Why Examining Employee Experience Strategies is a Must During Uncertain Times

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David Rice
08/05/2020

Disengaged workforce

The focus on employee experience has certainly intensified in recent months and, as recent research from McKinsey & Company suggests, many employers did a good job of meeting employees basic needs.

A poll from our LinkedIn this week highlighted just how much of a concern employee safety has been, with around 60% of respondents saying it was their biggest priority right now. The next biggest concern was employee experience.

When we talk about employee experience, it’s easy to get caught up in the physical details of workspaces and technology for a remote work environment, or to focus heavily on things like hazard pay, mental health counseling or other benefits that can impact how the employee views their relationship with the company.

But the current landscape, occupied by a global pandemic and tensions around race and social issues unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history, demands closer examination. While employees may feel as though their company has created safe, secure environments for them to work in, they’re largely reporting a change to their view of and relationship with their work.

According to a report from Gallup, where employees were as engaged as ever in May, their enthusiasm for the work they do has plummeted since, particularly following the killing of George Floyd, the subsequent protests, failed reopening of businesses, rising unemployment, the resurgence of coronavirus cases and the political environment ahead of an election.  

READ: Employee Experience: The HR Guide to Meeting Working Expectations in the New Normal

It seems the state of the world has American employees feeling disheartened, disengaged and struggling to trust anything, be it their co-workers or the organization itself. Contributing factors to this psychologically disconnect could be the lack of physically going to work, distractions at home on top of everything else or a lack of communication from leaders who, along with managers, were not exempt from disengagement in that Gallup poll.

The Individual Focus

In looking at how to address these problems around employee engagement and experience, one of the first thing HR professionals have to look at is the individual themselves. One size fits all solutions have never been a good idea in HR, but here, even grouping individuals together based on common factors is not helpful.

From person-to-person, any number of things could be stressing them out and causing them to disengage with their work. Take kids, for example. The needs and stresses of a parent with small children are quite different from those with older children, both of which are vastly different from the parent of a child with special needs.

While COVID-19 is impacting the stress levels of much of the population, it’s different for remote vs non-remote employees and employees who have relatives in at-risk populations. For African American workers and people of color, the last few months have been difficult as anxiety inducing factors of life seem to come from all sides.

READ: Is Your Organizational Response to Racial Injustice Enough?

For HR, it’s vital to remember the individual and their needs. Their mental health may be fine, but their time to be productive is limited. In a case like that, HR teams needs to collaborate with management and consider how asynchronous workflows may help that person. Are there tasks that can be automated or removed from their plate in order to help them get the most from their day?

Every person within the organization is different. It’s vital that we understand our people and provide them the tools, time and support they need to thrive in this environment. Doing so will ultimately help keep people engaged and improve their experience and impact on the business.

Design Thinking

By now you’re likely familiar with design thinking and understand the way that it can impact the results of any initiative. Here too, we must think of how we’re creating the employee experience and collect regular feedback from people.

In many industries, the employee experience will have an impact on the customer experience, which warrants an examination of the way businesses look at both cost and profitability. An investment in people and their experiences can drive their performance, thus improving the customer experience and overall levels of satisfaction with your service.

A good example of this is playing out right before eyes during this pandemic with essential workers. There is growing discontent with companies that have seen spikes in revenue, but have not matched that with any sort of benefit to the employees who are at risk every time they clock in.

In some cases, hazard pay is provided, but in many cases, even that has expired. It may be easy to think that these people are still just working the same job, so why do they need more pay? But that doesn’t incorporate design thinking very well as essential workers often have to embrace new protocols, new standards and processes and increased risks for the health in order to do those jobs.

While more pay is warranted in many cases and will be widely discussed, HR also has to ask itself what other ways the organization can provide support. Perhaps some need help with child or senior care, while others would benefit from mental health consultations or improved vacation offerings to help combat burnout.

By designing an employee experience that supports the employees skills and helps them take something positive from their time within the company, HR has the ability to help keep them committed and resilient to the distractions at home or the overwhelming nature of world events.

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