The world is facing unprecedented times and never had we imagined that entire countries would have to go under lockdowns to fight the deadly battle with the COVID-19 pandemic. While organizations are doing quite a lot when it comes to creating an ideal employee experience, it is when a crisis like this strikes that the true picture comes out. The recent COVID-9 outbreak has shaken the very foundation of how organizations worked, while they deal with the multiple changes that have come to the forefront like managing aspects like work from home, travel restrictions, ensuring health and safety and social distancing. This time of crisis has in fact become a solid ground for organizations to ensure they create an ideal employee experience to ensure connectedness, communication and efficiency.
Creating an employee experience that is in tune with the expectations of the workforce and workplace both, needs to be a business priority for not only HR leaders today, but also the CEOs, and even more so in times of crisis.
And as the world turned into a war zone with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus on EX became all the more crucial for organizations with the workforce and workplaces facing multiple challenges and experiencing many news ways of working. An organization’s ability to nurture the employee experience at this time is critical and will be tested in a way it has never been before.
Employee experience amid uncertainty
As per a report by the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute and Globoforce’s WorkHuman® Research Institute, employees who experience a sense of belonging, purpose, achievement, happiness and vigor are more likely to perform at higher levels and contribute “above and beyond'' expectations. This is also why employee experience becomes all the more critical during a crisis, when organizations and people are struggling with multiple challenges. Lynette D’silva, Head of Amdocs People, India and APAC, Amdocs asserts that at times of crisis and uncertainty, companies need to be able to continue and instill confidence in their employees, customers and partners. “They need to have a plan in place to ensure the health and safety of their employees, customers and partners, while providing them with the needed tools to maintain business continuity. It is critical that our employees have a safe environment to work in, as well as the tools to continue to work effectively. Also, tools to promote employee wellbeing become even more critical at a time like this to ensure employees can maintain their work routines with a healthy body and mind.”
Crisis brings in panic to everyone’s mind and many employees start getting apprehensive about their employment, job security, remote connectivity, daily productivity, infrastructure support, uncertainty, salaries & bonuses and much more. Shashank Bhushan, Vice President, Human Resources, Head – BMC Software India, shares, “Each person has their own capacity to deal with difficult situations and this can take a toll on their mental and physical wellbeing. Employee experience during a crisis like this takes a hit, hence an assurance from the organization that the company shall stand by them with all kinds of possible help such as access to accurate & timely information/updates on the crisis management plan, medical insurance, counselling services if in need, doctor on call, and infrastructure support for remote working, is much needed.”
COVID-19 and the unprecedented challenges
There were some unexpected challenges that cropped up as a result of this global crisis. Companies who were once resistant to the idea of allowing their employees to work from home are now forced into making it a priority. Bhushan shares, “COVID-19 was a sudden hit on all of us and governments took a preventive approach to control the situation, which gave organizations very little time to plan out the remote work life. Employees were suddenly pushed into a lockdown situation and not everyone was prepared for it mentally as well as from a resources/infrastructure standpoint. As a result, employee engagement has become a challenge for managers. Organizations are also struggling to ensure that their employees are safe and motivated. Work deliverables and businesses are taking a hit in the current time and that is also adding to panic and pressure for both organizations and employees.”
On the other hand, onboarding and offboarding of employees has also become a big challenge with restricted movement and no personal connect.
At the beginning of the year 2020, it was vouched for by most organizations and experts that it will be the year of the experience economy where employees will be significantly impacting the business bottomline with their intrinsic willingness to serve the company and its customers. The rule is simple: Better employee experience; better customer experience. So, how do organizations ensure they create an ideal employee experience during a crisis like COVID-19?
Employees need to believe that their organization is able to handle the crisis. Bhushan and D’silva have the following suggestions for organizations who are keen on creating an employee experience that matters in times like these:
- Communicate as much as you can: Communication is critical, but don’t clutter in the information that they already know. Organizations must have regular connects/touch points with employees using multiple communication channels leveraged by technology.
Make employees feel that things are in control, demonstrate leadership and have managers talk and write to employees on an ongoing basis. Keep the dialog open not only around work-related aspects: hold virtual coffee and lunch meetings, as well as sessions where employees can share with their peers their experiences and tips.
- Enable employees to remain part of the corporate community: Offer employees tools for maintaining a work routine, we all like to hold to safe grounds. In addition, connect employees to the company purpose to make sure everyone understands the bigger picture. This can be a source of motivation and encouragement, especially at times of crisis. Encourage curiosity, learning and upskilling, even during current times, around both work and non-work-related topics, push employees to learn things that they are passionate about. Providing employees with the opportunity to give back to the community is also key. Many employees want to help those in need and contribute to society. It’s important to offer them the platforms for doing so, as well as encouragement and supporting resources.
- Practice empathy and compassion: Empathy is the basic need when in crisis and it is important to empathise with the situations that employees might be facing during this time as the challenges might be different for individuals on their personal front. Leaders/managers need to empathize with employees, offer the possible help and go out of their way to help achieve daily work deliverables, provide flexibility and resources for someone in need of help. Reassure employees with regards to their job security and empower them with tools and resources that the evolving situation requires.
- Be creative in your approach: In today’s era of digital world, we have access to information in abundance through multiple channels. People already know much more than what you are trying to inform/address. Try to bring in creativity in your plan of action to manage the crisis; this might get you employees to be more curious and interested in understanding and be participative in your plan to provide a pleasant employee experience. Organizations normally provide opportunities for fun at work but now they will have to rethink how to do that remotely. Similarly, as employees today wish to support and help the underprivileged during such a difficult time, organizations need to take the lead either by eliciting support from the employees and/or partnering with external NGOs and provide a sense of social relevance to them.
- Promote employee wellbeing: Provide meditation classes and virtual fitness lessons and raise awareness to wellbeing related aspects like nutrition, sleep and mind-body connections. In addition, add some humor, create various photo and song contests with prizes for adults and for children.
- Raise the ‘happiness’ quotient: Happy employees create great workplaces. So, even in a crisis, try to make an effort to raise the happiness quotient for your employees in all possible ways. Keep giving your employees a reassurance that things will fall in place and they should not panic. As leaders and organizations, put your ‘employees first’ and put your best foot forward to help and provide required tools/resources to your employees.
In these uncertain times, organizations that can care for and preserve the progress of their employees will reap tremendous benefits. If organizations take care of the employees’ experience that includes their safety, progress, and wellbeing, employees in turn will ensure they deliver the efficiency, productivity and impact that every organization needs to tide through this time.