have evolved, however, enterprises are now turning to multi-source data capture tools that leverage next-gen AI to help drive fundamental behavioral change.
In practice, this means addressing employee experience at multiple points along their journey. That includes feedback from their onboarding experience, resource assignments, and current engagements. For professional services, the goal of next-gen experience management tools is creating a continuous evaluation environment. It’s a paradigm in which staff are recognized for their value and solicited for their feedback because it provides actionable value, not because it drives benchmark results. EY is a good example of a firm that puts the employee experience at the center of its operations, as witnessed by its tagline, “Building a better working world.”
Employee experience is now critical to the success of professional services and empowers the shift to intelligence-driven agencies. By combining cultural shifts with AI-driven, behavioral-focused experience management solutions, it’s possible to bridge the gap between what professionals are doing, and why they’re doing it to drive long-term success.
Many aspects comprise an employee’s overall experience, but one of the essential elements of a positive experience continues to be how engaged the person feels at work.