The world we live in is becoming more personalized every day. Not sure what to watch on television at the end of the day? Just check out the recommendations that Netflix has for you based on what you have watched before. Amazon and Goodreads will recommend books for you based on what you’ve read and liked in the past. Want to order a coffee or a pizza? Just log on to an app like Seamless or Starbucks, and with a few taps, your favorite treats will be ready for you.
The list goes on, but the concept is the same: Thanks to our growing reliance on technology and applications, our lives are becoming more personalized with experiences becoming more comfortable and simpler every day. Thanks to connected appliances, we can come home to our preferred temperature and lighting settings — and the refrigerator will remind you to pick up your favorite snack. However, there is one place where this personalization still has yet to take hold: Work. That’s changing though, as the consumerization of human resources, and business in general, takes hold.
What Is Consumerization?
According to Gartner, “Consumerization is the specific impact that consumer-originated technologies can have on enterprises.” In other words, it’s the influence that technologies like Facebook or even the smartphone itself can have on business. We’ve already seen the influence of consumerization on business via trends like BYOD, which have become the norm in most businesses. That was only the beginning, though. As adoption of Internet of Things technology and personalized applications continues to grow, people are going to expect a work experience that mirrors that of their favorite applications and tools.
In fact, several HR experts have identified the consumerization of human resources as one of the most defining and disruptive trends of the industry, noting that it has the potential to disrupt not only the way that employees are recruited and managed, but also how companies brand and market themselves. In other words, consumerization is shifting companies away from a “seat filling” mentality in which employees are hired simply to do a job, and instead creating a “work experience” that has a positive effect on the overall productivity and engagement.
The Benefits of Consumerization
One example that’s commonly used to demonstrate the “ideal” consumerized experience is Disney, and the Magic Bands used at the Florida theme park. By using RFID technology, the bands can be used as a hotel room key, park ticket, and for buying items in the parks and resorts. While that adds a level of convenience to a vacation, the real “magic” is in the personalized experience that the band offers. Not only can guests choose the color of the band, but they can select the experiences that they want during their trip. When they check in to an attraction, Cast Members greet them by name, and in some cases, one might even see their name and hometown as part of the attraction experience. The overall experience is highly personalized, and designed to surprise and delight the guest.
Imagine, now that same experience applied to a workplace. That could include allowing the employee to choose when or where he works in the office, how he will pursue specific goals, and how to receive and give feedback. This is the consumer experience, in which workers are supported in the ways that they work best. The result? Improved engagement. Given that only 32 percent of employees consider themselves actively engaged in their work — and 17 percent say they are actively disengaged — finding ways to improve engagement is a priority for many businesses and those looking to enter the business field through HR. Engaged employees are not only productive employees, but they are also loyal employees. When you are engaged in your work, you aren’t likely to leave, and that’s good news for employers, because turnover is expensive.
Consumerization of HR can also help support your marketing functions. Again, when employees are engaged, they are happy, and happy employees can be your best brand advocates. In fact, one study indicated that more than half of people trust the “average” employee of a company more than the CEO when it comes to marketing messages — and happy and engaged employees are more likely to share good news about their companies on their own social media pages.
Finally, gamification of important HR functions such as recruiting and training have improved results. For example, Walmart gamified its safety training program in distribution centers, and reduced accidents by 54 percent. Beyond that, though, the competitive nature of the training engaged employees in preventing accidents and got them talking about safety and identifying potential risks, thereby improving the training. Other companies have gamified the recruiting process, increasing not only the quantity, but the quality of candidates.
Consumerizing Your HR Process
Consumerization isn’t going anywhere, so it’s up to organizational leaders to work with HR to identify ways of creating a more consumer-like experience in the workplace. Some of the more common methods include:
- Allowing more flexibility. Again, personalization is a high priority, so allowing employees to work remotely or on flexible schedules is valued. Move away from the concept of fluid working arrangements as a perk, but rather as a tool to recruit competitive applicants.
- Implement gamification strategies. Although the majority of Americans use smartphones, only about 20 percent of companies have HR apps that are smartphone compatible. Creating apps that allow individuals to search and apply for jobs via app, and help manage the recruiting process, is important. In addition, gamifying key processes can help improve engagement with training and other functions.
- Implement feedback loops. Feedback has become an important part of our lives; just think about those Netflix recommendations. Continuous feedback supports ongoing growth, and employees want that input to remain engaged and focused. Focus on goals and providing a purpose, not just getting the work done to support more productive employees.
It’s impossible to create the “ideal” work experience for every single person every single day. But by implementing some of the principles of consumerization that are a part of our everyday lives, businesses can move closer toward that goal.