Work from home (WFH) shifted the employee experience conversation. And many companies had to play catch up.
“Historically, most remote employees were knowledge workers using Excel, Word, Google Docs, finance systems, marketing apps and other applications of that sort. However, the pandemic is forcing operations and task-oriented employees to WFH, which is a huge change,” says Brian Berns, chief executive officer of enterprise experience software provider, Knoa Software.
“Companies now need to ensure that these operational systems support remote access to applications such as shipping, billing, customer service, etc.,” he adds.
COVID-19 also expanded the conversation on the role of digital applications in employee experience. Gone were the days where office design, open concepts, huddle spots and foosball tables were the talk of the town. CHROs now see digital technologies shaping employee experience directly.
“Since these employees are spending most of their day using these applications, the programs become the de facto work environment, and employee experience is directly tied to their experience with these systems,” Berns observes.
Goodbye work, hello work
While WFH measures are temporary with many countries looking to get back to normalcy, the behavioral changes are permanent. Already studies in Singapore show that employees prefer to stay at home if given a choice.
“The concept [of work] will be permanently altered, and I think you will see more of a hybrid model with greater flexibility in supporting WFH in the future,” says Berns.
As the concept changes, so do areas which concern CHROs. Motivation in the absence of team leaders is one such area. Motivating staff at work was never easy, but many are now finding motivating a remote workforce many times harder.
To successfully spur employees to do their best, CHROs need to become crystal clear on their objectives and show empathy. “Organizations must set clear objectives for their workers, show understanding about the challenges of working in a new environment, over-communicate, and remove all barriers to their productivity,” says Berns.
Perks need to change. Flex time — additional time to deal with home matters — psychological counseling, tech devices, such as noise-canceling headphones, and support for employees to set up the right remote work environment matter more.
Berns admits that it is early days. “We don’t yet know what worked, and what did not. We do see that many of the challenges are being highlighted and their resolution is being prioritized.”
Team dynamics is key
WFH shone the spotlight on the difficulties of team building. In the past, CHROs left it to the LOB leaders while playing a supervisory and/or advisory role. But with a disparate team, CHROs need to take the lead in driving team building by developing new mechanisms to support these.
Here, analytics can help. “Analytics can identify people who are at risk. Analytics can augment other data that would indicate if an employee is struggling, such as productivity metrics, reduced efficiencies, etc. These could be signs that the employee is not as engaged and could indicate some underlying issues that should be addressed,” says Berns.
More frequent and effective communication, customized training, tech improvements, healthy activities, and mental health resources will also be part of the new HR normal.
“Collaboration analytics are also of great value. There are many solutions that provide guidance on how to most effectively communicate, run meetings and manage projects,” says Berns.
In the book “The HR Value Proposition”, authors David Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank were calling for embedded HR, where senior HR leaders become part of teams. CHROs need to look at such approaches to maintain collaboration and teamwork, while responding to people matters.
CHROs need to team up
As companies juggle new health and safety guidelines with the need to drive revenues, CHROs can no longer act alone.
“CHROs need to work with the entire organization. Employees are the key resources in these organizations. Ensuring that they are able to work productively will result in operational efficiencies that impact across the entire organization,” says Berns.
“Employees who are productive have greater job satisfaction, perform at a higher level and are more likely to remain at the job. Every functional team is involved and needs to be onboard,” he adds.
Analytics can help CHROs to drive the conversation across the organization and with the C-Suite. It can help them understand how well their employees are doing and communicate the actions with their peers on what they need to do to improve.
One thing is for sure, CHROs can no longer just set policies and hope employees will toe the line. They need to get responsive and ensure issues do not fester.
If they are not happy, HiPo employees will just knock on their neighbors’ doors for work.
Photo credit: iStockphoto/master1305