How HR Can Deploy AI to Enhance the Employee Experience

BY the Editors | July 25, 2023

Much of the emerging conversation about artificial intelligence (AI) is full of doom and gloom, focusing on how the technology will replace human workers–or turn their work lives upside down. Yet it’s possible to envision a near future in which AI will have a beneficial side, especially when it comes to the employee experience (EX) in companies that are determined to put people first.

That’s the scenario illustrated by two leaders from Erudit (pronounced AIR-uh-dite), an AI platform for companies to track and manage employee-experience initiatives, who gave a workshop presentation on the future of work at From Day One’s San Francisco conference

Erudit’s team of psychologists and data scientists is on a mission to demystify AI for HR, specifically regarding culture management and initiatives to enhance EX, said co-host Corey Jordon, Erudit’s head of growth. In the interactive session, the Erudit leaders told their audience how and why EX is the next big thing for AI and HR tech, advised on practical ways to address issues like burnout and turnover, and how AI for EX levels the playing field for employees and management alike.

Corey Jordon, left, Erudit’s head of growth, presenting with Joe Meyer, Erudit’s senior natural-language processing researcher and engineer (Photo by From Day One)

“Staying informed about tech goes beyond just ‘tech’ roles,” said Joe Meyer, Erudit’s senior natural-language processing researcher and engineer. “It’s important to dispel myths around AI as people leaders, recognizing the value it has for understanding and improving the employee experience.”

The co-hosts offered a bounty of statistics to show the scale of the AI boom: Private investment in AI was 18 times greater in 2022 than in 2013. Invsetment in AI for HR Tech doubled from 2021 to 2022, reaching $1.63 billion. The benefits for people leaders can be striking: 56% of AI early adopters report significant improvement in the EX space. Generative AI technology is showing plenty of uses: creating job descriptions, filtering and tracking prospective hires, and screening candidates. Erudit focuses in particular on employee sentiment, monitoring it in real time and tracking trends across teams.

Yet it’s all a lot for HR leaders to absorb. When the co-hosts took an “AI vibe check” among the attendees, their responses were on a spectrum of “uneasy” to “optimistic.” The participants asked plenty of questions too, which served to highlight the major issues that need to be sorted out: How can big-business changes like mergers and acquisitions impact employee experience during onboarding? How do members of marginalized groups feel seen and heard in a dispersed workplace? How can companies convey that employee-sentiment tools are helping employees–not there to infringe on their privacy?

The co-hosts sought to demystify the science as well, explaining that machine intelligence, loosely based on the human brain, is math, not magic. They pointed out that the old data-processing maxim of “Garbage In, Garbage Out,” applies to AI as well: data quality is crucial.

The back-to-back crises of the last three years finally gave HR leaders a seat at the table when it comes to corporate influence, and they’re not going to give it up easily. But they need to pursue their initiatives with a mind toward business impact and connection to the workforce. While pulse surveys can give insight into culture initiatives, People leaders need real-time, actionable data from their workforce. This is how Erudit empowers HR and people executives to tap into organic interactions for data instead of relying on gut instinct only, the company’s co-hosts said. Each workforce is unique and complex, and workplace sentiments change by the minute.

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks its partner, Erudit, who sponsored this workshop. To find out more about them, tune in to the brand’s podcast, The Employee Experience Experience, and sign up for the People-First Newsletter





