The pandemic experience has changed people and their behaviours in profound ways. Faced with deep economic uncertainty, a growing climate crisis, rising geopolitical tensions, and a heightened sense of risk, people have a very different set of priorities in work and life.
These priorities influence how work has changed to become more virtual and flexible.
Flexible and virtual work has now become an expectation rather than a nice-to-have for most workers. According to the EY Work Reimagined Survey 2022 (WR survey), which surveyed employees and employers globally, less employees (20%) were reluctant toward fully remote working, compared to 34% in 2021. Employers are responding by changing their HR policies and benefits to align with these new expectations. In spite of these changes, some are finding it challenging to engage or retain employees. The reason: they may have overlooked the employees’ experience of these changes.
The importance of employee experience (EX) is well-established. 78% of HR leaders agreed that EX will be one of the most important factors affecting their organisation’s ability to deliver on key business objectives within the next two years, according to another study commissioned by EY, SAP SuccessFactors and Qualtrics and undertaken by Forrester.
Based on EY client interviews and experiences, organisations need a new strategy and approach to deliver effective change management experiences for the employee in a post-pandemic environment
Communicate and listen differently
Even in pre-pandemic times, establishing an effective employee communications strategy has always been key to driving new initiatives or replacements and modifications to existing programs. The WR survey revealed that employers and employees hold differing views on workforce culture and productivity. Employers, to a greater extent than employees, agreed that their culture has improved since the start of the pandemic. Left unchecked, this gap in perception could deepen misunderstandings, which must therefore be addressed with effective employee communications.
With increased digital adoption during the pandemic, employers should more than ever use digital communications channels that are "always-on" and interactive. Consider how some company leaders are posting videos and blogs on their personal social media and internal communications platforms. These formats and types of employee communication are highly personable and authentic and can better resonate with employees.
Not only do organisations need to change how and where they speak with employees, but they also need to change how they listen. It is time to put behind sending communications from the "faceless" and "do-not-reply" email accounts of the past. Instead, organisations need to create avenues that invite feedback and suggestions. Beyond collecting insights on employee pain points to inform improvements, employers need to respond in a timely manner and close the feedback loop. This will build confidence in employees that their views are valued and that employee experience is a journey that they are contributing to.
To improve responsiveness, employers will need to measure experiences at each delivery moment of the change program by using qualitative listening posts, interviews, and scores. This is more effective than a long-form survey conducted at the end of program implementation. Organisations can also conduct workshops to map employee journeys and identify pain points and moments of delight for targeted employee personas.
Enable digital ways of working
A key pain point experienced by the digital workforce today is the lack of accessibility to data, resources, and support due to legacy IT infrastructure. Many expect a frictionless experience as they transition between working in both home and office environments.
Employers should consider the technological changes needed to enable remote working as part of their flexible workplace policy. This includes redesigning the workplace with smart work tools to reduce administrative downtime and effectively engage employees on-premise, allowing employees to BYOD (bring your own device) to work. They should also digitalize the employees’ end-to-end lifecycle with mobile-first technologies such as providing digital onboarding forms and creating digital learning certifications. Beyond creating an enhanced digital environment, they should also consider how they are supporting mobility across roles and borders by optimising internal matching on talent marketplaces, an AI-based platform for supporting skills-related talent redeployment inside an organisation.
Employers also need to actively acknowledge and manage their employees’ workloads and stress levels due to working in virtual or remote environments. The pandemic years have seen the more creative and thoughtful distribution of employee care materials and benefits that are focused on well-being and provisioning for employees to upgrade their home technology tools. Organisations need to work with supervisors to leverage these materials to actively engage and care for employees.
Create purpose-centred change experiences
The workforce is continually experiencing changes as the organisation rolls out new employee experience initiatives. Being centred on purpose is a critical success factor for employees to embrace change. Organisations need to invest the time to build and communicate a consistent, inclusive and purposeful intent behind their EX efforts. For organisations with a diverse workforce, such as those with a mix of blue-and white-collar workers, it is particularly important that a common purpose is shared at all levels for organisations to effectively realise the potential and positive energy of an engaged workforce.
Looking ahead, as our definitions of work continue to evolve, organisations need to be intentional in transforming the employee experience -- one that is more relevant and engaging for a digital workforce in virtual or remote environments. This will require organisations to undertake a people-first approach in leveraging HR technology to listen, communicate with and manage their employees.