Across all industries, the pandemic has left an indelible mark on how businesses operate - not just externally, but from the inside out. COVID-19 has forced almost every organization to double down on its people, proving that in times of crisis businesses can rely on their teams.
When we talk about employee experience, for us at Workplace this means encouraging companies looking to change culture by focusing on things that only people can respond to – like purpose, trust, meaning and pride. Organizations that make it a priority to listen to employees and activate leaders as drivers of change will receive guaranteed returns during times of uncertainty.
Many employees are satisfied with the way their leaders have handled the shift to remote working according to research by the American Psychological Association. And there’s a desire to see continued dedication to employee experience.
Uniquely, the pandemic has provided a once in a generation opportunity to not just rethink the logistics of how and where we work, but also how we feel about work. IDC found that companies that treat their employees right win loyalty for the long term - that’s why investing in the employee experience should be the priority for every business right now.
But how can organizations create a more meaningful experience for their employees? In the shift from employer-driven values to a new system that puts employees at the heart of business, motives must no longer be profit, but people-focused.
What’s the first step?
To achieve an inclusive culture that puts employees at the heart of business decisions, leaders must re-examine their internal processes. Employee experience is not just an HR issue, it’s a business issue which requires collaboration across departments - from communications teams, to IT and leadership - to develop relationships and build empathy.
Organizations need to be aligned on what employee experience means for them. Only then can they begin to develop strategies for empowering teams and create an environment for more meaningful employee experience. For that to happen, leaders must come to the table as sincere collaborators, and begin to enact change. For example, if a CEO would like to receive more feedback from employees, then they need to start by building a transparent culture where feedback is accepted and encouraged. As sponsors, arbitrators and advocates, leaders within the organization have the power to truly shape the employee experience to fit how they envisage the future of work.
Learn to listen harder
Establishing any new approach can be difficult. But investing in people during times of uncertainty is a strategy that businesses can count on. For leaders, their roles in improving employee experience can be split into two parts: what can be done and what can be influenced.
When businesses have defined and agreed upon core areas, leaders must embody them consistently. It’s no longer adequate to release statements or send long corporate emails to everyone and then continue business as normal. Change must be holistic and leaders must walk the walk.
Companies who thrive beyond COVID-19 and inspire the greatest work ethics will have leaders who execute decision making processes with empathy for their teams, now and in the future. Leaders must also be prepared to ask themselves uncomfortable questions like how positive the employee experience is for people today and whether everyone in their organization is connected in the first place. To truly listen to employees, organizations need to ensure that all of them are empowered with the right tools to connect and collaborate. No matter where an employee might work - remotely, on site, or even in a different time zone - technology that enables teams and entire workforces to communicate is crucial. Leaders must understand their businesses entire landscape. This means actively seeking to engage with all employees across all levels and departments.
How leaders can influence change
According to research by MIT, if businesses can shift to deliver real business value, customers are twice as satisfied and profitability can increase by 25%. Yet, the delivery of real business value is contingent on the people behind the business. To influence change and empower employees, leaders must be transparent in their intentions - this includes honesty about their shortcomings and a genuine reflection on the state of play in their organizations today.
Goals must also be shared to foster a culture of accountability. By setting personal and business focused targets for the employee experience, leaders can show their commitment to making lasting improvements. Now more than ever, visibility is paramount. Today’s current circumstances are uncertain and difficult to navigate, but leaders must not shy away from the global challenges at hand. Regular presence and continued communication will support a cohesive culture moving forwards.
This doesn’t have to be restricted to just written communication. Businesses need to consider the media they use to engage with employees - from images to live videos, employers can land messages and create a sense of community through visual communication. Engagement is key. Listening and collecting feedback can inform changes that have a positive impact on employee experience. Because when people drive company decisions, businesses will be able to meet employee expectations and create the experiences their people want, winning loyalty for the long-term.
- Nazir Ul-Ghani, Head of Workplace from Facebook EMEA.