How the Pandemic Whirlwind is Changing Employee Experience (i4cp login required)

The pressures and ambiguity created by the COVID-19 pandemic
have affected everything about what it means to be an employee of an
organization (assuming you’re among the fortunate who are still employed). And
defining employee experience today is a very different proposition than it was
on January 1st of this year.

The Institute for Corporate Productivity’s (i4cp) current
research on employee experience, which we define as the whole of what people
encounter, observe, and feel before, during, and after the course of their
employee journey at an organization, has found that while 30% of the overall
785 respondents to our
recent study (members: download the preliminary findings now) reported
that their organizations have created a formal definition of employee
experience, 32% are still in the process of working on it.

Human resources leaders who were focused pre-pandemic on
developing their organizations’ muscle around employee experience are tasked
with shifting to redefine employee experience and identify and deliver in
real-time on the elements that matter the most now.

This requires taking a step back, reassessing, and
redefining. And for organizations that haven’t yet begun or are in the very
early stages of shaping and articulating what employee experience means, now is
the time to get going. Because everything about work and the employee
experience proposition has changed and there is undoubtedly more change to
come.

Among those organizations that have already adopted formal
definitions of what employee experience means for them, there is
acknowledgement that these descriptions will have to adjust—among those
representing larger organizations (those that employ >1,000 people)—a combined
69% indicated that they believe to a
high or very high extent that the meaning of employee experience will change as
a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elements that combine to create
employee experience include compensation, workspace, technology, total rewards
(to include wellness
and well-being programs
), social connection, learning and development, and
advancement opportunities.

But the importance placed on each of
those essentials in terms of how they contribute to overall employee experience
is shifting, understandably so in an environment in which recruitment and
onboarding are now virtual, as are internship programs, and collaborating
together over coffee in a meeting room has moved to whiteboarding on camera
(with children and pets in the background).  

Priorities are changing in real-time,
and part of delivering exceptional employee experience is recognizing that what
was important six months ago may not even be on the radar now— staying on top
of those changing needs and enabling employees to be agile and adaptive is
imperative.  

The survey found that the top-five elements of employee
experience ranked by importance before the COVID-19 crisis were:

  1. Compensation
  2. Leadership development
  3. Performance management
  4. Wellness and well-being programs
  5. Recognition programs

The top-five employee experience ranked by importance now
(since the pandemic began):

  1. Ensuring employees have the technology they need
    to do their jobs from anywhere
  2. Compensation
  3. Flexible work arrangements
  4. Wellness and well-being programs
  5. Recognition programs

As organizations work their way through the rigors of
ongoing crisis management, the focus is moving from basic needs, safety, and security
to long-range enablement. There’s acknowledgement of the need for empathy, investing
in well-being, and responding to the unique makeup and needs of the workforce.

Enhancing employee experience at one organization may mean
shifting to hybrid working models, such as four-day work weeks, ensuring that
people take time off. For others it may mean figuring out ways to ensure that
career and life-defining events (“moments that matter”) are marked and
celebrated in meaningful ways in a virtual environment.

What will employee experience look like in your organization
six months from now? A year from now? How do we even begin to ponder this? It’s
a challenge, but also an opportunity to shape and build something new, maybe
even better.

A good start is defining (or reaffirming) employee
experience from the perspective of your employees and where they are right now.
If you haven’t done a pulse survey lately, now is a good time to ask: How do
employees feel about their careers, their interactions with colleagues, their
everyday experiences with your organization? How can you help?

i4cp will publish more findings from our Next
Practices in Employee Experience study throughout the rest of the year as we
continue to analyze and examine the data collected. i4cp members also have the
opportunity to participate in the Employee
Experience Exchange
, a peer-driven working group consisting of dozens of
leading employers.

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