Share me the details

COLUMN | July 20, 2022 | 5 min read

Share me the details

Hyper-personalised experiences blur the line between employee and customer

By Dr. Catriona Wallace, AI expert and professor

What do today’s hybrid worker, permanent work-from-home employee, and full-time officegoer have in common? They all expect a workplace experience with systems and processes to mirror the intuitive, frictionless, tailored experiences we’re accustomed to in every other aspect of our lives.

This isn’t news to any leader who’s managed a distributed workforce through the pandemic. Silos, spreadsheets, and disconnected systems don’t cut it in the new world of work. It’s no surprise that corporate spending on digital transformation is set to rise for a third straight year, according to the latest EY-Parthenon Digital Investment Index report.

During the crisis, many organisations bet that having greater flexibility in how and where work gets done would translate to mutually beneficial boundaries around availability, preventing burnout and boosting engagement. What leaders didn’t see coming was how significantly employee relationships with employers would change. Aussie workers’ desire for greater fulfilment and control has brought work and personal lives closer than ever before.


 The Secrets to Creating the Ultimate Workplace

Imagine that I’m a typical Australian knowledge worker. Months of intermittent isolation, fears about health and well-being, and economic uncertainty have created a space to get to know myself better. I’ve figured out what truly inspires me—and that may include monetising a side hustle alongside my day job. I’m looking for shortcuts that unlock efficiency, but also reflect empathy. Today, I want the company I choose to invest my time, energy, and creativity with to know me better than I know myself.

Time savings and unexpectedly on-point suggestions served up by consumer apps have made me less sceptical about sharing my personal information. The “big brother” perspective is so last decade: I want my company’s systems to recognise what I’m working on and where the bottlenecks are, and make my day-to-day work flow. I accept that I may have to give my employer greater access to my data, but I believe the benefits outweigh the risks.

I can easily waste a day a week looking for information that I need just to do my job, when it should come looking for me. I have creative, original thinking to offer. Being asked to waste my time on repetitive tasks that add no value is the ultimate demotivator. That’s what AI is for.

I’m more than happy to have robots on my team. Where it makes sense, robotic process automation (RPA) can take on many of the mundane tasks that would otherwise crowd my day: logging into multiple apps, filling out forms, extracting content from emails and PDFs, copying and pasting information, and lots of other rule- or schedule-based tasks.

Give me intelligent workflows that connect all parts of the business in one location, remove silos, and pointless hoops to jump through. My real value is in spending more time problem-solving, brainstorming, relationship-building, and doing human-to-human work. What really motivates me is delighting my customers.

Aussie workers’ desire for greater fulfilment and control has brought work and personal lives closer than ever before.

The right tools can identify when I’m working too much—and prompt my manager to do something about it. Likewise, I’m open to my company using sentiment analysis and natural language understanding (NLU) to gauge my enthusiasm, engagement, and notice when I’m doing great work (and reward me for it). I know AI can also help me improve, by helping me understand my weaknesses so I can address them before they become a problem.

Take some of the career development work off my shoulders with tools that map my skills, performance, ambitions, and leadership potential. Help me amplify the hyper-personalised moments that matter in the employee journey for my direct reports—from awesome onboarding to supportive offboarding.

AI and analytics offer huge opportunities to manage my team in a data-driven and evidence-based way. Australia is in a skills crisis, which gives workers the upper hand in the labour market. HR teams can boost their internal mobility rate with predictive modelling and analytics to find hidden talent and match great candidates (like me!) with open roles, before we decide to leave.

I feel the same way about the brands that I choose to buy from. I want to access products, services, websites, chatbots, and customer service 24/7 from any device, wherever I’m located, whenever the impulse takes me—and that includes government services.

Like most Millennials and Gen-Zs, I prefer to self-serve rather than pick up the phone. But I also know that sometimes there’s no replacement for having a trained expert handle my issue or case personally. My favourite organisations provide different strokes for different folks—they meet me where I want, and my mum can engage the way she likes, too.

Offering greater choice in response to these customer preferences also means government and business will need to accelerate the implementation of secure digital identities.

And here’s the thing: I’m happy to share my data if it guarantees a valuable, personalised, highly secure experience. But business and government have to get it right: I expect to be marketed to, but I won’t be satisfied with 40% accuracy predicting what I want.

If an organisation has my details, they should impress me with relevant recommendations, personalised communication, and resolution of issues before I even know about them. If they can’t meet that standard, I will unsubscribe and take my business elsewhere.


The Business Council of Australia says that as decades of abundance give way to an era of scarcity, a permanent employee-employer shift has occurred. ESG is now a mainstream business issue. Corporate reputations rise and fall not just on quarterly earnings but also on what a company says or doesn’t say about pressing community and environmental problems.

Working for a company that has a broader social purpose is a priority for me and the next generation of workers. My workplace is my community and reflects my own values. Post-pandemic, I expect my CEO to stand up and take a position on the issues facing our generation—climate change, social inequity, gender equality.

And in an era of misinformation, there’s also a new opportunity for organisations to deepen employee and customer loyalty and build trust by helping me and my colleagues distinguish between fact and fake.


There’s been a lot of give and take between organisations and workers over the past two years as we’ve ironed out an entirely new social agreement. The bottom line is that I’m an employee and a customer. My expectations are the same wherever I am and whatever I’m doing: Make things effortless, secure, and predictive.

It’s not much of a stretch to imagine a future when the best experiences share these common traits, and employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX) will be almost indistinguishable.


 How to workflow your ESG program

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Dr. Catriona Wallace is executive director of the Gradient Institute (Responsible AI) and adjunct professor at the Australian Graduate School of Management. She is one of Australia's leading AI entrepreneurs and experts.