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How the right metrics will take employee experience to the next level

With the economic and technological landscape shifting, businesses need a way to measure the success of new tech implementations in a way that aligns with employee experience.

Nothing has rocked businesses around the world this year as much as the threat of recession. With the long-term economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the more recent cost of living crisis, organisations in the UK are rushing to realign their priorities and budgets to ensure that they can continue to hire, grow, and upskill their teams.

Economic change isn’t the only thing that has upturned employee experience in the years following the pandemic. The staggering rise in access to artificial intelligence (AI) tools in business has given organisations the chance to speed up manual processes and offer greater access to creative services, but it has also put into sharp focus the value of human employees, with most AI tools requiring detailed human prompts and edits – a new skill for many.

As new tools are put into use, the role of many employees will evolve just as they have in the past – consider the rise of low/no code platforms, which has transformed the role of software engineers, who see less demand for formerly coded repetitive and ubiquitous functions. With the economic and technological landscape shifting, businesses need a way to measure the success of new tech implementations in a way that aligns with employee experience.

The people behind the tech
With employees at the front line of operations throughout this technological revolution, it’s clear that people shouldn’t be overlooked as a source of insight into operations and infrastructure. Employees are often the first to know and the first to act when technology goes wrong, and they are acutely aware of how events can snowball throughout the business. They also have a better view of an organisation’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, environment, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives, and all other business-wide programmes. Employees are also like a listening post for how successful an organisations DEI Programs and ESG initiative are – a useful insight into the impact of DEI strategies and younger generations of employee increasingly value and prioritise social responsibility therefore if you lack ESG focus you are restricting both your talent pool as a company and also your brand.

In short, the workforce is the first to know the success of new technologies and ways of working, so when organisations put their employee experience first, processes across the business are sure to improve.

The problem with SLAs
To prioritise employee experience, businesses should consider their use of outdated and irrelevant Service-Level Agreements (SLAs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). SLAs are used to define the level of service expected by a customer or supplier, as well as the metrics that this service will be measured by, and the remedies or penalties that will be used if the service levels agreed are not achieved.

SLAs, as they stand today, consider the performance, timelines, availability, service hours and support expected from the service, and their main function is to:

  • Establish overall goals
  • Set clear expectations
  • Keep parties accountable
  • Ensure timely support
  • Simplify the measurement of failure and success

But SLAs alone are quickly becoming outdated –  XLAs are proving a stronger approach to drive business value and can encompass SLA metrics so you can holistically see the impact to experience.

Despite the fact that they’re widely used within businesses today, SLAs don’t accurately represent the realities of the way that technology is performing. Organisations need metrics that better understand and reflect the employee experience and focus on key business outcomes.

Putting experience first
Businesses that want to pave the way in the future of work should consider moving from traditional penalty-based models with lagging indicators towards forward-looking, outcome-based models that are proactive and based on reward – more towards the opportunity and greater outcomes of a win-win incentive model for customer and supplier. True partnership with gain for all.

With organisations under pressure to deliver frictionless customer and employee experiences, while also remaining socially, environmentally, and ethically responsible, focus should now be on experience-based performance indicators.

Experience-Level Agreements (XLAs) are created by finding meaningful insights from multiple data sources to empower businesses to enforce minimum performance levels. XLAs enable businesses to measure their outcomes and the value of their services, minimising the poor user experiences that impact wider business productivity. While SLAs fail to show accurately how tech is performing from the perspective of employees and the wider business, XLAs’ user-centricity give organisations a richer picture of how tech is implemented.

In addition, utilising XLAs gives business leaders greater insight into how the business is progressing in its DEI, ESG and other strategic goals, contributing to greater improvements in company culture and employee experience.

Inspiring a culture shift
Making the shift from SLAs to XLAs can be a challenge for business leaders, as SLAs are often deeply ingrained within the business and its ways of working. Organisations often shy away from implementing more subjective and qualitative measurements of experience as they require more conscious deployment. It can be expected that employees will be split into three camps – those that pivot quickly and ease the change, those that will need support to see its potential, and those that will not see its benefit at all. Upskilling and education will be essential in all three cases to successfully navigate the upcoming shift.

As businesses make the leap from SLAs to XLAs, the employee experience will move further into the limelight and ultimately help the industry create more efficient, flexible technology infrastructure. Well-supported employees are 85% more likely to stay beyond three years, and this goes far beyond the devices and networks they use – it’s about creating a workplace that feels motivated, happy, and loyal.

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