2020 was a year where organizations had to seriously relook at employee experience. It was a year that redefined their outlook towards EX in a big way, forcing them to tune up and listen empathetically to employees and act fast. While 2021 brought hope with the authorization and dissemination of the first COVID-19 vaccines, yet it is safe to say we are not going to the old ways of working anytime soon. This means organizations have a chance to seriously relook at the culture they are building and the experience they are going to deliver in the second year of the pandemic.
So what is next for employee experience? How can we redefine it for our new world of work, a big part of which has transitioned to hybrid work? In an exclusive interaction with us, Sunit Sinha, Partner, and Head, People, Performance and Culture, KPMG in India, shares what does employee experience in the new hybrid reality looks like.
How do we reboot Employee Experience and tune up for success in our changing world of work?
At KPMG in India we have adopted a 4E model to reboot and adapt to the change – Empathize, Enable, Engage and Enlighten
A lot lies in how we support and adapt to any change that comes up. The world has not only changed for us but also our employees. We need to understand and empathize with them with the concerns that are affecting their lives on a personal front. An employee spends at least 1/3rd of his/her life for work and it's equally important that we impact the balance 2/3rd of the life with positivity, assuring them that we are standing tall and strong behind them. At times when there were many job losses, we honored our commitment to each and every offer, switched to virtual onboarding, sending laptops at home, etc. This was very important for us and I am sure this brings a sense of positivity and loyalty to the minds of our employees.
Next is to enable our employees with tools and resources to continue the work that they are doing. We are providing health insurance support, and also a COVID Specific Insurance cover -COVID Kawach as well as a medical helpline to address the health needs of our employees. We have also put in place a set of employee engagement initiatives that we have carefully curated for our KPMG in India work family. The series pays specific attention to the holistic well-being of our employees. Additionally, we have counseling sessions for work stress, relationships, marital issues, depression, etc. All of this enables our employees to feel safe and secure and to work efficiently.
Engaging them is another challenge in a virtual world. Moving from conventional ways of working to new ones like work from home, virtual client meetings, online delivery of tasks, etc. is not easy. Building a constant connect in absence of a physical environment has its own challenge. Increased employee connects, virtual rewards and recognition, employee pulse surveys, etc. build a story for us to take actions.
Learning is something that shouldn’t stop, and we have invested heavily in that. Our Stay at home learner series enabled our learning hours to increase by about 80% last year. The Talent development agenda didn’t stop and we created value by enriching the skills of our people when work was lean, so as to catapult them once we are back.
What does employee experience in the new hybrid reality of work look like? What are some of the key defining parameters?
Communications and collaboration is the key – challenging though but we can’t avoid it anymore.
Moreover, people managers are needed more than work managers. Health and well-being will take center stage and become a higher priority than tasks. Recognition would be completely online. The idea is how we can create a similar aspirational value for the awardee without diluting the essence of winning.
How can we continue to be inclusive and sensitive for everyone? Needs are different and so should our offerings be. Trust and confidence in people and systems is another key defining parameter. Employees would expect a flexible and dynamic approach towards benefits, learning, and engagement. Also, organizations need to focus on work-life balance- need to identify when and where to stop. Lastly, our efforts to re-create a higher purpose would be crucial. Our culture and values need to prevail.
Benefits have undergone a major change as work models changed and employees need different benefits in a post-pandemic world of 2020. How will organizations reimagine benefits for a hybrid world and technology’s role in that?
Infrastructure benefits need to be passed on to employees. The aim should be to create a comfortable working space for them. This can be done by implementing some of the below:
- Better IT infrastructure and hardware would be crucial here. IT and network support from anywhere instead from the office should be the goal
- Internal systems and processes need a serious rethink to map with the new reality.
- Technology to support here to avoid manual transactions.
- Flexibility at work – Allow everyone to work at their convenient time. There is a need to have greater trust in employees.
- Better health cover, support to families, ability to cover everyone and all ailments would be crucial
- Digital applications to provide health services at fingertips, multiple options to choose from and an easy claim process would be important as well
- Work breaks could become mandatory- Leaves play a major role, monitoring its usage and encouraging/formulating policies around it to avail it would also be a crucial aspect.
Wellbeing as a focus area for organizations was majorly thrust into prominence for all organizations in 2020. What are the key trends that are emerging in 2021?
Pause and take perspective- what happened in 2020. Are we overdoing our interventions? The economy of scope vs scale will be an important aspect to watch out for. Also, physical wellbeing is likely to see a re-emergence; the mentality of different age groups to reconsider their mindset to check on their health is likely to see an increase.
Well-being would play a decisive factor in employment decisions. How to attract and retain talent basis our non-monetary offerings is also one of the trends that we could see.
Employee experience in 2021 requires continuous hearing and feedback from the organization rather than once in a quarter or once in six months of surveys. How can organizations build a continuous approach to EX?
Organizations need to have a concrete plan – instead of random surveys, we should look at channels at the national level and a functional level. The catch here is not to overdo it. Technology will play a role here. How to revamp the whole hearing approach in a more informal way will be important.
Also, collecting feedbacks instantly for interventions is important by using a system and apps-based approach.
Organizations need to provide opportunities to hear the large end users out and not be one way (as in communication only from the top). This is also an ideal opportunity to initiate millennial councils to feed up/participate in decision making, create ‘people groups/councils’ in each function to help the leaders and the organization understand the needs better.
360-degree feedbacks, upward communications, skip level connects can play a significant role. Organizations should use ‘periodic’ check-ins and ensure this is analyzed, actioned and the large community is made aware of the feedback received and action is taken as it’s very important to communicate back.