Never before have we seen such a succession of cultural shifts threaten to shake up the way we work. It started with the pandemic and hybrid work, but we’ve now also cycled through the Great Resignation, the Return to Office, and the phenomenon of Lazy Girl Jobs.
What we are seeing across the board is that workers aren’t happy because their jobs — and the tools they use to do their jobs — don’t fill them with purpose and productivity, and they feel like their requests aren’t being heard. Put another way, the employee experience (EX) is lacking, and if businesses don’t fix it, they will never be able to build for the future.
Let’s take the biggest change in recent years: the move towards remote and hybrid working. Because of its swift onset during the pandemic, many companies haven’t been as quick to offer workplace flexibility as employees would like. Workers want support available to them wherever they are, but businesses are hindered by legacy tech that wasn’t built to solve today’s demands.
Often, it’s not a case of lacking solutions — it might be that there are too many so-called solutions, all trying to fix different problems without addressing the big picture, leading to frustrated employees who don’t see their overall experience getting better.
There’s an app for that
You’ll probably remember the Apple ad slogan from 2009 that boldly claimed, ‘there’s an app for that’, with the implication being that most problems can be solved with an app. The issue that many businesses face today is that there are too many apps, for too many things. When it comes to EX, many of these apps are still not interacting with each other, resulting in scattered, disparate systems that are a drain on productivity and employee morale.
Curtailing this trend requires a fresh approach — one in which IT teams take the lead on building unified solutions that map to specific needs. Rather than having apps that only work within a specific department, the best EX approaches are cross-functional. They’re integrated, embedded, and intertwined — and increasingly driven by AI.
“Alexa, how profitable is my project?”
Imagine if you could ask for the status of a project in the same way you ask Alexa for your favourite song. I’m looking to a future — and it’s one that’s not too far away — where AI will be a smart, virtual assistant for everyone in the workplace, coordinating the flow of information across an intricate network of internal knowledge, databases, and apps. It will be a central place that integrates all parts of the EX journey and it will work for the entire business, not just parts of it.
AI, in an EX context, will be able to answer questions, triage employee requests by sentiment and tone, and integrate with HR and IT service management tools. It will also empower employees to do a wider range of tasks — and do them faster.
An example – how AI can enhance EX for service agents
AI has the potential to move the — largely manual-based — EX operation to one that is more automated and fulfilled by a more proactive set of tools. We’re already seeing the shift taking place today.
I can’t help but think about how AI can be of huge benefit to service agents who speak to customers all day as part of their jobs. AI can help agents to provide the best responses, incorporating the customer context, and desired tone and outcome. Let’s look at service agents in the financial services sector as an example. Timeliness is imperative to avoid sanctions and fines in certain regions, but also to keep customers happy and satisfied. Sentiment detection and AI-powered intent can be used to categorise compliance-related tickets, then time-based automations can help prioritise and assign tickets to the right agent group.
AI won’t replace service teams, but it will evolve their daily work. Agents will still need to be hands-on, but their efforts will be geared towards managing and improving AI tools, and dealing with complex queries that bots find too difficult. Other things that need less human input can be automated.
Making a switch for better EX
According to the Zendesk Employee Experience Trends Report 2023, 84% of EX professionals said improving their ability to support remote, hybrid, and in-person employees is a top priority for their business. Yet half of employees (52%) said software related to their employee experience is dated and difficult to use.
EX is closely tied to CX because when your employees are empowered to find information and solve problems, they can focus on providing even more value and strengthening relationships with your loyal customers. Additionally, 87% of senior managers say that offering a great employee experience helps retain and attract talent.
Companies are starting to restructure their tech stacks to better support workers in this era of hybrid work. Those leading in this area are taking the opportunity to make sure data flows freely across departments and that solutions serve the entire business.
AI for all
AI can provide faster support, even if it does require some initial investment. But it is the future and cannot be ignored. Already, businesses are increasingly turning to bots for EX applications, which serve up information fast and give workers the support they need to feel they can do their job well.