Boosting Financial Wellness by Helping Employees Meet Their Everyday Needs

An auto repair, sick schoolkid, sudden medical or vet bill, or a home maintenance headache can wreak havoc on many employees’ budgets and stress levels. It’s not that working adults can’t manage the money they earn, but sometimes they can’t access it fast enough. When surprise expenses strike, workers on tight budgets often pay high fees to banks, credit card companies, or “payday” lenders to access quick cash for ordinary emergencies.Employers have become increasingly cognizant of workers’ financial vulnerabilities, especially as inflation has hiked prices on necessities such as gas, food, rent, and utilities. Some research indicates that as many as 72% of employees don’t have $500 in savings, says Steve Davis, national sales manager at Global Payments.But when employers offer their teams a workplace payroll benefit known as earned wage access, employees can tap up to 50% of current net earnings ahead of payday without incurring high fees, raising debt levels, or harming credit scores to address emergency expenses. Global Payments has offered employers technology and training so they may extend earned wage access as an opt-in benefit for three years.Davis spoke during a From Day One webinar and offered insights on how employer-offered earned wage access can benefit both employees and workplaces. “Waiting two weeks or more for a paycheck can cause quite a bit of financial strain,” he said. “We’re all living in an on-demand world. So why don’t we have pay on demand as well? That’s our question.”While some employees may never tap into earned wage access, its presence can offer them peace of mind against financial precarity. According to Davis, in one workplace study 60% of employees shared that financial decision-making impacts their mental health. And employers that offer benefits to reduce financial strain can help employers hire faster.“We’ve seen about twice the number of applications come in for jobs at employers that offer this type of benefit. So, it helps that employer hire faster,” Davis said. “Most employees taking advantage of the benefit are staying about 22 or more days longer. And there’s about a 49% to 50% increase in retention for individuals using it. It can create a sense of loyalty to employers (when) employees perceive that their workplace is one that genuinely cares.”Employers offering earned wage access can typically roll out the benefit in 45 to 90 days, depending on the size of their enterprise and their priorities. Global Payments’ system integrates with timekeeping, payroll, or HCM (human capital management) systems, and earned wage access technology integrates with those systems. Employees need only provide their email address and contact information to activate access to pre-payday wages.Steve Davis of Global Payments was interviewed by journalist Jane Hodges during the From Day One webinar about "Boosting Financial Wellness by Helping Employees Meet Their Everyday Needs" (photo by From Day One)About 75% of the employers using Global Payments’ earned wage access benefit extend it specifically to their hourly workers, who are often employed in fast food or retail jobs, but increasingly also manufacturing or healthcare, as well. It’s less common, but possible, to offer it to salaried workers. Davis notes that employees working in hourly roles at companies can get paid instantly for “gig economy” shifts (such as driving and delivery services), so employers offering faster pay access for hourly work can compete better against gig jobs.To use earned wage access, employees can use an app to check what funds they have earned during the current pay period and how much they are eligible to withdraw — with funds transmitted via their employer-issued payment card (a card used by many unbanked hourly workers), ACH, or direct to a particular credit card or payee. The 50% limit on net earnings is designed on industry recommended maximums, and employers can elect to reduce the amount available — or how many times employees can use the benefit in a given year. In most cases, Davis notes, it will take an employer about six months to understand its workforce’s use patterns with the product.“It’s totally free to the employer, and there’s such a demand from the employee base. And there’s competition for great employees: You’re competing with the gig economy,” Davis said. “I think probably in the next 24 months, most of your mid-market to enterprise organizations will have implemented (some form of) earned wage access offering.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Global Payments, for sponsoring this webinar.Jane Hodges is an independent journalist based in Seattle, Washington. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and The Seattle Times.

Jane Hodges | July 10, 2024

High-Performance Culture: Creating a Workplace Where People and Productivity Thrive

Some years ago, when Cameron Cozzens, CRO of the Arbinger Institute, met with a group of leaders at NASA, one of them described the challenges of getting human spaceflight to Mars. “He said, ‘It’s not the science that’s getting in our way. It’s the people stuff,’” Cozzens said during a recent From Day One webinar.  The issues didn’t have anything to do with the ability of the NASA team, which was composed of the best astrophysicists and engineers in the world.“What it really comes down to, and what a lot of leaders don’t get, is it’s not a performance problem, or a no communication problem or a workload problem,” said Lisa Sharapata, chief marketing officer of the Arbinger Institute. “It’s typically a culture problem.” There are many different definitions of workplace culture, but the Arbinger Institute defines it as “how people work together every day,” Sharapata said. So, when we really start to look at how you would fix these problems, how you would make these kinds of changes, we want to change how employees are approaching their work in relation to each other.”Developing Leaders Who Empower OthersThe Arbinger Institute, which provides leadership and professional development solutions that transform business culture for better performance and lasting results, has found that employees in organizations that prioritize leadership development are 4.5 times more satisfied with their culture, says Sharapata.“On the flip side, they’re also experiencing fewer negative effects,” she said. “There’s fewer staff shortages and issues with morale or communication.”Leadership development also prevents turnover, says Cozzens. “People don’t quit their jobs,” he said. “They quit their leader, they quit their boss, they quit their first line supervisor. And conversely, the more mature that employees become in the workforce, the more they understand the importance of finding a place where they feel seen and heard, and where their opinions matter.”Developing self-awareness within the leadership team and fostering a culture of collaboration where people are open and receptive to each other’s ideas “will start to enhance productivity and create less friction and stress,” Sharapata said. “It’s a mindset that’s going to create more of that outwardness rather than inwardness.”The Importance of Team Performance TrainingCameron C. Cozzens of the Arbinger Institute led the webinar (company photo)Employees who are encouraged to participate in team performance training are twice as likely than others to work for companies that saw a significant revenue increase over the past year and three times more likely to describe their company as highly adaptable in times of change, says Cozzens.Bridging the performance perception gap is a key component of team performance training. The Arbinger Institute’s research shows a gap between how employees see their own performance and behaviors and how they would rank the performance and behaviors of those on their teams.“Everybody is waking up in the morning, thinking that the problem in their organization is not with them,” he said. “The challenge is how do you invite change in these people?”“Really being aware of others’ goals, objectives, challenges, what they're trying to accomplish every day starts to impact the ultimate objectives of the organization and what you're working towards,” she said.Fostering a Culture of InclusionAn inclusive culture with a strong sense of psychological safety sparks collaboration and creativity, says Cozzens. According to the Arbinger Institute's research, 97% of employees encouraged to participate in inclusion training feel more comfortable taking on new challenges.However, when inclusion training is “calling people out, focusing on their behavior and how they should modify their behavior and telling people what to do, or having them memorize definitions of things, it’s highly ineffective.”Instead, it should be about “inviting people to participate in dialogue and getting to these authentic, real, vulnerable stories where you can really start to unpack what you're bringing to the table and understand the person next to you.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, the Arbinger Institute, for sponsoring this webinar.Mary Pieper is a freelance writer based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | July 10, 2024

