The business world’s “Great Emergence” from the COVID-19 crisis signals a seismic shift in how modern workers define their career and find fulfilment at work.
For organizations that listen to the insights of their people, creating a positive employee experience (EX) is the next step in the logic of business continuity. A great EX ranks high on their agenda. After all, it is what distinguishes the winners in the ongoing talent war, research from experience management leader Qualtrics reveals.
The very notion of employee engagement is evolving in a post-COVID world: people desire meaningful work and meaningful connections at work.
A sense of belonging
In fact, a recent study by Qualtrics revealed two main factors influencing EX today: “a sense of belonging and a sense of pride in the company’s efforts to have a positive impact on the world.”
“Belonging is highly correlated to engagement,” Qualtrics said.
Employees who “feel they belong” are 3.5 times more likely to feel engaged at work than those who feel left out. Almost everyone (91%) who feels part of the mission feels engaged.
In contrast, only one in five workers (20%) feel engaged amid the lack of meaningful connection to their organization.
This trend became much clearer when the pandemic forced most of the world’s workers to go digital and shelter at home. The work-from-home revolution tested how well teams maintained their rapport and team spirit even in a virtual setting.
While, at some organizations, remote working had put a strain on employee connectedness, the same situation also proved to be an opportunity for improvement in some innovative firms.
“Every day, we are reinventing,” said Navneet Narula, Qualtrics’ Managing Director – India, in an exclusive interview with People Matters.
“Gone are the days when people would say, ‘I know what I need to do, planning for 12 months.’ As a business owner, it is not that easy anymore. You have to think differently.”
And so, to “think differently,” organizations need to deploy tools that help them glean insights about the realities confronting their employees and communities.
At Myntra, for example, India’s largest fashion e-commerce group, engaging employees better meant listening to their needs more closely.
“Cultivating a feeling of belonging even though teams were working remotely was imperative,” said Sneha Arora, Vice President of Human Capital at Myntra.
“Prior to the pandemic, we would run an annual employee engagement survey. However, we were clear from the beginning that we needed to increase the frequency of communications, whether it was through town halls or online forums. We needed a platform for honest and transparent two-way communications,” Arora said.
“The engagement survey tool from Qualtrics is fundamental in helping us regularly gather feedback from our employees and immediately and confidently act on it, with the insights captured helping guide the actions we take.”
Indeed, HR leaders need to bring EX right at the center of the action.
“To us, there is an experience-based transformation happening. Where Qualtrics comes in is to help organizations design and improve the experiences and build a ‘culture of action.’ A lot of data suggests, listening is important but [what is] more important is acting on it,” Narula of Qualtrics said.
Changing models of work
Another major factor influencing EX is the choice of one’s work settings in the pandemic.
As talent leaders enter into the uncharted territory of hybrid working, many are asking what new models of remote, mobile and hybrid work mean – and how might these models impact employee engagement, productivity, wellbeing and happiness.
The key to a successful model is openness and flexibility, advises Steve Bennetts, who spearheads EX solutions at Qualtrics.
“You’ve got [people going] fully remote, default digital, dynamic hybrid, static hybrid, synchronized hybrid, office first and then office [only],” Bennetts told People Matters.
No matter the model you choose, however, “be clear with your workforce that this will continue to evolve over time. Don’t land on one and say, ‘this is it.’ With the lockdowns and potential third waves, this whole notion around how people will work needs to adapt and evolve,” he said.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, organizations pivoted very quickly and used their digital platforms and listening platforms like Qualtrics to reach out to their people on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
“A frequent [and] continuous listening program was critical. By acting on the back of that feedback, it creates trust and confidence, and helps people understand what they can control in a time of significant uncertainty,” Bennetts said.
“Whichever model you pick, [you have to ask] how are you pivoting your onboarding program? Your promotions program? How do you know if your performance is going well? How do you create a team, and that connectedness? How do you create that culture of belonging?”
A tech-driven solution
Having the right tools for listening and engaging with employees is vital to formulating informed decisions.
“If I’m making a decision and, tomorrow, I’m asked why I decided on it, the technology I used should have the ability to help me defend my decision. That’s becoming critical,” Narula said.
“Qualtrics helps [businesses to] process and understand structured and unstructured data from more than 130 listening channels to create a holistic picture of the experience provided to customers, employees, partners and suppliers. As the volume of unstructured data captured by organisations continues to increase, artificial intelligence and automated workflows - which have been fine-tuned for over a decade - are essential in driving positive outcomes.”
Technology can play a great role in finding “implicit and explicit trends” that surface from the data and “be actioned on,” Narula said.
This close relationship between technology, data and insights is beneficial in an era where employee engagement, productivity and flexibility go hand in hand.
“People have learned a lot about themselves during this time,” Bennetts added. “And so, people are looking to their organizations to help them understand what is working [for them] going forward.”