As the boundaries between conventional categories of employees and customers erode, a customer-focus is now essentially an employee-focus. Although these changes have been gradually taking shape over the last decade, it is surprising to discover that it is only recently that have we have put the employee experience at the center of talent management.

Slow to change

Following trends in consumer behavior — where people want personalized experiences rather than things — human resources, talent management, recruiting, learning and development professionals are crafting experiences that focus on the cognitive, physical and emotional needs of their customers: the employees.

As a researcher, I know that not all organizations have done this successfully, but I am delighted to see the conversation has started, and many are on their way. Almost all business leaders and managers struggle with the challenges of hiring, employee engagement and succession management. Ultimately, most business issues are really talent issues.

The inevitability of change and the market realities in our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world have prompted leaders to build and deploy agile, user-friendly processes and systems. We have observed this same trend within HR and people processes.

In a 2015 study, 43 percent of HR leaders and practitioners cited the length of time between employee data collection and action is a top challenge to engagement surveys.

Managing performance

One notable example is the evolution of performance management processes. Many associate performance management with the dreaded annual review — when too much time is spent on paperwork, and worry on compensation decisions. In this era of fast-paced change, smart leaders realize a focus on talent performance and development merely once a year does not result in more productive and engaged employees. Organizations are switching to a model where managers and employees check in weekly, and have clarified the objectives of these conversations; coaching, feedback, and goal-setting.

Similarly, the annual employee engagement survey process does not allow for an up-to-the-minute understanding of the workforce climate. In a 2015 study, 43 percent of HR leaders and practitioners cited the length of time between employee data collection and action is a top challenge to engagement surveys. Innovations in employee data collection are also following the precedent set by our marketing peers, using tools like text analysis of social media posts and employee communications, wearables tracking and real-time polls.

These approaches offer real-time data snapshots into employee attitudes and engagement, and allow talent management professionals to be agile in crafting an employee experience. This data, and agile approaches, allow them to design personalized employee experiences that deliver a true understanding of their customers.