Hybrid working is set to stay with us in the foreseeable future. But with no one-size-fits-all approach how can companies ensure their current work policy reflects the needs and wishes of their workforce? Sam Dennison, Employee Experience Lead UKI-MEA at Medallia explains how companies can navigate and design for the hybrid employee experience…
Research shows that prior to the pandemic only five percent of the UK workforce worked mainly from home. Fast forward to today, and a new YouGov survey has revealed that most British workers (57%) want to be able to work from home after the pandemic, with 20% expressing a desire to be based from home full-time. Those working in traditionally office-based roles such as communication, professional, financial or technical services have become accustomed to a vastly different way of life – one that doesn’t involve sitting in traffic, hectic school runs and never quite being comfortable with the aircon temperature.
Returning to the office full-time after the pandemic subsides is unimaginable to most remote workers. Instead, a preference for a ‘hybrid’ model is emerging – where workers have more flexibility to decide when and where to work.
Keeping employees happy
As the business world returns to the “new normal”, it has never been more important for companies to understand the needs and wishes of their workforce. Those that impose policies without listening to their employees or accommodating their preferences run the risk of losing valuable talent. In fact, research indicates that over half of workers would quit if not offered flexible working options post-pandemic.
Aside from a loss of talent, those staff that remain (and remain dissatisfied) simply do not perform as well as their more engaged colleagues. Bain & Company found that ‘inspired’ employees, who feel more personally aligned with the values their company represents, are 125 percent more productive than their less motivated counterparts, who make up the majority of the workforce. Happy employees are a company’s biggest asset, so, in the post-pandemic landscape, it is imperative that leaders invested in successful talent acquisition and employee satisfaction empower their employees to share their experiences.
Surfacing the voice of the silent majority
When it comes to employee experiences, no two will be the same, so a top-down approach simply won’t cut it. Instead, companies need to engage in a bottom-up information-gathering and communication exercise, which takes into account the voice of every individual – even those who would not otherwise come forward to share their thoughts.
Rather than over-surveying employees or confining feedback to asking everyone the same questions, companies can collect employee feedback signals from diverse sources. Some of these can be direct, such as more personalised pulse surveys as a response to ad hoc dips in performance, or indirect, such as sentiment analysis from a Slack conversation or a Zoom call.
Business leaders can also leverage technology to encourage employees to take an active part in finding solutions to problems and think outside of the box to develop new processes and innovation. For example, crowdsourcing ideas on hybrid working could involve different discussion trails, all addressing different challenges of in-office or remote working. With all employees invited to this platform, individuals’ viewpoints or suggestions will inevitably spark conversations across departments and geographies – uncovering insight that would otherwise be missed.
Unleashing the power of diverse experiences
What makes hybrid working a powerful approach is that, if done well, it plays to the strengths of a diverse workforce. Understanding the experiences of every single employee will help organisations continually reassess and evolve their policies, as well as uncover common challenges employees share across certain geographies and demographics.
For example, do workers in one region prefer to start work sooner for an earlier finish? Are parents of young children asking to block out a couple of hours in their remote workday for school runs? Do Millennials and Gen Z – who are more in-tune with their mental health needs than older generations – have new ideas on how to enforce a better work-life balance through corporate policy? Understanding patterns, shared challenges and innovative ideas will provide a helpful framework for business strategy.
Employee-led strategies are the future
Tapping into employee feedback is key to designing successful hybrid working policies and in turn, employee-led approaches have the ability to significantly benefit productivity, business operations and inevitably, the customer experience. Employees whose working arrangements enable them to thrive will not only serve customers better, they will also innovate on behalf of customers.
As flexible working practices continue to be a top priority for workers returning to the post-pandemic ‘normal’, companies must focus on surfacing the voice of the silent majority within their workforces and making every experience count.