It is, perhaps, safe to say that the working landscape went through its biggest transition ever during the global health crisis, to an extent that we can now define it as being either ‘pre-pandemic’ or ‘post-pandemic’. Of course, that transition can partially be attributed to workplace closures and furlough, but it goes deeper
It’s important to remember that COVID-19 didn’t just have an impact on the working environment itself, but in practically every area of an employee’s life. It’s affected financial stability, with 1 in 5 struggling with money. It’s affected mental health, with the prevalence of psychological distress growing by almost 10% during 2020. It’s affected our most critical support networks, with a quarter of adults feeling lonely.
Today, most of us are tired, frustrated, and struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re all grieving, in one way or another, whether it’s for lost friends and family, lost relationships, or simply a loss of life as we’ve always known it. We need to find a renewed sense of purpose, belonging, and joy in the things that we do.
The role of the employer is changing. Employees need more support than ever before, and to ensure consistency in productivity, quality, and collaboration, it’s up to employers to support their workers through this challenging time… and beyond.
The Current Landscape
Just under three quarters of workers state that their employer should be playing a role in their wellbeing. And businesses are trying. But it’s not as easy as it seems.
Employers are trying to create healthy, satisfactory workplace experiences for their employees while still not fully understanding exactly what the new working landscape looks like, how it’s going to work in the long term, and what employees will need in order to enjoy the sort of workplace experiences they’re looking for.
Aspects such as remote working, flexible schedules, additional support for more vulnerable workers, a loss of large in-person meetings and physical events are all muddying the waters. Employers are having to build experiences in an alien landscape, so it’s not surprising that many aren’t quite getting it right just yet.
In fact, according to the latest reports, only around 13% of employees say that they’re ‘fully satisfied’ with their experiences today. And unfortunately, if employers don’t prioritise the employee experience, the future of work could be in jeopardy.
The Future of Work
If we keep heading down this same road – this road of either not understanding the importance of the employee experience or failing to get it right – the future of work doesn’t look all that positive. It’s reported that 40% of workers are considering quitting their job, and in some countries a ‘mass exodus’ is already well underway.
In the UK, for example, a single week in June 2021 saw 200,000 new job adverts posted as employers desperately tried to fill vacancies; a far higher figure than had been recorded in any week prior to the pandemic. And with most of those ads seeking skilled workers, the already concerning skills gap could widen further.
It’s estimated that a poor employee experience could end up costing businesses upwards of $4 trillion in lost revenue. This estimation is backed by reports showing that firms ranking in the top 25% for employee experience typically see double the return on sales and triple the return on assets compared to the bottom 25%.
Changing the Course
The good news is that it’s not too late.
Employers do not have to sit back and accept what could happen further down the line. Instead, they can play an active role in changing the course, creating improved experiences for employees that strengthen loyalty, reduce turnover, and attract top talent who are excited to work for supportive, people-centric businesses.
Effective measures for creating improved employee experiences include:
● Being clear on expectations: There must be a clear line of communication between business and employee that ensures employees understand what is expected of them within the workplace, and what support is available. This can help to reduce feelings of burnout, and ensure they know help is there.
● Create employee journeys: Employees must always feel that they have more to gain from remaining in their role, rather than feeling like there’s no more value to be gained from the workplace. Rather than focusing only on recruiting and onboarding, focus on creating ever-moving work journeys.
● Listen and learn: Make communication a standard part of the working environment, offering multiple channels of communication such as digital chats, in-person meetings, and so on. Listen to employee concerns, learn what’s working (and what’s not), and practice empathy and understanding.
● Recognise & reward: Be sure to let employees know that their efforts are appreciated, especially during this challenging time, through recognising excellence and rewarding hard work. McKinsey estimates that this can boost quality, wellbeing, and engagement by 21%, 44%, and 45% respectively.
● Build relationships: Workplace relationships – between business and employee and between employees themselves – are integral to the workplace experience. Ensure you’re offering opportunities for relationship building, such chances for cross-departmental chats and non-work related discussions.
● Develop a culture of inclusivity: A workplace should not feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Employers must focus on building a culture of inclusiveness that makes every employee – from new recruits to long time workers – feel that they belong, that they have a place in the company, and are appreciated.