The global pandemic has changed a lot of things for employees around the world. It accelerated remote work, put a new emphasis on technology, and put the employee experience (EX) in the spotlight. Companies are learning that in order to keep customers happy, and even to stay in business, they need to focus on their employees’ experience working under such new and dramatic environments.
The trend focusing on the employee experience has been on the rise as companies realized EX has a direct impact on company ROI. A joint report from Forbes Insights and Salesforce “revealed that companies that have both high EX and CX see almost double the revenue growth as those that do not.”
Why Focus on the Employee Experience
Research from Gartner found that HR leaders should use customer experience “feel factors” to focus on “influencing and improving employees’ feelings about their overall experience through the use of psychological, motivational and social principles.” By shaping employees’ experiences to mimic those of their consumer experiences, Gartner found that those organizations saw their employees were more likely to stay, more likely to report high discretionary effort, and were more likely to be high performers.
However, since the pandemic, companies have to put a new emphasis on employee engagement. In a Future of Work Trends Post COVID-19 report, Gartner found that HR should take a “holistic view of employee experience, supported by cross-organization partnerships.” What this means is that the employee experience can no longer be regulated to the HR department. In a report from Salesforce, 47% of the executives surveyed say “that COVID-19 is stimulating them to fundamentally rethink the way they create customer experiences.” It will include wider organizational input from leadership such as the CIO.
Technology will help companies understand their employees’ satisfaction, engagement, and empower employees to reach their full potential. For example, when the pandemic struck, Southwest airlines rallied their leadership team to focus on employee engagement. They implemented an employee engagement app “to create an inclusive, fun work environment and empower employees to fulfill their potential.” Companies should be wary not to jump into technology for the sake of it. CIOs can guide their organizations to implement technology in a way that meets specific employee pain points and is the right tech for the job.
Virtual and augmented reality are one answer to the employee experience as “technology, processes, user interfaces, ease of use and frictionless buying experiences” contribute to their experience.
“Virtual reality (VR) can enable meaningful remote collaboration and provide an in-person experience, immersing users in realistic scenarios, allowing for employees to be upskilled and retrained faster,” says Tom Symonds, CEO of Immerse, a company that is innovating the training sector and is allowing enterprises to realise the full potential of virtual reality training.
Through their technology, the company developed the proprietary Immerse Platform. Symonds says simulated environments allow teams separated by the pandemic to work together, regardless of where they are physically.
VR For Corporate Training
Virtual reality will revolutionize the way training is delivered. In VR, there is no physical risk when learning a dangerous task or process. Virtual reality programs go beyond learning and development teams to onboarding, cultural change (which is part of upgrading the employee experience), and recruitment. Symonds says that by analyzing VR training, “teams demonstrate the ROI of programmes and improve them through iteration.”
Immerse announced their integration with SAP SuccessFactors® to deliver virtual reality (VR) training at scale. This integration will make it easy for businesses to start their enterprise VR journey because Immerse “empowers businesses to create, scale and measure VR training.”
Learners will “automatically transition from SAP SuccessFactors® learning into a VR session, providing them with a seamless experience.” Data from the training session is passed back to SAP SucessFactors® where it can be managed in the same way as other training content. In a press release, Symonds said, “VR is fast becoming an essential tool for businesses that are serious about employee learning and development.” As research has shown, “technical solutions can help companies improve CX and EX.”
VR Improves Employee Engagement
In one example of Immerse Platform, DHL workers compete to stack cargo packages. For shipping companies like DHL, dense packaging is essential. DHL senior vice president, Rick Jackson, wanted to use virtual reality to increase the skills and knowledge of the people in their industry. Immerse used DHL’s standard operating procedures to create a virtual reality training program where employees could train together in a virtual space from anywhere in the world. The global leaderboard in the VR training program encourages friendly competition and helps to improve employee engagement.
At Boeing, mechanics used virtual reality to prepare for building the 737 MAX 10. Before the aircraft was even ready for assembly, mechanics saw how a landing gear was installed and what tools would be needed for the aircraft. Mechanics at Boeing say that putting on the headset “makes a big difference” because they can touch the aircraft, move parts, and go up the ladder as if they were actually doing the work.
Another way to engage employees is through VR training. Symonds believes, “every company should be focused on upskilling its workforce and enhancing the employee experience, and technology provides plenty of tools to do this.” Continuous training in VR faces few limitations for employees working remotely. Training data is captured in layers so as employees complete new modules, the “data generated by a VR training programme can inform the design of further content, real-life processes, and even the workplace itself,” said Symonds.
AR Wearables Enhance The Employee Experience
Boeing is also known for equipping their workers with augmented reality glasses. Instead of flipping through a phonebook size manual where workers had to use a ruler to keep their place, they now use augmented reality glasses. Looking back and forth from the paper manual or a computer screen would give workers a raging headache by the end of the day. Workers would lose their place and it took time to go look back and forth to double-check their work.
Wearable glasses cut Boeing’s production time by 25%. More importantly, workers can keep both hands on the wire by talking to their device and seeing through the AR eyeglasses the steps to put the wires together. Airplanes have no room for error. With the wearable, workers say they always know where the wire should go.
Augmented reality wearables do more than augment worker’s sight. Guardhat is a company that makes IoT-connected hardhats. The hardhats allow others to tell where workers are on a site, what environment and conditions they’re in, and enable communication with the worker. The hardhats “monitor battery life, temperature, noise, humidity, and pressure.” The hardhats can connect to other IoT enabled wearables like exoskeletons, which they’ll be able to read and warn the worker of problems.
Augmenting Workers Is The Key To Unlocking EX
Technology like augmented and virtual reality are great for making processes more efficient, environments more responsive, and are more sensitive to employee interactions. More importantly, VR and AR “make employee experience a more wholesome and purposeful journey.” Employers and leadership can use these devices to improve the workplace and in turn, improve customer experience and the organization’s bottom line.
“VR will be one of the tech tools that takes center stage.” said Symonds. “Now is the moment for companies to start exploring the potential of this technology to increase employee engagement, productivity, and retention.”
As companies accelerate their digital transformation and continue to push further into the workplace of the future, technologies like VR and AR hold the key to unlocking the full potential of the employee experience, leading to higher engagement, positive outcomes and even employee retention. It’s time to put immersive technology to work and have a positive impact not only on the bottom line but also on the workforce’s overall satisfaction with the work they do.