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The benefits of personalisation in the workplace

At Moneypenny, a telephone-answering service for businesses, employees are made to feel special: they have their own desk area that they can personalise and a budget for a desk lamp of their choice.

“Staff ideas form the design of our office, hence why there is a pub, a treehouse and an allotment,” says chief executive Joanna Swash. “Our core belief has always been happy staff equals happy clients and a company that doesn’t believe this on some level puts itself at risk.”

Progressive organisations like this are arming employees with personalised tools, recognising these are now imperative to attract and retain talent.

Thinking of employees as customers

And dialling up personalisation can transform a business, boosting employee engagement and job satisfaction while engendering a staff-led workplace culture. So says Jason Fowler, human resources director in Europe for multinational information technology giant Fujitsu, which has more than 140,000 employees.

“Personalised offerings provide a greater sense of connection between the employee and the organisation,” he says. “By fostering a relationship that suits the employee’s circumstances, and an environment where the employer cares about these things, it means individuals can better focus on their work in a more engaged and committed way.”

Personalised tools level up employee engagement, working life and organisational success, and they enable individualised learning and development, according to Liz Sebag-Montefiore, director and co-founder of career management specialist 10Eighty.

However, she warns: “Your workforce is not a single thing and one size does not fit all when it comes to personalised tools. Think of employees as customers; consider their values, needs and preferences. Consider that an organisation’s ability to make employees more employable will become a point of competitive advantage.”

Oliver Muhr, chief executive at Starmind, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to leverage the collective human intelligence inside businesses, agrees. “HR apps that use human plus AI can identify experts in the workplace, unlock rich intelligence and uncover upskilling opportunities for individual employees,” he says.

Make employees feel special

Further, personalised tools in the workplace are critical because data-hungry millennials and Generation Zs, who together make up 60 per cent of the global workforce, are “wired differently” to previous generations, says Charlie Johnson, founder and chief executive of BrighterBox, a London-based recruitment firm that places graduates with startups.

HR apps can identify experts in the workplace, unlock rich intelligence and uncover upskilling opportunities for individual employees

“Their attention spans are shorter, and their ability to consume information across multiple channels and platforms is exceptional,” he says. “Keeping them engaged is becoming an ever-increasing challenge. Allowing them more control over their working style, tech toolkit and office setup is key.”

Johnson cites GoCardless as an example of how a personalised workplace boosts workforce engagement. “From workspace assessment for pregnant mothers to tailored re-onboarding programmes after maternity leave, changing tables and kids’ activities, they are determined to make everyone feel special,” he says.

Tech that enhances human interactions

For Saurav Chopra, co-founder and chief executive of Perkbox, a platform designed to enrich the employee experience, gaining knowledge about individuals’ personal goals and interests, and allowing them to pursue their aims, precipitates a “win-win” situation. “Giving employees a voice to be heard is a vital way of personalising their workplace experience, especially when it comes to culture and values, and particularly as a company grows and evolves,” he says.

Chopra is concerned, though, that some organisations may be becoming over-reliant on digital personalised tools, such as apps or online learning portals, thereby dehumanising employees. He urges HR leaders to strike the right balance, ensuring all personalisation initiatives introduced in a company improve the workplace experience rather than overcomplicating it. He adds: “Online platforms should enhance human interactions, not replace them.”

What does the future hold? Gamification will have a big part to play in workplace personalisation, specifically around health and mindfulness, Johnson believes. “Companies like Yulife are combining benefits like life insurance and rewards with gamified incentives linked to how many steps you take and how often you meditate,” he says.

James Longworth, workplace technology consultant at leading IT solutions provider Insight UK, predicts workplace personalisation tools will continue to become more like consumer services. “Company news will be curated to fit individuals’ specific interests, the software applications an individual needs to do their job will be at their fingertips and collaboration software will make sure those people you deal with the most are the easiest to contact,” he says.

Gamification, tailored news, employer engagement, career progression, having a voice. The modern workplace sounds stimulating and fun, and that’s the point.