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Editorial Team
01 Aug 2018

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Consumerization of HR. Is office an experience for the digital employees?

HR is a shape-shifting entity. In its new role, it’s being marketed as a brand in itself

The satirical humor comic strip, Dilbert by Scott Adams, is hugely popular with those in white collar jobs across the corporate world. Here’s one anecdote:  

The pointy-headed boss announces to Dilbert, Alice, and Wally in a board meeting about a new password policy for the digital natives: “Starting today all passwords must contain letters, numbers, doodles, sign language, and squirrel noises.” The audience, comprising of the three, looks nonplussed at each other.    

But that’s not how exactly consumerization of HR means to those in business today.  

Experience is the Name 

Organizations are breaking a sweat to guarantee employees have great experiences at workplace akin to visiting a Disney Park or watching Netflix. What if workplaces could be Netflix offering ‘Because you watched’ options or Amazon’s ‘You might also like’ or Disney’s personalized MagicBand with attached sensors for unlocking hotel rooms, itinerary monitoring, and buying food and merchandise.  

Those digital at heart are driving a generational shift towards a smorgasbord of experiences where you are allowed to blur lines between what professionalism is and what it’s not and how the work-life balance in the see-saw of corporate employees’ lives sustains.  

Even the physical laws of motion would agree to this. HR Consumerization is a boomerang where when organizations give employees the freedom to decide how they would like to work and play, it comes back to the former in terms of increased productivity and enthusiasm for future projects. 

Picture this: You enter an office, the biometric machine recognizes you when you punch in either with your iris scan or finger impression, you are served hot chocolate as the organizational administration knows your preferences, the light, and temperature settings are ambient to your likings as well, and you open your project management tool to see your dashboard streamlined with the kind of projects you love working on. Playdate. Aint’t it? 

Swipe it right. Companies are going overboard to bring employees onboard (excuse the pun!). Gym, gourmet food, free massages- all zeitgeists of the HRM consumerization are being orchestrated by Airbnb.  

Pandora has come up with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) with names like Meditation, Badass Bakers, and Soccer Pandas portraying the epithets they stand for. Christening is often reflective of the times and the attitude they represent. These ERG names aren’t euphemisms. They are what they are: upfront and on the face. 

Cultural Differentiator 

Who says emotional, physical, virtual, intellectual, and aspirational aspects have to be different from each other or be at different levels when they are happily co-inhabiting in cubicles these days?      

Consumerization of HR is seeing an expanse of its universe to include marketing. Marketing ‘HR’ as a fountainhead of enterprise communications, employee segmentation reports, corporate social responsibility, and talent acquisition strategies- will be the best advertisement for any company incubating employees as brand advocates. In words of Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” 

Compare this with how people work today. They come to office unrecognized, work uninspiringly with managers breathing down their neck coercing them to have their ‘butts in seats’, and they go home unrecognized. They leave jobs unrecognized. Whose loss is this? In everything that just happened, it’s the companies that are going unrecognized.  

Indira Nooyithe PepsiCo CEO, knew the power of appreciating after people started congratulating her mother for raising her well. The brand’s ‘Performance with Purpose’ is a culmination of such appreciation coming and how it helps with employees’ motivations and retention. 

Think of employees as customers. Customers are brand ambassadors. In a way. When they are happy, of course! But the same customers can turn brand critiques when they are disgruntled. 

How to go about it: Apply. Improve. Reapply.     

Learning and development with online courses: CEB of Gartner says 70% L&D investment in internal training is a waste of money. Why not let the experts- MOOC of Edx, Udacity’s Nanodegrees, NovoEd, Lynda- do it?   

Flexibility over facetime: Employ project management tools to detail out tasks, get work delivered, and brainstorm on different projects for employees who rather ditch facetime.   

Gamification: Call BadgevilleAxonify or BunchBall to condition employees to create another paradox-working like they are playing. Examples abound in PwC, Qualcomm, and Walmart.     

Employee advocacy programs: IT, real estate, communications- all departments have to work together to give a compelling experience compelling the employees to reach out social media describing the gala time they are having at the workplace. 

Design thinking: Put yourself in the shoes of employees and mirror their predilections. Bring graphic designers to create products and services in hackathons offering solutions to common problems at the workplace. Just like Ask Alex and YouBelong@Cisco.  

Innovation: Leverage innovation. From recruitment apps designed like Tinder, for instance- Switch and Cocoon to social tools like ShareSmart for doctors where clinical photos of diseases and its diagnosis is shared, to employee mood measurement tools like CompanyMood and MoodApp, and getting recommendations about prospective hire from Net Promoter Score.          

Before you go full throttle, weigh in the merits of HR consumerization. It shouldn’t be the standard case of a blind man explaining an elephant. But! It helps to know that though such penetration into employees’ lives is abhorrent to traditionalists, employees and workplace futurists aren’t complaining.    

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