Employees are the primary and most valuable assets of any company. As businesses look to recover from the setbacks of the previous year and chart a plan for resilient, sustained growth in the future, the success of their efforts depends entirely on the talent at their disposal. Naturally, most companies are looking to reimagine the employee experience they offer, so that they may retain and attract good talent and motivate them to drive better business outcomes.
As the average age of India’s workforce decreases, with millennials and centennials constituting an increasing percentage of employees, the significance of employee experience has grown multi-fold. This is because these younger generations, by and large, have a different worldview and outlook as compared to their predecessors. They are also more adept with the world of technology and online media, where reputations can be dented, and opinions can be influenced almost overnight.
Today, prospective employees read up extensively about the company they are considering joining – its work culture, its employee policies, its technology orientation, and so forth. They not only look up sites like Glassdoor for such information, but also interact with people who are directly or indirectly in the know. Creating positive, inspiring employee experiences is therefore essential for not only a business’s growth but also its reputation.
I believe there are four key aspects that should be top priorities for business leaders, managers, and Human Resource professionals as they design new employee experiences.
Sense of belongingness
The values, the vision, and the purpose that drive a company should shape the organizational culture and, of course, the employee experience. Companies that demonstrate “uncompromising integrity” in their operations and instill this quality in their employees are likelier than others to achieve their business goals. The other very important quality they need to instill is a sense of belonging.
“Employees who feel like they belong are thrice as likely to be engaged at work.”
When employees are encouraged to “behave like the owner”, they naturally feel more connected to the organization, its values, and its performance. Reinforcing such an empowering mindset will make employees feel like business partners who are responsible for the success or the failure of their organization.
Build trust from Day One
First appearances make lasting impressions. The experience of the first day at work often remains etched in our memory forever. Studies have shown that a proper welcome and induction plan helps in retaining new employees.
The onus is on managers to make new recruits feel welcome and wanted. The onboarding experience is critical in today’s virtual work environment, where in-person interactions are limited. Strong, employee-friendly onboarding and induction processes go a long way in gaining the initial trust of employees – a trust that must subsequently be strengthened through transparent, fair interactions once they become a part of the organization. It is also important to connect with employees at regular intervals for their feedback.
The exit experience of employees, at the time of leaving the organization, is a delicate and important matter that must be handled with care, empathy, and an open mind. The parting impression that employees carry with them, about their organization, can have a significant bearing on how the people they subsequently interact with perceive the organization as well. Employee experience from the first day to the last thus plays a very important role in achieving positive “employee branding” and attracting good talent into the organization.
Going above and beyond work-related interactions
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment of fear and insecurity. People’s morale is lower than it used to be. It is especially important, in such times, for organizations to make their employees feel wanted, connected, and motivated. Moreover, it is necessary to go beyond work-related matters and show genuine care and concern for their physical and mental well-being. The onus is on managers to be in regular touch with their team members to understand any problems they might be facing and to offer support, wherever possible.
Many companies have allowed remote working, hybrid working, and flexible work hours for their employees so as to reduce the risk of infection and help them manage their personal and professional commitments better. These trends must be encouraged and continued with. Employee assistance programmes can go a long way in reassuring employees that their organization truly cares for them. This assistance, provided by qualified third-party professionals, could be in the form of addressing work- or stress-related concerns, or offering counsel in matters of finance, personal relationships, and health. Such services, when they are made available round-the-clock and through the preferred channel of employees, are greatly appreciated.
Companies should also be ready to extend financial support to employees if needed and relook at their policies to offer benefits and facilities that will help employees cope with any health-related issues in their family. Already, many companies are widening the health insurance coverage for employees; many are offering assistance with procuring emergency medical supplies and equipment, while some are organizing vaccination camps for employees and their families.
Yet another way of making employees feel involved and connected with their colleagues and office friends is to organize community-help or employee-engagement activities.
Upskilling, training, and skill assessment
With workplaces going increasingly digital and companies looking to hire or cultivate high-quality talent for driving growth, it is necessary for employees to be skilled in the latest technologies and domain-specific skills needed to excel in their respective roles. Companies must invest in training-and-development and skill assessment programmes at periodic intervals of every six months or so. The assessment results can serve as the foundation for each employee’s unique training plan. Mapping progress against efforts gives an idea of the effectiveness of the programme and to identify areas for improvement. Such initiatives give employees the confidence that their organization is genuinely interested in their development and career growth.
Every employee is important and can help in improving the business performance of their organization. When employees know that their management cares about them at a professional and a personal level, they automatically become more responsible, productive, satisfied, and motivated – which, in turn, leads to better business outcomes. The pandemic will end, sooner or later, but employees will always remember how their organization treated them, during good times and bad.