JoAnne Kruse, CHRO, American Express Global Business Travel
Thanks to the rise of mobile technology, companies with a truly global workforce are able to connect like never before. A number of tools and virtual interfaces are enabling quick and constant engagement, making physical distance increasingly inconsequential.
The impact of new communication platforms is felt particularly strongly in the realm of human resources (HR), where they have reshaped virtually every aspect of the department’s role from recruitment to training to ongoing engagement. For a company like American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), whose employees typically work in borderless roles, being able to connect more easily builds a more efficient team and creates a more collaborative working environment.
The Rise of Virtual Interaction
Working remotely with flexible options such as joining conferences and meetings via an interactive video chat, or having the ability to pick your designated work hours, is a growing trend with no signs of slowing in the near future. In this era, employees are no longer separated by geographical distance. New tools and virtual interfaces allow for a cross-cultural and cross-geographical workforce. Currently, this growing ease of connecting across great distance is streamlining every aspect of the HR process.
At American Express GBT, about 30 percent of our HR department works remotely. To successfully manage our remote workforce, we partnered with digital communications solution Jive Software to launch an interactive intranet we branded–based on employee suggestions–“UConnect”. Deployed as a social media platform for connecting employees, UConnect has strategically realigned internal staff and increased engagement by facilitating peer-to-peer and bottoms-up communication. Much like other social platforms, conversations are driven by participants. From announcements to more complex topics like payroll issues or benefit questions, a back-and-forth dialogue often enables employees to identify and even answer questions before the subject matter expert responds. This creates a more transparent, faster and organic communication style, reinforcing one of our new values to “keep it simple”.
"Incorporating mobile capabilities into HR practices will be a key in retaining employees and staying on the cutting-edge"
The rise of virtual communications has also proven helpful in today’s recruitment and talent acquisition marketplace. Tools and platforms such as FaceTime, Skype for Business, and Jabber are useful for HR executives to interact virtually with employees and prospective employees.
These platforms create access and a positive buzz among potential recruits by conveying tech savviness, ease of use and flexibility, and create a more collaborative, personalized atmosphere than a simple phone call. At American Express GBT, we use this platform frequently in our interviewing process.
For HR executives, a big part of the job is continually evolving tools, programs, and processes to create a productive and efficient work environment. In this realm, the value of mobile communication tools is considerable as personal use of smartphones continues to grow exponentially, and there is an ever-greater use of tablets.
Mobile applications in the workplace are bringing radical changes and benefits to HR professionals as businesses continue to adopt apps for recruitment, development, and engagement with employees.
American Express GBT is no exception. We have engaged SaaS-based solutions exclusively, like Jive, Workday and CultureIQ, integrating them through our HR system of record, Workday. As we complete our technology infrastructure separation from Amex over the next year, we expect to have all of our systems fully integrated and accessible via mobile. The resulting flexibility improves coordination, making it easier for employees and candidates to work seamlessly regardless of work location.
Technology and Teamwork
Technology can foster a culture of collaboration by creating online spaces for employees to share ideas, create projects, and track performance with colleagues around the world. When these tools are implemented and organizational processes are streamlined, the feeling of interconnectedness has the added benefit of influencing employee turnover.
American Express GBT supports a collective, collaborative culture by offering opportunities for employees to have live interactive chats with executives, virtual roundtables and town halls in which people can meet and share insights. Even when an event takes place in person, such as our annual management meeting, we use UConnect, our Jive-powered interactive intranet, and other tools to communicate with employees not in attendance. All management development programs are conducted virtually, and feature a combination of online learning, work and learning circles that pull everyone together in a virtual classroom. Such activities are designed to allow employees to learn and work together, complementing what they may do independently with some of the same content.
The work world is changing fast. Companies should be adaptable, ready to implement the latest technologies to support future business strategies and models. When such tools are thoughtfully deployed, companies can build a workforce that is united, engaged, and aligned.
As companies undergo digital transformation, HR departments will be at the heart of this change. From utilizing tools that allow employees to work seamlessly on mobile devices to entering time and accessing payroll, incorporating mobile capabilities into HR practices will be a key in retaining employees and staying on the cutting-edge.