The pandemic has brought about many stories of companies digitally transforming to stay ahead of the shift online, with a renewed focus on customer experience. Meanwhile, a quieter and equally important shift is happening. While remote work has its upsides, it has also brought about numerous challenges with teams becoming more siloed, and digital exhaustion a real and unsustainable threat.
As a result, employees' expectations for flexibility have increased, to provide options for healthy and productive individual circumstances. With 47 percent of workers in Asia considering leaving their current employers - a figure that rises to 67 percent in India - businesses need a thoughtful approach to retain and attract diverse talent.
Knowing where to start is simple - by focusing on what employees expect. This will inform what makes a great employee experience (EX) - one that enables employee-driven flexibility in terms of where, when, and how they work - and help companies maintain their competitive edge. In fact, a recent KPMG report found that investing in EX makes companies four times more profitable. So, where do businesses go from here?
Nurturing great relationships with employees requires empathy
A more distributed workforce makes it harder for people managers to have casual check-ins or impromptu conversations that give important cues on their employees’ well-being and concerns. And according to Microsoft, there is a disconnect of perceptions in how things are going - 61% of business leaders globally say they are thriving, while 67% of employees are overwhelmed with their work lives.
This is why empathy is key. People managers need to be willing to listen with compassion, communicate with honesty and recognize that the same challenges impact employees in different ways and at different rates. Creating a psychologically safe environment for employees to share their concerns and get the support they need can go a long way in nurturing great relationships and delivering better EX.
Businesses recognising this are finding new ways to best support employees - from providing leave to support employees who are caregiving for themselves or dependents as a result of COVID-19, delivering care packages to employees in hard-hit areas or creating safe spaces like empathy circles for employees to come together to share, learn and support each others’ diverse experiences with senior leaders in attendance as ‘active listeners.
Pay attention to employee well-being
At a time where people have had to re-examine their priorities, it’s also important for leaders to instill a strong sense of purpose among employees. Paying attention to physical, emotional, and psychological well-being is crucial, especially with digital burnout being an increasing concern. Conducting regular surveys to gauge employee sentiments will shed light on evolving needs and concerns and must be followed through with action.
Introducing different well-being programs is another scalable way to give employees the flexibility of choice that fits their needs - whether that be meditation apps like Calm, mental health support through Modern Health, or initiatives like ‘Recharge Fridays’.
Empower collaboration and learning through technology
As employee expectations change, businesses need to define productivity much more broadly - one that is inclusive of collaboration, learning, and overall well-being that drive employees towards career advancement and fulfilment. As we develop this concept of digital-first, having the right systems and tools become pivotal to delivering great employee - and ultimately customer - experiences.
Omni-channel platforms for internal communications make it easier for employees to get their questions answered on a single platform. Democratising institutional knowledge through internal help desks or directory-based workflows ensure employees can get their jobs done or questions answered quickly and efficiently, especially in remote environments. Implementing technologies such as workflow automation, self-service, and artificial intelligence to internal workflows frees up more time for employees to focus on other aspects of their jobs.
The pandemic has also dramatically accelerated the trend in reskilling and upskilling, making it increasingly important for businesses to instill a strong culture of learning while ensuring employees have access to training and development to be effective and successful at their jobs. How this training is delivered also has to shift according to current trends - the days of formal, day-long training sessions need to make way for more informal, bite-sized and asynchronous formats.
Diversity and inclusion are table stakes
Having a broad mix of differences - from culture and ethnicity to background, sexual orientation, and gender - brings a wealth of important and unique perspectives to the table. This enhances creativity and encourages vibrant discussion, leading to better decision making and outcomes. Meanwhile, equal access, opportunity, and belonging are necessary elements in cultivating a sustainable and meaningful culture where employees want to stay and thrive. Leaders play a key role in the success of these efforts through fostering a healthy feedback culture and creating safe spaces for employees to have open discussions and productive debates. When employees feel valued at work, they are more likely to be engaged.
Building the right foundation for a great EX ensures employees feel like the senior management is listening to them, feel empowered to be productive to help customers, and in turn, contribute to the success of the company. After all, employees are the greatest champions of the brand.
So, for companies looking to win the talent war, start by leaning in to understand what your employees care about, and how we can better support not only what they need, but also what is required to help them thrive beyond the pandemic.