Consistent Reflection and Coaching: A Proven Method to Genuinely Support Employee Well-Being

The high costs associated with employee burnout and turnover demonstrate the need for a more effective and holistic approach to well-being. Genuine investment in employee well-being yields better outcomes: Gallup reported that employees who feel supported by their workplaces are 55% less likely to watch for other job opportunities or actively search for jobs and 68% less likely to feel burned out consistently.During From Day One’s Manhattan conference, Anita Hossain Choudhry, co-founder and CEO of The Grand, spoke about a new approach to employee well-being and cultivating an engaged workplace culture. This approach involves measuring, addressing, and enhancing employee well-being, while encompassing all aspects of wellness: physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, social, environmental, intellectual, and career.The Grand coaches leaders to help achieve clarity and self-awareness to reach their personal and professional goals. Choudhry strives to create a work environment that fosters a learning and authentic growth mindset, rather than solely highlighting performance.Understanding the self and what we need within our environments and communities to achieve greater success and well-being requires reflection, intention, and connection, Choudhry said.“Only when we reflect and take the time to learn from our experiences do they become a source of growth. If you’re not doing that, you’re missing out on 70% of your learning.” she said. “That’s why at The Grand, we believe it’s really critical to have reflective practices so you can better understand where you are and where you want to go.”Anita Hossain Choudhry, Co-founder and CEO of The Grand led the thought leadership spotlight in ManhattanThe keys to fostering individual self-awareness involve managers helping employees achieve clarity through meaningful discussions of the areas of their lives they wish to improve, using shared language to define and measure well-being goals effectively in direct reports, and taking every individual’s unique journey into account to allocate resources more efficiently. Upon reflecting on where one is and wants to go, it’s essential to create intentions based on those reflections and also to experiment. It’s critical to move from a performance-based mindset to a growth-learning mindset, says Choudhry.“A lot of times at organizations it doesn’t feel safe to flex and experiment because we always have to perform,” she said. “The opportunity that we have is to create safe spaces where people can experiment. [We need to] make that the norm and give them permission to do that.”Shifting from strictly performance-focused coaching to reflective and growth-oriented coaching, helps employees become emotionally resilient, self-aware, healthy, and more engaged with others. This holistic support of individual growth leads to more successful business outcomes: higher performance, retention, and engagement.Achieving well-being requires a comprehensive approach accounting for all aspects of life. It includes investing in experiences that encourage personal and professional growth. Evolved reflective coaching techniques are crucial in the modern-day workforce as employees prioritize fulfillment in their careers without compromising other facets of their lives.When employees struggle with well-being, business performance and employee satisfaction dwindle. Business costs also rise to compensate for higher turnover. When employees achieve higher levels of well-being, they use fewer sick days, experience less burnout, are more engaged at work, and perform more efficiently.“Our future vision is really to make sure that no one will have to walk through life alone. And everyone will be able to understand their strengths and use it to become the grandest version of themselves.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, The Grand, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Stephanie Reed is a freelance news, marketing, and content writer. Much of her work features small business owners throughout diverse industries. She is passionate about promoting small, ethical, and eco-conscious businesses.

Stephanie Reed | July 02, 2024