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The importance of employee listening and employee experience

Preparing for a post-pandemic world

Talent|Total Rewards|Wellbeing
COVID 19 Coronavirus

By John M. Bremen and Amol Mhatre | March 2, 2021

Organizations have a clear opportunity to employ key learnings as they emerge from the pandemic to become even stronger in the post-COVID-19 era.

A particularly important theme that flows through all reported human capital strategies is employee listening, engagement and experience. During 2020, most organizations tried and accelerated many different approaches to understanding employees’ needs and concerns. The post-COVID-19 era will provide leaders with significant opportunity to take what was learned and continue their focused efforts to identify new and different ways to connect with employees and drive a rewarding experience (which also can be a competitive market differentiator).

There is ample evidence that employees’ attitudes toward remote work and flexible schedules vary by traditional demographic designations — and are likely to evolve as time passes. The pandemic also has highlighted the importance of developing a deeper understanding and monitoring of drivers of stress and distractions at the workplace and beyond. Equally, the pandemic is likely to affect employees’ short- and long-term views on financial certainty, job safety, and protection of base compensation and core benefits. To successfully implement and sustain new ways of working, minimize distractions and optimize spend on Total Rewards, it will be critical for leaders to remain continually connected with employees in order to enable organizations to make targeted investments in human capital strategies.

Employee experience encompasses all the moments that matter to employees at work. Our research shows a close correlation between employee experience and business outcomes. As companies transform the way work is done and rewarded, keeping employee experience at the center of work and Total Rewards strategies will be essential to engage and inspire employees around the purpose of the organization and build a culture of trust. Many companies have cited culture and leadership to be the organizational glue that helped them successfully navigate challenges and emerge stronger in 2020. As such, employee experience will be necessary for organizations to rebound quickly from the global crisis and create a sustained competitive advantage.

Actions companies should consider

Listening to employees and managers
  • Develop an agile digital listening strategy (such as employee resources groups, focus groups, pulse surveys and conjoint surveys), allowing employee opinions to be measured on a continuous basis (to keep a live track of the pulse of the organization) as well as on an ad hoc basis (to understand issues as they arise), with the ability to understand differences by employee cohort.
    • Instill a sense of voice and involve employees in designing changes to the workplace and get valuable feedback on changes as they are implemented.
    • Implement a life cycle listening strategy to ensure each step in the reimagined employee journey is optimally tuned.
    • Understand drivers of emotional and social challenges facing employees — in and out of work — by critical employee segments, including generations, caregivers, income, health status, gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity.
    • Consider employee needs — on wellbeing, culture, manager and leadership expectations, and work experience — to build a continuous improvement plan for communications, programs and a culture focused on organizational resilience.
    • Recognize key detractors from an optimal employee experience, including financial worries, job security concerns, health status, and social and emotional stressors.
    • Conduct conjoint surveys to align rewards with new ways of working and changing employee preference; consider incorporating specific cohorts for equitable TRO.
  • Focus on managers to gain an understanding of their challenges and stressors, the impact on their teams and the overall employee experience. Provide managers with the tools and training to enable them and build their resilience.

Creating a high-performing employee experience
  • Define an optimal employee experience that inspires employees around the purpose of the organization, drives agility and innovation, creates personal growth opportunities, creates physical and psychological safety, and builds trust to create a healthy company culture.
  • Understand gaps between current and optimal employee experience, identify key priorities and build a road map to achieve a high-performing employee experience.
  • Consider the employee experience across the entire life cycle and through the lens of critical elements of the value proposition, including wellbeing, Total Rewards and organizational transformation.

Managing Director, Human Capital & Benefits, and Global Head of Thought Leadership and Innovation

Managing Director, Human Capital and Benefits, and Integrated Solutions Leader non-North America

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