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Hyper-Personalization Best Practices and Misses

Professional woman sitting at desk and connecting with her computer, she is working from home

As consumers we’re very familiar with the hyper-personalization that marketers use to attempt to sell us their products—from Amazon recommendations based on past purchases, to targeted ads delivered seemingly magically after we’ve viewed something online or after we’ve said something about a product or service we’re interested in.

In the same way, organizations and their HR leaders can use technology to personalize many aspects of the employee experience—from learning and development to benefits allocation and work hours. That can offer big payoff, but it can also result in missteps. Here we take a look at the benefits and potential drawbacks of hyper-personalization and how HR leaders can most effectively leverage this technology to strategically engage employees.

What Is Hyper-Personalization from an Employee Engagement Perspective?

“Hyper-personalization is a data-driven approach to adapting each employee’s experiences based on their unique preferences,” said Hannah Yardley, chief people and culture officer at Achievers, an employee recognition platform based in Toronto. “This emerging strategy plays a vital role in revamping work for the better, and it all starts with employee belonging.” Hyper-personalization, she said, can lead to a sense of belonging where employees “feel welcome, known, included, supported and connected.”

Juanita Olguin is senior director of product marketing, platform solutions, with Coveo, an AI-powered digital experiences platform based in Quebec City. “From a tech perspective, personalization in the workplace is about using what you know about employees—their department, their teams, their projects and being able to use AI—to help guide employees as they do their research internally while also proactively recommending relevant information even before they have to search,” she said.

Hyper-Personalization in Practice

What does hyper-personalization look like in practice? Yardley shared an example:

Suppose an employee provided feedback that they’re working on their presentation skills and prefer receiving positive recognition in public. In that case, the next time this individual hits it out of the park on a new business pitch, their boss should give them kudos as “in the moment” as possible, in front of an audience. However, an introverted employee who wrote an incredible blog post and has shared they prefer private recognition should receive a sincere “well done” email for their eyes only.

That same concept can be applied to employee experiences ranging from hiring to onboarding, learning and development, performance evaluation, and benefits administration.

“With frequent and consistent hyper-personalization, you can create and effectively retain talent across all levels, helping employees and companies thrive together,” Yardley said. “Hyper-personalization is also a budget-friendly strategy, as targeting your workers in the right way allows you to invest more effectively.”

Olguin said that the right systems and access to relevant or personalized information will make a significant difference in worker productivity and proficiency. “GenAI and its answering capability can and is already significantly reducing the time workers spend searching through various documents, while summarizing information for them, thereby increasing their ability to process quickly and move on to the task at hand,” she said.

But there are still some areas where hyper-personalization is not appropriate. “It’s crucial to navigate the balance between employer requirements and employee desires thoughtfully,” said Sandra Moran, chief marketing officer of WorkForce Software, based in Livonia, Mich.

Drawbacks and Best Practices

One key consideration in using technology to personalize employee experiences and interactions is to avoid “creepy,” intrusive behavior—something we’re all familiar with as consumers. Just because you can know and use very specific personal data, doesn’t mean that you should.

Regulatory requirements also come into play and must be considered, Moran noted. “A sharp increase in regulations—especially for large global employers—makes the implementation of personalized scheduling, benefits, communication, skills development [and] training somewhat challenging to implement at an individual level while still ensuring employers are in compliance.”

Technology can address these requirements, Moran said, but many employers haven’t yet adopted it. While modern workforce management systems should be employed, she said, she also cautioned: “Essential in this process is ensuring equitable technology access for all, balancing flexibility with predictability, and safeguarding data privacy. By focusing on these areas, employers can leverage technology to ensure business interests are preserved while addressing the personalized needs of their employees.”

Another drawback: trying to take on too much at a time, Olguin said. “One key pitfall we see when companies consider an intelligent digital workplace for employees is trying to boil the ocean versus starting with a select group of employees, content and systems.”

Trialing technology and various use cases can help organizations understand what will work, what won’t, and what may need to be modified to meet organizational, regulatory and employee needs.

Finally, according to Christoph C. Cemper, an AI and cybersecurity expert and the founder and CEO of AIPRM, an AI prompt management platform for ChatGPT, companies shouldn’t over rely on the data.

He shared a personal experience: “Early on, one of my projects tried using algorithms to give employees lessons tailored just for them. But just relying on those formulas meant overlooking things like someone’s situation at home. One worker got suggestions that didn’t respect what was going on in their life.” The fix? “Combining the numbers with human judgment and making it transparent so people felt in control,” he said.

“Overall, companies need to support open discussions and agreements around respecting dignity with personalization while also boosting results,” Cemper advised. “The best approach sees people as more than data and uses technology to empower rather than divide.”

As organizations explore the potential to use technology to make employee experiences more personalized, it’s important to gather input from employees along the way about what forms of personalization they find useful and engaging—and what they may find impersonal, overreaching, or simply inaccurate or inadequate.

It’s a process, not a destination. And, with technology continuing to evolve, it’s a process that will likely be impacting HR practices for years to come.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance writer in Chippewa Falls, Wis.


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