In the first part of this two-part series, we looked at the organizational-level influencers of the employee experience during COVID-19 – corporate citizenship, trust in executive leadership, and innovation. We will now turn our attention to those elements of the employee experience which are directly impacted by our immediate work environment – the elements we experience regularly as we go about our day-to-day responsibilities.
Employees want to believe they are contributing to a collective goal. Having supportive peers and supervisors with shared experiences helps foster teamwork and build trust in each other. Understanding how connected employees feel to others in the organization, as well as the most effective mechanisms for fostering collaboration, are even more critical as your workforce is physically distanced – whether at home or within your physical locations. Even if your employees are physically together in a work setting, most historical methods of team building are now no longer relevant (i.e. shared breaks, lunches, and shift meetings). What resources do you have available to continue to build and foster teamwork? Our favorite suggestions include video meetings, virtual whiteboard programs, Yammer, and live video Happy Hours.
Your employees are stepping up the challenge in unprecedented ways. Recognizing and rewarding their efforts will help ensure employees continue to demonstrate discretionary effort and share ideas. The best news is the most meaningful ways to recognize employees are free! Some ideas to consider include show-and-tell presentations of work products, publicly attributing new innovations and process to specific employee suggestions, invitations to participate in meetings they would otherwise not be a part of, personal shout-outs during weekly video meetings, and bestowing of badges on Microsoft Teams.
It is impossible to discuss the employee experience, and more specifically, employee engagement, without mentioning autonomy. At the root of the modern-day employee experience is an individual’s desire to make autonomous decisions that result in meaningful work. COVID-19 has strengthened employees’ desire to be provided the autonomy to create safe physical and psychological work environments. For workers on the front lines, this may mean having the freedom to switch shifts with co-workers to better accommodate childcare and transportation needs. In addition, empowering retail front-line workers with broader discretionary decision-making power enables you to move customers through your store faster and adhere to physical distancing guidelines easier.
Employees juggling multi-generational households may benefit from the opportunity to complete work at times that are best suited for their personal lives. Not only is this the right thing to do for your employees who are contributing so much right now – it may also have positive financial implications. For example, having a staggered workforce will allow you to conduct critical business outside of your traditional business hours, potentially resulting in greater customer satisfaction and increased sales. Rules and processes that made sense pre-COVID-19 may no longer hold true. Now is the time to re-evaluate existing policies to provide employees the freedom to meet their fundamental needs – and the needs of your customers.
We have now walked through the six hidden influencers of the employee experience and how they are impacted it the age of COVID-19. After conducting any type of employee research, the most common question we receive is ‘how do we most effectively action plan?’… our answer to this question remains unchanged. The most effective action planning and listening strategies include a top down, macrolevel approach as well as grassroots, bottom up action. When all levels within the organization recommit to positively addressing the most impactful elements of the employee experience, you will have created a more engaged, more unified, more innovative workforce excited to embrace the post-COVID-19 world with you.