You may be familiar with the story of the blind men and an elephant. In it, a group of blind men come upon an elephant and each describes the animal from what he can feel. The one feeling the elephant’s leg says that it’s like a great pillar; the one who feels the tail says it’s like a rope; and, the one who feels the trunk says it’s like a tree branch. There are many versions of the story, just as the message behind the story is that there are many versions of one experience. And in order to make an informed decision, one has to bring all of those experiences together.

HR technology and processes can be a bit like that elephant. No, not massive and potentially harmful. Technology today is more than a tool; it’s an experience. Take Twitter, for example. For me, it’s a place to occasionally stop in, maybe stumble upon some ideas, share a few of my own, and disappear again. For others, it is an indispensable tool to manage sentiment around their product or brand. For some, it is a lifeline to friends and family. Same tool, many different uses.

All too often when we are implementing processes or purchasing tools for our organizations, we don’t stop and consider the many different people using it, and what their experience will be like. Which is why I am thrilled to be a part of this blog series with Lesley Lyons, marketing director for PeopleStrategy and Ben Eubanks, principal analyst for Lighthouse Research & Advisory. Over the next several weeks, we’re going to be exploring the idea of experience through the eyes of business leaders, administrators and employees.

So as the opening statement for this ongoing conversation, I offer a hypothesis. The employer/employee relationship – once viewed as a transactional relationship – first evolved into “engagement,” and is now giving way to “experience.” There are many ways to define engagement, but mine has always been about engaging individual skill, commitment and effort with organizational goals. While it is about the individual’s contribution towards the common good, it really is still focused on the individual. An experience is typically something that is shared. Even if the experience is reading a blog or a book, the emotion or response evoked is a result of that asynchronous interaction with someone else’s thought. So, as we evolve from engagement to experience, we must start to listen to, and understand, our impact on, the other people gathered around the elephant with us.

For companies, this means making sure you’re paying attention to the employee (or candidate, if we are talking pre-hire) and how processes and technology not only make them more efficient, but deliver the look and feel and engagement that embodies your organization’s values and goals. It also means paying attention to senior leaders and how they consume information, and helping them turn information into insightful decision-making. Because if they can’t act on the information, it’s just a pretty picture. And it also means ensuring that HR and administrative staff have all the tools and flexibility they need to effectively manage the back-end processes that make our companies run.

I hope you’ll join us for the experience of teasing out the role of people, process and technology on all three of these experiences across the lifecycle. We would love to hear your point of view, so please offer your comments, and tune in next time for a post from Lesley.

Mollie Lombardi, Co-Founder, Aptitude Research Partners