The past two years have been a testament to hope and resilience; these lessons have informed us that productivity and flexibility aren’t mutually exclusive. To have a happy workforce, organizations must adopt flexible work models that respond to the changing needs of employees. Having acknowledged the merits of the hybrid model, organizations and HR leaders have realized that employee experience has moved beyond the physical office space to the overall experience of being a part of an organization, a community, its values, and culture.
Redefining the employment value proposition
During the pandemic, employees struggled to juggle between their personal and professional commitments and looked at employers for extra support. Many employees across the world suffered from burnout, but it was beyond that. The pandemic gave people a lot of time to think about what they really want from their personal lives, their workplaces, and their employers. The definition of success was revisited by many and it was no longer defined purely by rewards or status, position or titles.
The intangible expectations and quality of life that people want to lead became clear to many employees across the world. Embedding wellbeing into work-life experience, building resilience, and enhancing productivity will become a top priority for HR leaders. Organizations will engage in ongoing communication with their workforce, be compassionate and instill a sense of belongingness and community in employees after prolonged periods of pandemic-induced isolation and loneliness. Providing healthcare benefits, access to mental health support, employee assistance programs, wellness days, mental health leave, meeting-free days, wellness tools and resources, etc., are examples of how organizations can step up for their employees’ wellness.
Before Covid-19, many companies were obsessed with offering the coolest perks, but the pandemic highlighted the benefits that matter, impacting people’s day-to-day lives. For example, a lot of women ended up leaving the workforce for caretaking responsibilities and now organizations are investing in benefits to attract them back. People are looking for healthcare, education, childcare flexible work schedules to care for family and friends, and an environment of trust. Employees have varied priorities—and companies will need to respond.
Communication for the valuable feedback
In a highly connected world and high level of awareness enabled by technology and activism may grow. Organizations may begin to see people unionizing or advocating for their rights. Conducting frequent employee surveys helps gather first-hand information on employee experience and changing needs and preferences.
Anonymous feedback tools, ‘tell us anything’ platforms, ‘Feedback Fridays’ with the CEO, 1:1s, town halls with leadership teams, employee-led task forces, and greater representation in decision-making forums, can help an organization make informed changes, by listening to people. It leads to empowerment amongst employees and makes them feel heard and valued. It further helps identify workforce issues beforehand so that they can be resolved and addressed proactively.
Engage employees through a sense of community
HR leaders need to keep innovating to generate a sense of belonging and togetherness in a hybrid and flexible world. Monthly events to celebrate success and recognize learnings from failures, rituals to celebrate personal milestones like marriages, baby showers, promotions, etc., and recognizing and rewarding collaboration and teamwork can help employees feel in sync with the organization.
Successful engagement programs help employees in having a better understanding of the vision and goals of the company and establish a direct connection between their professional contributions and the overall growth of the company.
Showing gratitude for each other and giving back to the community, through initiatives that can create long-term sustainable impact, are great engagement levels that provide people with a sense of purpose. Employee Resource Groups to drive inclusion, equity and diversity goals are a great channel to help employees make a difference to underserved communities and contribute to building an organizational culture they are proud of.
Employees have had time in 2021 to personalize their home offices. Now that they’re comfortable and connected, it’s going to take a lot to convince people to return to a pre-pandemic routine. Business needs to start thinking about their workspace in ways that people are motivated to physically show, up making it not just fun but also enabling human interaction, learning, and helping to nurture networks and relationships. Employees will give access to shared workspaces ‘near home’ for greater collaboration.
Invest in a learning culture
Creating platforms for employees to focus on learning and upskilling themselves is essential for preparing them for future roles. Promoting continuous learning as part of organizational culture helps leaders encourage employees to focus on their personal development, helping them unleash their highest potential. HR leaders must provide employees with the right opportunities like further education programs and access to professional courses to keep up with the changing dynamics of their respective industries and technologies-led changes.
Don’t underestimate the value of onboarding
The onboarding process is most often an employee’s first experience with the organization. Creating a connection right from the very first day, especially in a hybrid setting, would be the first step towards defining a relationship and experience that the employee cherishes during their tenure. Investment in a robust 90- day onboarding and assimilation program is recommended. Familiarization with key functions and stakeholders, learning about processes and cultural nuances through a buddy, providing clarity of goals and performance expectations, and building relationships with the team and leadership, is necessary for accelerating performance cultural context setting.
The changes brought around by the pandemic have revolutionized the way employees work, and where they work. 2022 will be the year where hybrid work models will shift from being the ‘new’ normal to be the norm, and HR leaders must respond with agility to create a compelling employee experience for their people. HR leaders will need to build cultures that offer flexibility, benefits, and opportunities that are relented and valuable for a diverse workforce.
The author, Priti Shetty is Head of People at We Work India
Source: GWFM Research
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