As we enter the post COVID world of work, it’s become clear that tomorrow will bring a new set of challenges to overcome regarding employee experience. In fact, in many ways, the pandemic has amplified issues related to productivity, wellbeing, overwork and burnout. But it has also sped up our future. We now see that we can work from home, technology has reached a point where it’s efficient, and wellbeing is high on the HR agenda.
And it is that acceleration that has propelled us to a pivotal moment in the employee experience. Because of COVID, employees and companies are standing at the crossroads. The crossroads of opportunity where the relationship between employees and companies can be reimagined and rebuilt.
The danger is that we treat that opportunity in the same way we approach change. Even though we know change initiatives in organisations often fail.
So where can we go from here?
To truly create an enduring relationship, employee experience must come from and focus on the individual. And that’s where prior attempts at addressing this issue have fallen short and where a future path can be forged.
Attempts at developing the employee experience tend to be one-sided, focused on the individual but not coming from the individual. Organisations tend to invest time, effort and funding into change management training and methodology. Leadership teams focus heavily on employee engagement and still suffer from employees reporting low levels of engagement. HR departments focus resource on talent management and leadership development only to see little change in either the leadership behaviour or team dynamics. So what’s missing?
If we are serious about realising the opportunity, we should be helping employees rebuild their relationships with themselves.
Experience should be bottom-up and personal. It’s a crucial part of a strategy that enables an organisation to create a culture where people thrive and it is often lost in top-down traditional change approaches. Sure, change programmes might throw in the Kubler Ross curve, provide a few inspirational quotes and stories of overcoming adversity, but that is not enough. Not enough by a long shot.
1. Everyone should understand the basics of how to manage stress:
What it is, the difference between pressure and stress and positive ways to reduce and manage stress. People need to have a working understanding of the social and emotional triggers of stress between people and how to navigate catastrophic thinking. It’s not rocket science, but it is neuroscience, and it’s a skillset.
2. We should all know how our brain works:
In other words, build awareness of our bias and how sometimes the way we see and interact with the world is working against us rather than for us. The reality is that we can’t change the world around us, but we can change the way we think about the world, and that’s powerful stuff.
3. Our habits should be built around peak performance and avoiding burnout.
Change needs energy and focus. People should know the basics of the energy they bring to work, how to manage it, how to build it in others and how to avoid burnout.
4. Our mindset should be focused on strengths rather than weakness.
People focusing on strengths rather than weakness takes you to a completely different place and is energy creating rather than energy-sapping. Experts reckon it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill and so it would take someone ten years to master a skill if they practised 2.5 hours a day. Who has that sort of time available? Better to focus on developing our strengths and recognise that in many instances, our development areas are in fact, our strengths overplayed. People need to know what their strengths are and tap into their authentic self when facing change.
5. We should all understand the chemistry of conversation and how to connect to get the job done.
To face change confidently, we all need each other. We need to know how to ask for help and lend eachother additional support to get to our destination. That involves knowing how to build rapport and having the confidence to connect with people.
6. Goal setting should be commonplace, and we should all understand why.
Goal setting is fundamental to our mental energy and perversely if we don’t set our selves stretch goals, then our self-esteem and confidence decline. Psychology shows that setting the right stretch goals and achieving them builds self-esteem, confidence and energy to keep moving forward.
Creating the conditions for people to operate from a place of strength, calm, connection and resilience should be on every company plans.
Now and in the short term. While I agree we should be developing leadership capability, investing in technology and general wellbeing, shouldn’t we be moving our focus and resource to people capability? People will always need process, technology and leaders, but now, more than ever, people need to understand how to lead themselves through change. Not by themselves, but with leaders and colleagues that are self-aware and all coming from a shared knowledge and skill base.
Employee experience - the bottom line
Without prioritising the human factor organisations are missing the opportunity that COVID presents. A chance to meet their employees at a new crossroads and move forward together. A chance to rebuild and reimagine the employee experience with a combination of the top-down organisation led initiatives and bottom-up, employee-led self-leadership. Without it, digital transformation, sophisticated external productivity tools, developing leaders and, traditional change management approaches will never be enough.