In 2020, remote working became a business continuity lifeline through lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, but its broader, permanent changes are still unknown. After a study revealed that remote working had impacted overall productivity and “creative combustion” within the company, JPMorgan urged their staff to return to the office. But Twitter took the opposite stance and announced staff could permanently work from home.
While the work from home experiment of 2020 had its productivity challenges, our HR Trends 2021: People Strategies for an Uncertain Future report reveals that it has also presented organizations with an unprecedented opportunity to redesign how work gets done.
“By committing to a ‘culture-by-design’ methodology versus an organic, habit-based culture, you can identify strategies to retain the best pieces of your culture in a hybrid work environment, while proactively identifying and rectifying the components of your culture that get lost in a virtual setting,” says Matt Peterson, Managing Director of Technology Experience at Insperity.
With the right employee experience approach, insights gleaned from digital tools will provide organizations with an opportunity to better understand their workers, strengthen trust, and better position their organizations for recovery.
Employee experience actions to take in 2021
It’s critical to examine productivity from within the broader perspective of creating a more positive employee experience. Studies have shown that a strong employee experience is a predictor for financial performance. Here are the actions to take in 2021:
- Seek new ways to stay connected to employees
- A key component of productivity is continuous, two-way dialogue: managers must be able to both share and receive information from their teams. This type of dialogue doesn’t come easily in remote work, especially when long periods of isolation have impacted people’s social skills. Survey tools like Qualtrics–along with employee feedback platforms like CultureAmp and employee engagement platforms such as Glint–have enabled organizations to get a pulse on employee sentiment.
- Understand how team dynamics are changing
- Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) provides a realistic view of how people really communicate, are included, and build networks–which is very different from what is depicted on the traditional org chart. This is helpful for a manager to get a sense of whether certain employees are too isolated, are not being included, or whether people are working as a team.
- Take data governance seriously
- Transparency, and clear objectives, about the purposes of data collection is paramount: If employees understand that there is a payoff for them in the form of a better experience, and that this is not a Big Brother approach to workplace monitoring, then they will be more willing to have this information collected and analyzed.
- Revisit the organization’s core purpose
- 89% of executives believe a strong collective purpose drives employee satisfaction. The events of 2020 have left many employees with the desire to do more, not just for their personal growth, but for the greater good. To realign organizational priorities on a structural level, leaders should engage in a full assessment of where they are headed from a purpose perspective. This will require a new set of metrics to define business success, along with more sophisticated analytics to manage the complexity of people decisions.
Answer these questions with data in 2021
Ask these questions as your organization prepares to support a more digitally distributed team on a more permanent basis so that you can boost productivity and engagement–whether you have hybrid or work from home offices:
- What kind of support do people need to collaborate with their colleagues effectively while working remotely?
- How should we be adjusting our performance goals to reflect current realities?
- Do leaders and managers have the tools they need to drive a culture of performance on their teams?
- How can we inspire employees with development opportunities that can help them make and impact on our organization?
- Are we seeing a change in overall performance between in-office and remote workers, and if so, what is driving that disconnect?
Clearly, the employee experience is no longer confined to the four walls of the office. By approaching the way work gets done with intent and purpose, organizations can address productivity challenges head-on and capitalize on new opportunities in the months ahead.
This is the third post in a three-part blog series covering the critical changes that will impact HR and the world of work in 2021. This topic appeared as Trend 3: The New Expectations Around Employee Experience in our HR Trends 2021: People Strategies for an Uncertain Future report. Download the full ebook to find Q&As with our partners and get more tips related to this trend.