For a while now, leading organizations have considered the employee experience (EX) an imperative in supporting the bottom line. A great EX can improve productivity, engagement, and employee performance; however, the pandemic has forced companies to determine if the experiences they’re providing for their workforce are truly driving value.
As organizations return to work, some employees will be phasing back into the physical locations, while others will be continuing to work remotely. Organizations have been reevaluating new ways of working and employees have settled into new routines. The workforce has different needs, preferences, and expectations, which will continue to evolve as business environments change in the years ahead. In short, outdated, standardized experiences simply won’t be effective for the workforce today.
It’s an opportune moment for organizations to build an EX that is less transactional and more personal. This involves meeting the broader needs of the workforce, while addressing the unique needs of each individual employee. Rethinking the EX is a strategy for working smarter as companies focus on growth – both of their people and their bottom line.
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Employees want an experience that mimics how they interact with their favourite brands as consumers – digital, on-demand, personalized, and self-led – and they’re calling on their employers to deliver these experiences. A Gartner, Inc. survey in April found that 64% of HR leaders are prioritizing the employee experience more than they did before the pandemic.
The workforce looks much different today than it did several months ago, so how can organizations ensure they’re delivering a great EX? Technology, particularly in this new landscape, is a critical aspect of reimagining the EX to meet employees where they are. Employers will need to think about how they’re interacting with their employees, from before they’re hired to after they leave the company, and about the value they’re providing throughout that journey.
Here’s how technology can help elevate and modernize the EX in today’s vastly different world of work.
The dispersed workforce – which includes remote employees and those working in physical locations – promises greater access to talent and more individual flexibility, but it has also introduced new challenges. Prior to the pandemic, 74% of employees felt they were missing out on company news and information. Now, establishing connectedness across a decentralized workforce is an even greater challenge.
Employers can provide a more unified and consistent experience by using a central hub to better communicate with their workforce about company policies and updates to ensure everyone is well informed. Employees can take control of their own work experience and find the information they need – such as their benefits manual – all in one place.
As well, organizations can keep their workforce further engaged and on track by assigning specific tasks and action items for groups of employees to complete, such as health and safety courses or training on company policies. Delivering personalized, relevant content for specific audiences and employee groups can help ensure the right person is presented with the right information at the right time. This can help drive productivity and promote engagement, while at the same time, cutting back on the amount of time HR teams spend answering employee requests and inquiries.
It’s no surprise that employees are feeling heightened effects of stress. More than half (55%) of U.S. employees have had trouble covering their expenses between pay periods over the past six months. Of that group, half said the pandemic had an adverse impact on their finances for which they were unprepared.
On-demand pay technology can bridge that gap by giving employees access to their earned wages as soon as they have finished a shift, rather than waiting until the standard payday. Flexible pay options can help employees better manage their finances, which will help reduce financial stress. Employees will be in a better position to remain focused and productive and, as an added benefit, they’ll see that their employer is taking action to meet their needs outside of their work lives.
Technology advancements have accelerated the need for organizations to reskill their people. McKinsey estimated that 14% of the global workforce will have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence. The pandemic has placed greater urgency on workforce reskilling as companies will need to keep up with changing business needs.
As well, employees are also looking to diversify their skill sets to help broaden career growth and opportunities down the road. In the U.S., the retail and hospitality and food services sectors account for 42% of vulnerable jobs, while some sectors such as grocery are hiring two to three million additional workers. Talent is recognizing the need to develop industry agnostic skills to provide greater job security both within their evolving area of expertise, and transferrable knowledge they can apply to other areas of the business. Microsoft has even launched a global skills initiative aimed at helping individuals around the world develop in-demand digital skills.
Learning experience platforms can make it easy for employees to find and consume all types of learning content, whenever and wherever they may need it. Content – such as training for a new product or service – can be rolled out to the entire organization or it can be further customized to meet specific needs throughout the workforce so employees can learn in the context of their own work.
Employee health and safety in the coming months and even years ahead will be a priority for any organization that wants to support business continuity and maintain a positive employee experience. Employees who don’t feel safe or supported from a well-being standpoint are likely to be less engaged.
Leading organizations are working to mitigate potential threats to employee health and well-being by rolling out a phased return to work and setting up company policies to support physical distancing. To further support these efforts, employers can track employees who have been infected or exposed to COVID-19 and help prevent further spread.
Remote working arrangements have blurred the boundaries of work and life even more. This is compounded by workers needing to tend to their children during the workday or address other personal matters. Organizations will need to recognize and accommodate various needs moving forward and provide the workforce with control over their work lives. Employees who have greater control over their own schedules are more likely to be engaged, which can lead to 21% greater profitability and 59% less turnover.
Self-service technology that allows employees to quickly schedule time off or swap shifts with a coworker can not only help employees gain control of their schedules, but also help managers quickly cover for shift gaps.
Taking it one step further, organizations can provide their employees with voice assistant technology that will enable the workforce to more easily manage their work life activities with a voice command. Gartner has predicted that voice assistants have the potential to enrich the EX in almost every industry and will be used by a growing number of organizations in the years ahead. In the healthcare and retail industries specifically, employers have even greater opportunity to help their frontline workers manage their schedules on the go, especially during busy times.
Employees are expecting a better-designed experience and, importantly, are paying attention to how these experiences are delivered. Mobile technology is a key part of building a tailored and connected experience for employees, and will continue to be an imperative in the future as workforces become more remote.
Leaders who respond effectively to meet changing employee needs and build valuable experiences for their workforce will reap the benefits in a number of ways. Not only will a modernized EX support the bottom line, but it can also help more easily attract, engage, and retain top talent so companies can focus their people and resources on strategic, value-generating initiatives.
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