Twenty-20 is spelling out a whole new norm in employee experience. Technology is evolving, labor laws are re-shaping, and unemployment is decreasing – these are quintessential signals for HR professionals to know that talent and industry are responding to each other. The hit of COVID-19 pandemic had a different plan in store for all businesses though. Organizations augmented their messaging and workplaces to come across as responsive and responsible for employee welfare and safety. While lockdowns were pronounced and directives came in force, an HR leader was required to commit to well-being of every employee, each team, and the organization as a whole.
The pandemic resulted in corporates thinking beyond the ordinary and evolving their strategies and programs for employee benefit. Emphasis is now largely on creating a culture of happiness, exploring employee creativity and boosting employee morale and connect, albeit in a virtual way. An employee needs to feel an affinity to the workspace and the work even in the times of telecommuting. How can organizations make a difference? Here are a few areas that corporates need to explore effectively to do so.
Time to give ‘em some space!
While many organizations were starting to think, it could not get better than the good old cubicles, employee workstations have evolved dramatically. These spaces aid an open flow of ideas, accessibility and moreover, better collaboration and transparency. Several organizations have come up with Idea Cocoons, Think Pods, Brainstorming Zones, and more. Fitness at work, being a popular industry trend, has many organizations rethink their office space for the health of their employees. However, social distancing became the new normal almost overnight. Spaces which were earlier growing by leaps and bounds are suddenly going to follow short, as a mandatory 6 to 8 feet gap is mandatory between two workstations.
As employees have begun spending more time at work and commuting to work, offices around the world have realized the critical role of gaming zones, multi-cuisine cafeterias, health food pantries, gymnasiums and even relaxing equipment such as muscle relaxant chairs, to enable a happy and productive work environment.
A well-known digital transformation company in the financial services space recently introduced the idea of a desk bike across all its global offices. It is a desk that has a built-in bike, which allows you to spot-pedal and exercise. The critical role of gaming zones, multi-cuisine cafeterias, health-food pantries, gymnasiums may soon be required to revamp to adapt social distancing as a way of life
The 3 C’s – communication, collaboration, and connectivity
With telecommuting becoming a practice in times of Covid-19, the cliché email also became very important in areas where network connectivity wasn’t great. As employees were required to work from their home base, the benefit of office wifi connectivity was lost, leaving them at the mercy of local internet speeds. However, certain urban landscapes blessed with high-speed broadbands enabled employees to use Skype and Microsoft Teams to connect with colleagues and clients. Voice and video conferencing have taken a major leap of faith to survive on the power of the Internet. Messengers, Google Duo, Slack, VPN, or even the WebEx have become effective communication companions. Yammer the corporate twin of Facebook, has become a popular engagement channel in various companies. Podcasts and webcasts have born and reborn. Employees are always on the lookout for better communication tools, and faster network to run them. Empower your employees with these and you have won them!
Today, any given multinational company has chatbots for internal functions such as incident management, library management, insurance facilities, or even ordering food in the cafeteria.
Nothing artificial about it
Onboarding turned a new leaf as it got virtual recently. Despite Covid-19, a few companies are still recruiting for business-critical roles. Employees unable to join physically and offices unable to open, both as a result of lockdown, benefitted immensely with virtual onboarding. Even recruiting is set to evolve with artificial intelligence. AI-based recruitment tools enable faster screening when going through a large flood of applications. Even before 2020, on average a recruiter would take 23 hours to screen applications for a single post. AI-powered recruitment tools will help to filter high volume of resumes and pre-qualifying candidates based on the job description and skills. In my view though, employers while hiring, should look at the skills and attitude that an employee brings rather than the pedigree. We are all moving towards the concept of New Blended Workforce that involves - humans and bots. Today, any given multinational company has chatbots for internal functions such as incident management, library management, insurance facilities or even ordering food in the cafeteria, and I am hopeful these will be a boon with the newly altered work-place advisories as a result of the pandemic.
Make way for intelligence
Even before 2020 hit us, the wave of upskilling did. Thus now, an organization is quickly popular if it fosters the learning culture within its employees. Employees look for organizations with a "growth and development" mindset and they then know that the brand wants them to grow along with it. Recently a leading FinTech Service provider firm based in New York outdid all its peers by getting an enterprise wide Udemy license for all its employees to benefit from. Each and every employee has access to more than 3500 courses on the Udemy portal and can also access all these training sessions on the Udemy for business app, on-the-go. Now that’s what we call a gamechanger. According to sources, the employees of this company are finding this immensely useful in today’s work from home times.
Employee engagement has gone digital and will stay so for the most part of 2020 till employees are able to come back to office. Several corporates had come up with corporate clubs and forums that cater exclusively to employee hobbies. From running innovation labs to book clubs, photography forums, dance, drama workshops, sports events to talent hunt competitions, companies are willing to turn everything virtual through Zoom or Webex to keep employees, happily motivated and appreciated.
The gratitude attitude
Organizations need to make a revolutionary change in ways and means to appreciate employee effort. Rewards and Recognition (R&R) have always been close to an employee’s heart. The fame and the benefit that comes with it, motivates the winner and the aspirant equally. A robust, and moreover an unbiased reward-and-recognition program is the need of the hour and helps create a difference. Every organization rewards outstanding performance, but how many reward creativity? Almost all companies nowadays give merchandise, but how many do reward an employee with a holiday or a sponsored upskilling program?
Employee engagement has turned a new leaf as organizations are now on the lookout for what employees enjoy wholeheartedly and do best. Several corporates have come up with corporate clubs and forums that cater exclusively to employee hobbies.
A fast-growing Fintech MNC, truly responsive to its employees’ potential and performance, not just rewards the winners of their R&R regime but also the nominees. The same firm recently introduced a reward category called Cheers to Peers – a one-of-a-kind reward program, which allows colleagues to reward colleagues. This program not just involves HR and the line managers, but also peers making it more transparent and relatable, serving a wider purpose. This sort of framework is not just exciting but also empowering. What more? The recent pandemic has left the framework unfazed, as the organization made it more powerful by running the awards functions on Zoom.
From my perspective, employers have come a long way to meet their employees' demands. But the journey will keep evolving. The recent stressful times have made all HR leaders think and rethink their ideas and strategies on how to keep employees connected and motivated though from a distance. Many avenues have opened already. Communication can see a new channel with virtual reality. 2020 is just the beginning.