27 September 2023

Updating the employee experience

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Dan Schawbel* says the legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic is a workforce demanding more than pay and basic conditions from the organisations that employ them.

There’s never been a more important moment for leaders to make the employee experience a burning priority.

Due to the pandemic, both the workplace and workplace culture have endured a seismic shift, and employees are demanding more from the organisations they work for.

For the first time in the history of work, money is not the primary motivating driver.

Instead, workers long to feel engaged, included, and connected.

They want to feel inspired by their leaders and feel they are being listened to as well.

They want to have access to the technological tools they need to succeed, and they want to enjoy their work and feel connected to a bigger purpose.

Is this a tall order? Yes, but it’s worth it.

Get employee experience right, and your people will want to stick around at your organisation and help it thrive.

However, in order to achieve these outcomes, your organisation may need to redesign and transform its very DNA.

There’s been a lot of talk about what employee experience means today.

However, not as much thought has gone into how this evolves over the longer term.

That needs to change, particularly as several new considerations have come into the spotlight over the past two years.

First, there’s the issue of how best to support employee wellbeing, especially for those in challenging roles (for example front-line workers).

Businesses are also navigating the difficulties of the new remote or hybrid work reality, with many struggling to create a remote experience that’s just as effective and engaging as the office worker experience.

Let’s examine these issues as well as other trends shaping the future of employee experience for today’s workers.

Last year, an average of nearly four million workers quit their jobs each month, in what’s being called the Great Resignation.

Although there are many factors behind the spiralling quit rates, the negative impact that people’s jobs can have on their wellbeing has played a significant role.

Fortunately, many organisations recognised there was an emerging mental health crisis and ramped up their benefits in response.

Some provided additional time off for their workers, and most offered greater flexibility or remote work options.

Others added or expanded their family-friendly benefits.

Companies have also responded to the crisis by making their workplaces kinder, gentler places to work.

They have done away with the always-on, ‘hustle culture’, moving toward a more compassionate leadership model.

Leaders are rewarding collaboration over competition.

They’re encouraging their employees to set boundaries between their professional and personal lives.

In tomorrow’s workplace, there will be an even greater focus on designing an employee experience that improves people’s lives and supports the wellbeing of their families.

We’ve already seen many companies adopt practices like creating ‘core hours’ for meetings so that work doesn’t trickle into all times of the day.

In the future, we’ll likely see organisations implement a four-day work-week, ban after-hours emailing, require their workforce to use all of their vacation time, and continue to expand their benefits.

Although 79 per cent of organisations plan to adopt a hybrid working model, this approach may not benefit all workers equally.

In fact, some employees have already experienced a bias favouring office workers over those who work remotely.

This occurs through a lack of planning coupled with an outdated culture.

There’s a big difference between a workplace that tolerates remote work and a remote-first workplace.

In a remote-first culture, remote work is the default mode — one that truly puts all workers on a level playing field.

To create this type of workplace, leaders need to review all of their systems and processes to ensure that no aspects of their employee experience favour office workers over remote staff.

As a first step, managers should place all communications and company information in one easy-to-search knowledge base that everyone has access to.

Employers should also revisit their performance review process to ensure that promotions are being awarded based on merit, not based on who goes into the office.

Another idea is to encourage managers to hold meetings via video conference if even one employee is working remotely, so no one misses out on any in-person conversations.

Finally, it’s critical that employers look for ways to encourage virtual socialisation so that remote workers feel just as included as their on-site counterparts.

While remote work offers many advantages, one of the major drawbacks is that employees may feel more isolated — not just from each other, but from their organisation as a whole.

With the Great Resignation showing no signs of slowing down, leaders of remote and hybrid organisations are taking steps to bring their dispersed teams closer together.

Having the right collaboration technologies is the key, but employers are also discovering that these technologies should support socialisation as well.

In fact, research from my company, Workplace Intelligence, and Kahoot! finds that 72 per cent of workers say it’s important for them to have fun with their colleagues during the workday.

The remote work reality has caused many people to feel disassociated from their organisation’s culture, and lacking a sense of purpose and meaning in their work.

That’s set to change in 2022, as more and more businesses tackle environmental, social, and governance issues.

This helps people to align their personal values with their organisation’s purpose — an essential way to attract and retain top talent.

Looking to the future, it’s clear that good pay and benefits won’t be enough.

People desperately want to feel a sense of purpose and connection, and the ideal employee experience will be with an organisation that contributes to the greater good.

Organisations that can provide this type of environment will prosper, and those that don’t may find themselves left behind.

The time to design tomorrow’s employee experience is now.

*Dan Schawbel is a bestselling author and Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence, a research and advisory firm helping HR adapt to trends, drive performance and prepare for the future.

This article is part of his Workplace Intelligence Weekly series.

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