As organizations pull themselves out of the disruption brought about by the cascading effect of the pandemic, we observe key changes at organizations that redefine how we relate to work, work culture, workers, and workplaces. We see eight distinct patterns of employee experience that emerge from the pandemic, that would seem to be here for a long haul. It is essential to understand that more than the business performance or success that is seen today in the short run, the long-term survival and relevance of organizations would be largely determined by how well they embrace and adapt to these changes and turn it to their advantage. So here’s how we sum up these trends:

1. Aligning Employee Experience with Remote Working

For a long time, remote working has largely been associated with Information Technology (IT) workers or with those who work online. As the Covid-19 pandemic peaked, organizations had little choice but quickly scale up a remote working model for all employees, ensuring their safety as well as that of the customers. While these measures continue to be in place, business and HR leaders have been forced to contemplate if this is going to be the new normal. This would entail a complete changeover in the way work is delivered in organizations. Recent studies from Gartner and PwC observers that remote working would be a constant feature now and in the long term. For instance, a 2020 survey by Gartner found that almost 80% of company leaders expressed their intent to allow employees to continue with remote working for at least part of the time even after the pandemic is over, while 47% of the leaders stated they will allow employees to work remotely full-time. Similarly, in a recent PwC survey of 669 CEOs, 78% agree that remote collaboration is here to stay for the long term. As more and more organizations. As seen during the pandemic, remote working if properly managed, can provide huge advantages to both employers and employees. Employers can gain from cost savings from moving to smaller office spaces and other overhead costs while employees can avoid the stress of daily travel and get to spend more time at home. Employers although must make sure that employees have access to necessary tools and systems to deliver fully on their jobs. HR teams and managers must increase communications and engagement with them to keep them motivated, and remain committed and engaged with the organization

2. Organizational resiliency fosters employee experience

The majority of the organizational redesign is largely driven around streamlining roles and workflows to drive efficiency throughout the enterprise. While this is a good approach when systems and operations are stable, the downside is that this does not work when organizations have to deal with large-scale disruptions. The impact of Covid-19 and how businesses responded provides examples of how organization design functioned during a crisis. According to Gartner research conducted in 2020, more than 55% of Organizational redesign is focused on aligning roles, streamlining supply chain and workflows. Resilient organizations demonstrate the ability to respond and recover quickly during periods of disruptions. Organizations must strive to build resiliency along with efficiency, making it easy to shift gears quickly as business dynamics keep changing. This can be done by redesigning roles, and structures that are flexible and adaptive, enabling organizations to easily maneuver their strategy to move quickly between stable operations and periods of disruptions and vice-versa.

3. Redefining critical skills and roles

For most organizations, capabilities that are critical to meet their strategic needs were often classified as critical roles and skillsets. However, businesses that got affected throughout the pandemic, have come to realize that in actuality, critical roles are those that enable the successful implementation of essential workflows, allowing the organization to move forward in the face of disruptions. Organizations therefore must focus on building solid workforces by focusing less on roles that combine unrelated skills and instead focus more on skills and workflows that provide it a competitive edge both during stable times as well as during times of disruption. Redefining critical skills and roles, identifying staff, and training them on business continuity plans ensures the organization is equipped with skills and expertise to overcome any business disruption. Apart from this, employers must also seek to encourage and equip their workforce to develop critical skills that have the potential to provide multiple options for them to pursue their career, rather than pursuing a strategy that only prepares them for the next role.

4. The Increasing number of Contingent workers

The economic uncertainty due to the pandemic has brought increased unemployment as businesses struggled to stay afloat. To reduce costs, employers have resorted to lay-off staff resulting in job losses and exposing them and others to nonstandard work models. Many organizations responded by reducing contractor budgets and negotiating new terms with them. Others have cut jobs and shifted to an outsourced model by employing contingent staff to lower costs. Marking a significant shift, this trend corresponds to a recent study by Gartner, which shows that organizations will continue to employ contingent workers to maintain more flexibility in staff deployment post-COVID-19. Organizations will explore job models which seemed to work well during a pandemic, for instance, talent sharing and choosing to pay only for the amount of work delivered, eliminating extra freebies and benefits. While the research observed 32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers in an effort to reduce costs, pushing the way for the gig economy. Undoubtedly, while gig workers offer employers greater flexibility in managing people, HR leaders will need to re-evaluate how to apply and assess performance management for contingent workers as well as determine their eligibility to receive benefits that are offered to full-time company employees.

