Employee experience during COVID: Unlocking better engagement
POSTED : September 28, 2020
BY : Carissa Destinia

Employee experience has been upended by COVID. At the start of the pandemic, organizations were forced to fast-track flexible work arrangements, and many made rapid adjustments to employee experience for both remote and onsite workers—often in the form of increased technology use, social distancing, mask requirements, daily meetings and activities like Zoom happy hours.

Today, however, many organizations are entering a new normal as the pandemic stretches on, and it’s an environment in which employee experience has the power to make or break business success. Companies with engaged employees are 21% more profitable, according to Gallup, and there’s an unparalleled opportunity to hire top candidates if the right experience is delivered:

“The pool of available talent is suddenly both changing and expanding, and visionary leaders can make the most of it, preparing the ground for post-crisis recovery and growth,” says Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, Harvard Business Fellow, in a recent article.

With the rush of early pandemic turmoil over, now is the time to reexamine swiftly made changes and consider how to adapt and advance employee experience for a new era. By doing so, organizations can entice desirable employees, drive better performance, lower turnover and improve incremental effort among employees.

To pinpoint how an organization must evolve to attract and retain top talent, the best place to start is by understanding how mature its employee experience function is. Consider where your organization falls among the stages outlined below and what you should be doing to foster greater connection.

Corporate-centric: Utility and productivity-focused

At this stage, organizations are focused on questions like, “What does an employee need to do their work?” Organizations in Phase 1 are typically focused on activities and employee output. While this stage of employee experience is a start, it can feel transactional from an employee’s perspective.

As a result, employees may not be engaged, feel supported in their work or be aligned with a company’s mission and goals. That can lead to less incremental or subjective effort by employees, which is when they go above and beyond to satisfy customers or internal objectives. A lack of engagement also contributes to costly turnover and poor perception of a company’s employer brand, making recruiting more difficult.

Employee-centric: Engagement and experience-focused

Once a basic level of engagement is reached, enterprises can take it a step further by focusing on experience: how companies can make employees happy so that they can perform better. This means creating an environment where people want to show up, rather than where they need to show up. To build a company culture that enables this, companies need to gain a greater understanding of employees by pinpointing:

  • Who employees are—demographic information.
  • What employees want from their employer.
  • What tools would help them thrive in their roles and in their lives.
  • What support, benefits or other factors would drive long-term retention.

Organizations at this stage typically begin using big data and analytics to drive change and identify areas of opportunity. They also ensure employees have a productive environment and enjoy their roles by automating some manual work and providing flexibility, recognition and an inclusive, diverse culture. Organizations in this stage of the maturity model often begin to contribute to employees’ health and wellbeing through improved fitness, safety, financial and psychological wellness programs.

Social Enterprise: Societal and human experience focused

Companies that reach this stage unlock the ability to make work meaningful. Through their communications, programs, tools and experiences, these organizations reach deep into their employees’ psyche to give them a sense of purpose and autonomy. Ultimately, they guide the employee to a state of being fulfilled by their job—the very definition of social enterprise.

Organizations at this stage typically view the employee experience as a critical strategic business initiative, building trust and relationships among staff and creating a sense of belonging among workers. While organizations inherently benefit from having more engaged and well-adjusted employees, they’re also able to attract better talent, because of their focus on employee fulfillment.

Social Enterprise organizations proactively foster trust in a company’s leadership, mission, values and goals. They develop new leaders and drive continuous learning to facilitate talent mobility and fill skills shortages.

Focusing on employee experience and human experience is a must-have to drive better performance and productivity during uncertain times—it’s what turns employees from workers who simply show up into committed brand advocates who are happy to go the extra mile. And delivering an improved employee experience has real impact: Gallup has found that highly engaged employee groups deliver stunning results like 59% less turnover, a 20% increase in sales and a 10% increase in customer satisfaction ratings. By assessing your organization’s employee engagement maturity, you can begin driving the change needed to become the type of company job candidates seek out.

Learn the importance of customer experience to drive business growth.


About the authors

Carissa DestiniaCarissa Destinia is a Senior Consultant at PK, focusing on HR transformation strategy and implementation. She is passionate about improving employee experience and the human experience. She believes when employee experience is at the center of the organization, employees become the best brand ambassador and the organization grows more profitable.

Jodi RauschJodi Rausch serves as Director of Integrated Loyalty Solutions at PK. She has deep experience developing, transforming and managing differentiated loyalty programs, customer marketing activities and customer experiences driven by data, customer insights and financial rigor. She enjoys building and growing relationships with internal teams, clients and end customers to best understand their needs and exceed expectations.

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