The word “unprecedented” has become synonymous with the COVID-19. It is being widely used to define the magnitude of negative impact that this pandemic has had on every aspect of life. However, if we are to attach the term to a silver lining of the pandemic, it should be to convey the meteoric rise of employee experience (EX).
Based on Google Trends, the global popularity value of the term has increased from 45 in May, 2020 to 100 in just a year. In the same period, we find that the UAE ranks first among nations generating the highest interest in EX, with a 100 value on popularity, followed by the Philippines (98) and Singapore (96). But, despite these numbers, the focus on EX is not a new phenomenon.
EX is as old as corporate culture itself. However, it was deemed secondary to customer experience (CX) all this while, especially by customer-facing companies. The pandemic, and its cascading effects - like job uncertainty, a health scare, and isolation - had a direct bearing on employees’ wellbeing and productivity. This has resulted in EX emerging from the background to the fore.
And technology has emerged as the key tool to help employers listen, learn and improve the worker experience. Previously, EX was limited to HR-led team building activities, internal competitions, team outings - and free lunches. However, the perspectives surrounding EX have become more fluid, and anchored around evolving employee needs and expectations. Initially, it was ensuring employees make a smooth transition to remote working.
Today, with reopening underway, the emphasis has shifted to a better work-life balance, hybrid working models, and empathy-driven EX. In a McKinsey survey, it was found that this development has had a profound impact on employees, in terms of productivity, engagement, and a strong sense of well-being.
Consistent with CX development, the post-pandemic EX is assuming a personalization focus — a departure from conventional cookie-cutter approaches like team outings. HR professionals are now engaging employees in a continual two-way communication, which enables them to cater to individual concerns, configure their journeys accordingly, and deliver personalized experiences. A combination of gadgets, software, data, and analytics is used to segment employees, and each group or individual is provided with customized coaching, specific rewards, and other tailored experiences.
Along with personalization, organizations are now adopting a human-centric approach, which posits diversity, inclusion and equality as key components of a post-pandemic EX. And the implementation involves concrete top-down undertaking - and bottom-up efforts from all employees. The first order of business is listening to employees, and many leaders agree, if the recent joint survey by Qualtrics and PwC is anything to go by. Around 95 per cent of the leaders surveyed said they increased the frequency of listening to employee feedback.
These interactions can be used to develop social cohesion in the workplace, create a transparent support system, and embed purpose in employee journeys. And purpose-driven employees, who have a sense of belonging in the organization, can work wonders.
According to Gartner, 68 per cent of organizations have added or increased at least one reward, to help employees during the pandemic. For example: Internal apps now feature segments like leader boards, where achievements are rewarded, applauded, and shared. Well-performing employees are being awarded with vouchers and other benefits, through an ecosystem of partners and vendors, as well as internal mechanisms.
Such meticulously-planned EX is equally rewarding to companies, which stand to unlock increased productivity, greater engagement, higher retention, and better team collaboration. But what makes this development the new norm, as opposed to a mere post-pandemic phenomenon is that companies can jump on this new EX wave without significant capital investment.
It is largely a strategic shift leveraging latest technologies. But you can build an inspiring culture and massive social capital which, although non-quantifiable, has invaluable outcomes.