5. Addressing Organizational Complexity with Reskilling

The worldwide economic crisis led to an increase in mergers and acquisition activities across the world, and to avoid failure in the face of rising competition many companies underwent mergers or were nationalized to ensure their survival and continuity. Once the effects of the pandemic-induced downturn wear off, mergers and acquisitions would again accelerate, as companies look to expand their network and reach, through geographic spread and investments in secondary markets to insulate themselves and manage risks better during times of disruption. As business complexity and scale necessitate the evolution of new operating models, it would bring new challenges for leadership and organizational management. Enabling business enterprises to personalize performance management processes considering the fact that the needs of business functions and units within an organization can differ, and what works for one part of the organization may not function for the other. As businesses continue to become complex, complicating career progression and growth opportunities, it is essential for organizations to provide reskilling and career advancement opportunities to retain employees as well as overall efficiency. For instance – developing resources and systems that provide sufficient exposure and visibility for internal positions.

6. Becoming an Employee-Centric Organization

Human resource remains an organization’s biggest asset. Having an employee-focused approach to management can go a long way in building trust and rapport with the workforce. Even before the pandemic, organizations were increasingly becoming aware of the need for creating transparent and open communication with employees. The pandemic necessitated a quick shift by organizations, accelerating the move in this direction. As a greater number of millennials join the workforce, promoting an open, consistent, and transparent communications culture with employees would play a key role in keeping the workforce motivated and engaged. Today employees, as well as new prospective candidates, measure the organizational attractiveness based on how they treat their employees, employee-oriented policies, and as well as growth & learning opportunities that the organization provides. It is essential for Organizations to pay close attention to fostering transparent culture regarding pay, rewards, organizational stability, growth, and progress, keeping the workforce central to the organization’s core.

7. Prioritizing Employee Experience over Automation

With the increasing use of technology, value for human emotions and personal contact is seen to be waning from Organizations. When enterprises increasingly start looking away from humanitarian aspects and only concern themselves with ‘getting the job done, they tend to designate the employee simply as nothing more than ‘robots’. Organizations must be mindful of employee experiences and therefore promote practices that encourage conversations and dialogue through formal and informal means, be sensitive in implementing change and new ways of working. Anything that even has the slight form of discrimination must be addressed and make every attempt to place employee well-being at the highest priority. The best way to adopt a culture of equity and inclusiveness that engages employees that work both onsite and from remote locations. To retain and attract top-notch talent and be the best in their domain or industry, organizations must learn to prioritize employee experience over automation

8. Provide extended Social safety cover

The pandemic has brought out the need for employers to provide an extended safety net to employees and ensure their mental, physical and financial well-being. By implementing measures like enhanced sick leave, financial assistance, flexible working hours, and child care provisions during times of disruptions can benefit employees and employers alike. Organizations need to have a tactical plan ready to deal with long-term disruptions as well as to respond to short disruptions without negatively impacting the workforce as well as business continuity. Such measures reflect the organization’s commitment to employees. This can be a key factor in determining organizational attractiveness and for top-notch talents to choose them over their competitors. These measures become the basis to attract high performing workforce of today and tomorrow. This realization has led employers to review and enhance opportunities to build better employee experiences. There is no doubt that the current economic downturn brought about by pandemic has pushed the limits for employers in taking a serious view of employee experience and ensuring external factors take precedence over personal factors that impact organizations and employees alike. These measures promote better employee engagement along with improving the overall physical, mental, and emotional state of employees.

Conclusion

To summarize, we see employee experience taking centerstage in driving employee productivity and organizational performance. As working models shift from an office-driven setup to a virtual and remote setup, the need for frequent communication, engagement, and collaboration is felt greater than before. HR and business teams must ensure complete support to employees in helping them overcome any challenges that come in their way of delivering jobs. With the move towards a contingent workforce, a gig economy, combined with high levels of automation, Organizations must come up with new and improved ways to manage performance, motivate and upskill their workforce, while transforming itself along the journey and stay ahead of the competition.