After a year of significant focus and investment in employee experience (EX), HR leaders and people managers cannot afford to ease up now.
The global events of 2020 - from the pandemic through to physical separation and social unrest - irreversibly changed the working world. But in many cases, it’s important to remember some of the changes made to the EX had a positive impact, such as working remotely and the frequency at which businesses were collecting and acting on employee feedback.
In fact, globally we saw employee engagement, intent to stay, and productivity all rise in 2020 compared to 12 months previously, according to Qualtrics’ 2021 Employee Experience Trends and Perspectives on the Next Normal reports. The challenge now is for HR to maintain this momentum as teams design and improve working models tailored to the current and evolving employee expectations. It is a challenge equally as big and important as the one at the outset of the pandemic.
Through Qualtrics research, we found three critical areas every organization needs to focus on to improve its EX: employee well-being, regularly listening and taking action on feedback, and manager effectiveness.
In 2020 employee well-being became a core focus for EX models, alongside engagement and enablement. Well-being is impacted by how employees rate their EX across five key factors: their sense of belonging at the company and in their teams if they feel like they can be their true self, do they feel valued, and if they are treated with respect.
As businesses move forward, it’s critical well-being becomes a mainstay in EX programs - such as providing flexibility as individuals juggle the demands of home and work, giving employees freedom and trust to freely attend to personal matters, or simply taking the time to listen and act on individual concerns. When organizations and leaders demonstrate care for their employees we see it reciprocated by employees through the work they deliver.
However, it’s important to note well-being differs based on role and family situation. For example, our research found executives were more likely to report their well-being favorably compared to individual contributors. As a result, it’s critical leaders are able to listen, understand, and act on individual feedback collected across the entire organization.
Regularly listening and taking action on feedback
In today’s fast-changing business environments, insights from the annual or bi-annual employee engagement program are not enough. Such is the pace of change, organizations need to supplement them with regular insights from across the entire employee lifecycle. However, in order to truly move the needle on EX, businesses must be taking quick, direct action on the feedback being collected.
Unfortunately, while nearly every employee (93 percent) believes it is important their company listens to feedback only seven percent say their company acts on it really well. Closing this gap needs to be a key priority in 2021 because when feedback is acted on we see engagement, intent to stay, and well-being all rise above the average.
The importance of listening and acting on feedback is further demonstrated by the fact the drivers of employee engagement shifted considerably in 2020. A desire to belong and concerns around environmental and ethical practices emerged alongside the more traditional drivers like confidence in leadership and opportunities for learning development. We expect to see another shift in engagement drivers through 2021 as businesses continue to adapt their working models for new behaviors.
To overcome the challenge of collecting and acting on feedback, businesses need to rethink the ways they engage employees by using experience management (XM) platforms to modernize their listening programs. These platforms make it quick and easy for employers to collect feedback across the entire employee lifecycle, regularly track sentiment, and take targeted action to improve the services being delivered.
Encouragingly, many businesses redesigned their approach to listening during the pandemic using XM - including Bangkok Life Assurance, Star Petroleum Refining Public Company Limited, and Restaurants Development Company. Having seen firsthand the value XM brings, businesses now need to make these changes permanent.
It’s no surprise managers impact almost every aspect of EX. It’s therefore crucial they have the support and insights they need to improve the experience for their teams.
In some cases managers might feel ill-equipped to be truly successful in their role - they are employees themselves, after all - meaning they need HR’s support to lead and influence. By ensuring employee feedback is easy to understand and action, HR will enable leaders to demonstrate key traits to their teams including establishing and maintaining trust, providing support, encouraging collaboration, and enabling career development.
Adopting tools like guide action planning solutions will help leaders go even further. Presenting managers with specific actions they can take to improve the EX shifts the dynamic from imposing accountability to enabling accountability. And as a result, the entire organization will benefit.
There is no one size fits all approach to delivering a great employee experience as we continue to navigate challenges and changes caused by the pandemic. In the future, we will see some employees continue to embrace the new experiences they’ve adopted, while others will revert to their previous habits. Simultaneously, there’s more change ahead as restrictions continue to change.
What’s important is to listen to what your individual people need, and most importantly act on that feedback to meet those needs. By prioritizing employee experience improvement using insights, businesses will be able to make confident and precise actions to meet the unique needs of each individual.
Know more about what’s new in employee experience at the People Matters Employee Experience India Conference on 10th June, 2021. Register Now!