By Sam Smith, Vice President & Managing Director, KellyOCG EMEA
As the UK continues to open up, some organisations are making the mistake of looking to the past rather than the future when it comes to the employee experience. They are turning away from remote work and attempting to rebuild workplaces that look very similar to ones those that existed before the pandemic. But as employee needs and expectations shift, could failure to move forward leave some employers behind in the battle for talent?
It most certainly could, according to our recent Global Workforce Agility Report. We identified two distinct groups – Vanguards and Laggards – who have taken very different approaches to achieve resilience to thrive post-panddemic and seen varying degrees of success as a result. The Vanguards are organisations that take a long-term approach to the agility and wellbeing of their workforce and they’ve posted better financial results over the last year. Meanwhile, Laggards report a decline in employee wellbeing and productivity during the pandemic.
What sets the Vanguards apart? One of the biggest factors is employee experience and their focus on it. Our reach finds that 91% of Vanguards say that improving the employee experience is as high a business priority as improving the customer experience.
Employee experience can’t be an afterthought. It has to be at the center of your workforce strategy because it’s crucial to long-term business success. As the UK faces unprecedented hiring challenges, organisations need to look ahead and ask, “how do we improve our employee experience?” Here are three actionable ways to build a better employee experience for a post-pandemic world along with some insights from the Vanguards.
1. Personalize remote work
Remote work is the most talked-about workforce issue right now. It sparks strong feelings from both workers and employers, and it’s a defining factor in attracting and retaining talent. Every organisation needs a hybrid and remote work strategy – that’s non-negotiable at this point – but what’s even more important is how you personalise this approach. Employees working at home with small children may want a couple of quiet days in the office every week, while others may need fully remote work to deliver their best performance. In our survey, 90% of Vanguards said remote work has had a positive impact on employee wellbeing and productivity. Before settling on a new work model, look at the data, analyse productivity metrics, reflect on your culture, talk to your people, and build flexible options that offer wiggle room to meet the diverse needs of your workforce.
2. Champion wellbeing (for all workers)
Five years ago, wellbeing at work wasn’t a focus for most businesses. Today, understanding and supporting employee wellness – including mental health – is a common workplace narrative. But it has to be more than something leaders talk about – it has to be focused, insight-driven, and actionable. 63% of Vanguards communicate regularly to employees about productivity and wellbeing, while 35% use tech to track employee wellbeing and morale. Explore tangible and innovative ways to engage and support workers so they can make wellness a priority. Some companies offer additional paid time off or assistance with childcare or caregiving responsibilities, for example.
It’s also important to understand that wellbeing (and employee experience in general) extends beyond the permanent workforce. I’ve heard the term ‘just a temp’ far too often. Temporary workers have stocked shelves, kept supply chains moving, and healthcare systems running throughout the pandemic. Now, as talent shortages grow, this flexible workforce is helping companies step up and meet their goals. Organisations must find appropriate ways to recognise and nurture their contingent workers.
3. Invest in skills and coaching
To build positive employee experiences and retain great talent employers have to be willing to invest in their people. Skills training and coaching are crucial to well-rounded employee experiences and they help people feel valued and supported in their roles. These programs should extend to remote workers as well as in-house roles and be personalised to individual skillsets and interests. Growing digital skills is an important part of the story as technology quickly advances – 68% of the organisations we surveyed said it was their responsibility to ensure employees had the skills to adapt to new tech quickly.
These actions are just part of the bigger picture.
A wide spectrum of processes and ideas make up the employee experience and it’s important to consider them all, from onboarding to skills training and DEI. Don’t cut corners. This isn’t something that can be solved with branded merch and some clever social posts. Technology, infrastructure, benefits and perks, training – they all matter and they’re constantly evolving. It’s up to employers to keep up with change and ensure the employee experience supports and engages the people it serves.