Twelve learnings from twelve months of the COVID-19 pandemicThe rise of hybrid work models – in large part as a response to the pandemic – is forcing radical change within organisations and their HR departments.

The past 18 months have had a transformative impact on the world of work. It is unlikely we will return to pre-pandemic work models, even if vaccination efforts are wildly successful and a safe return to the office is possible.

Organisations and employees have had a chance to experience the benefits of remote work. It is almost unthinkable that talented employees will easily volunteer a full-time return to traffic congestion, lengthy commutes and inflexible work environments.

Instead, organisations will need to build attractive employer brands and put the employee experience and employee wellbeing at their core, and then develop systems and processes to ensure employees are enabled and supported at every stage.

When done well, employee experience (EX) can be transformative for business success. Satisfied and engaged employees are proven to produce higher quality work, are more agile and productive, and can more easily be retained for longer tenures.

Great EX can drive increased revenue, superior customer experiences and a more competitive employer brand. Organisations with engaged employees enjoy 80% higher customer satisfaction and experience half the talent churn of their less engaged peers.

In fact, a recent survey of 900 global HR decision-makers found that 78% of HR managers believed EX will become one of the most important factors impacting their ability to deliver on key business objectives.

Closing the EX gap

However, in the same survey only 9% of HR decision-makers said employee needs were the top priority when setting EX strategy.

This at a time when many professionals are struggling as a result of the pressures created by the pandemic. The longer the global health crisis continues, the greater the pressure on employees in terms of their careers, their finances, their health and families.

Organisations need to have systems and processes in place to support employees at every stage of their journey, from recruitment to onboarding and into full productivity. This support should be available at a skills level – for example through learning and coaching programmes – and at a wellbeing level.

This has become more difficult as teams continue to work remotely, with most new hires largely cut off from corporate offices and engaging with their employers mostly via their work-issued devices.

There are clear steps organisations can take toward closing the EX gap, namely:

  • Implementing effective listening programmes to ensure organisations understand employee sentiment and needs;
  • Building and sustaining a positive workplace culture;
  • Making effective learning and coaching processes and tools available; and
  • Taking factors such as mobility and accessibility into account when choosing employee technology.

Building a hybrid workplace that works

How can organisations create a hybrid workplace that supports the needs of employees while driving better bottom-line business outcomes?

Firstly, business leaders need to set values that include empathy and transparency. This will provide additional support to employees even when they are cut off from the support structures that corporate offices provide, and ensure they can engage fully with their work.

Secondly, a clear and focused EX strategy driven by a skilled team and supported from the top down will help ensure the organisation continues to understand and meet employee expectations. This can lead to higher retention rates, improved productivity and better quality outcomes.

A strategy for getting regular feedback from employees regarding their experience will enable organisations to keep their finger on the pulse of employee expectations. Where EX falls short, data should point the way to which measures organisations need to implement to maintain high levels of employee engagement and satisfaction.

Using a cloud-based human capital management tool will give organisations real-time insight into the performance of their hybrid teams and help HR identify opportunities to provide additional support. Organisations that use tools such as SAP SuccessFactors for example report 17% higher productivity, 21% higher profitability and typically score 10% higher in customer metrics.

Lastly, adapting organisational culture to better fit the needs of employees during such a disruptive period as the ongoing pandemic has created won’t happen overnight. Organisations need to take a long-term view and focus on continuous improvement instead of one-shot fix-all solutions.

Hybrid workplaces have become the norm and are likely to continue finding favour with high-performing organisations and the talent that drives them. By building a culture of engagement that continuously tracks and aims to meet employee expectations, organisations can ensure they attract, retain and mobilise the talent they need for success.