A. What is the employee experience and why is it important?

In the mass production economy of the industrial age, efficiency determined performance and employees were above all supposed to be efficient. And then, from the 1970s onward, the invention of computing power has made it possible to automate production processes. However, fifty years of operating under Moore’s Law— the axiom that computing power doubles every two years— have spurred innovations that go beyond automation and are transforming production as we know it.

As blockchain leads to decentralization and transparency, the internet of things creates connectivity, 3D printing enables the mass customization of products and artificial intelligence enables the mass customization of services, the implications for business are not straightforward. Yet one thing is certain: In the digital age, having efficient people no longer cuts it. Businesses need to embrace innovation and disrupt their industries or risk being disrupted themselves.

To do so they need agile people. Forerunners understand this and they are transforming their businesses into agile organisations along two lines. First, they break down siloes and redesign their organisation as a network of teams. This allows the teams, consisting of experts on the topic, both employees and freelances, to respond to issues quickly – they are formed as soon as a new issue comes up and they are disbanded once the issue is solved. Second, they break down command and redesign management as a network of self-steering teams. This allows the teams to adjust their response to issues in real-time.

B. How do I acquire talent?

In the industrial age, lifetime employment was often considered the ultimate goal and motivation consisted of hard factors such as pay and promotion –pay as it enabled employees to participate in the mass consumption economy and promotion as it enabled them to climb the social ladder. In the digital age, talented people no longer depend on traditional employers as they are able to deliver their products and services online – just think of platforms such as AirBnB or social media channels such as Youtube and Instagram.

When talented people do choose to work for an employer, they derive their motivation from soft factors such as recognition and the alignment of personal and organizational values. That’s why many forerunners now focus their recruitment efforts on promoting the company culture. They do so first by branding the company culture and then by actively turning employees into ambassadors. Some companies even go as far as to employ recruitment apps such as eiTalent that use algorithms to predict the fit between their core values and candidates’ values.

C. How do I retain talent?

When people think of talent retention the first thing that comes to mind is making sure talented employees don’t leave the company. In most cases however, talent retention is less about people walking away and more about talent fading away as employees are not given the opportunity to develop themselves.

As the digital age centres the employee experience on agility and talent acquisition on value alignment, it centres talent retention on lifelong learning. At the industry level, we see that jobs that are based on routine physical and cognitive tasks are being automated. At the system level, we see that the convergence of industries and technologies is creating new categories of jobs whilst displacing others. Innovations immediately translate to skill disruption and upgrading the skills of your employees is now more important than ever.

So how does it work? You depart from the real-life business cases your employees are working on. Then you choose a training they can relate to these business cases and set new targets. If you don’t want to outsource this part to business (training) schools, you can either use employee learning systems to design and deliver customized programs or you can use online courses from Udacity, Coursera and EdX. The benefit of employee learning systems and online courses is that employees are able to learn when they want how they want. As they follow the program, they are expected to apply the gained insights to their daily practice and work toward their targets. While some employees benefit from being able to consult with a coach in the process, most employees benefit from working together with fresh, new faces from different backgrounds so make sure you involve start-ups in some of your projects. Bringing start-ups in does not only help employees gain certain skills, but it also helps them develop a digital mindset.

D. How do I measure the performance of my employees?

In the digital age, work is no longer a place we go to every day from 9 to 5. Employees are now more flexible than ever, yet our way of measuring performance is still very much input-based – we keep logbooks and we often look at the amount of time employees have worked on a project as opposed to the quality of what they have produced.

Although measuring the quality of work is difficult, a good way to start is to quit evaluating performance on a yearly basis. In line with their daily digital experiences on social media, employees now expect real-time feedback and many successful companies such as GE and Adobe are following this trend by switching to continuous assessments. As companies gather anonymous feedback continuously, assessments such as pulse surveys enable them to act on issues in real-time.