Why employee experience in Asia Pacific remain misguided despite efforts

Companies in Asia Pacific are focusing on employee experience (EX) due to reasons such as dipping CX ratings, talent shortages, and the threat of automation. According to a report by Forrester titled "Employee experience efforts in Asia Pacific are well-intentioned but misguided", service industries across Asia Pacific such as banking, IT and IT services, and airlines tend to focus more on EX. Large multi-national companies also leverage EX to foster a cohesive and standardised culture to ensure employees feel part of the larger group.

For Southeast Asia in particular, Western influence drives EX initiatives and firms advanced in EX focus on ROI, commercial and societal outcomes.

In Singapore, Forrester said that top banks concentrated their efforts on hiring and retaining talent, thereby reducing job complexity. Meanwhile in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, newer tech firms are said to focus more on EX than others. In the Philippines, multi-national companies adopt EX practices from global offices into business process outsourcing firms.

Across Southeast Asia, Forrester ranked Singapore Airlines, AirAsia, DBS Bank, Gojek, and dairy farming company JAPFA as examples of companies with an EX focus.

For Gojek in particular, the report noted that its leadership is committed to a "human first, asset second" approach, and the company also set clear EX priorities. They include must-have basics such as salary, benefits, workplace, vision, and values, as well as important-to-have fringe areas such as career development, personal growth, and nice-to-haves such as fun and perks. Technology is also a main pillar in helping Gojek create a great work environment and foster human connections within its workforce. Majority of employees (90%) said they had an "amazing" experience at the company last year.

Meanwhile in China, organisations there are doubling down on the employee experience, while in Japan, organisations are beginning to focus on talent issues which leads them to think about EX. In India, Forrester said that the forces influencing EX adoption are "as large and diverse" as the country itself.

Meanwhile here is a snippet of what some other countries value when it comes to EX:

Firms still fall behind despite good intentions

According to Forrester, EX maturity within the region is still very low despite the high interest and very few firms map out employee journeys or create employee personas. Many companies have not comprehended the full extent of EX and those responsible for improving EX are HR individuals rebranded as EX professionals, Forrester explained. This eventually becomes an issue of change stops here, and when many EX professionals continue performing the same activities they did as HR professionals. These include nurturing employee wellness, recruiting talent and managing employee performance.

Instead, they should be taking on broader tasks required of EX management, such as developing employee personas, mapping daily journeys and designing experiences.

Another issue when it comes to EX initiatives is that companies ignore technology's influence on EX. Regardless of the nature of the work, most jobs today are heavily tech-dependent but Forrester noted that many EX initiatives "completely ignore" the tech aspect. Even when EX teams understand the importance of technology to the overall employee experience, the report said EX teams rarely get sufficient resources, often lack the skills to make tech buying and maintenance decisions by themselves, and have been unable to get collaboration going with digital leaders within the organisation.

This results in suboptimal technology choices, hinders tech adoption, and ultimately ensures that the EX pot of gold stays out of reach.

Additionally, EX initiatives often target the wrong outcomes such as retention or employee Net Promoter Score. Forrester, however, said it is better to create engaged, resourceful employees as they will work harder and smarter to serve and retain customers. The measurement of EX is also another issue for companies and they often do not know what the numbers in the data mean or how to make use of them to improve employee experience. This leaves employees feeling that nobody is acting on their feedback even though they have provided it. Also, companies struggle to pay equal attention to employees and customers.

"The seeming lack of a direct link between investing in employees and generating revenue means that they often struggle to build a proper business case to predict ROI. This is further complicated by an inherent organisational bias to commit resources to customers first and employees later," Forrester said.

How you can make improvements in EX

Instead of focusing on the employee lifecycle from hire to retire, companies are encouraged to concentrate instead on employees' daily journeys, and link their abilities to complete daily tasks with their overall experience. Also, to ensure there is a cohesive EX agenda, CX professionals must partner with HR, technology and operations teams. This helps to drive employee growth and support, influence hardware and software, and have direct control over the nature and intensity of jobs.

CX professionals can also help improve EX initiatives by leveraging their experience and understanding the differences between CX and EX to apply these skills to work, as well as fill in the gaps in EX management. It also helps if the same team leads both CX and EX efforts. Meanwhile, since EX measurement is a challenge that companies face, Forrester said the goal for companies is to understand the important factors, including technology, that explain why employees can or cannot make progress on their most important work tasks.

Measurement alone isn’t enough; driving action is critical too. To do this, companies should develop guidelines for sharing and prioritising EX measurement data.

They can also define processes and create accountability for acting on the data. Additionally, companies should quantify the benefits of EX and link them to CX by, for example, creating an ROI model to justify EX investments. According to Forrester, this ensures that companies are making the right investments, helps gain executive buy-in, and position them for long-term EX success. The model should quantify the costs, benefits, future opportunities and risks associated with investing in EX.