April Is Stress Awareness Month: 3 Ways Your Employees Can Combat Stress Year Round

Did you know that April is Stress Awareness Month? Merriam-Webster defines stress as “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.” And looking at the world around us, there are many elements that could lead to immense feelings of stress. 

Rather than rattling off a list of possible stressors, we want to talk about how you and your employees can manage these feelings year round with practical, accessible tools and coping strategies. So without further ado, let’s get zen!

3 Tools to Share with Employees for Stress Awareness Month

Tool #1: Leverage Company Mental Health Resources

Mental health is just as important and physical health. And just as they provide medical benefits to help provide for their physical health, many businesses today are also making mental health resources available to employees.

If you are on your company’s human resources team, it might be worth reiterating available resources to your employees via email or your company’s internal communications channels (especially since it’s Stress Awareness Month). This communication should also feature clear instructions on how to access those resources to increase accessibility. Having those resources is only helpful if your employees are aware of and using them!

Tool #2: Create Space with Meditation

Stress can create feelings of helplessness, decrease ability to focus, and stir up racing, negative thoughts. To combat this, encourage employees to create mental space with meditation. 

Meditation will look different for everyone, but the goal is to “focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress.” One common method is to sit quietly and focus solely on your breath for at least two minutes. If you get distracted, that’s okay! Just refocus your attention on your breath.

There are also apps and websites that provide guided meditations and tools to help achieve a meditative state. At InMoment, we provide our team members with access to an app called Sanvello, a mental health app that supports people through self care, peer support, coaching, and therapy. One of the tools available on Sanvello is guided meditations.

“We are so happy to give our InMoment Team access to Sanvello, a mental health app that focuses on the importance of checking in with yourself,” said an InMoment HR representative. “Employees will be able to leverage the app to access self care tools like daily mood tracking, guided journeys, coping tools like meditation, and more to help them manage stress in a world full of noise. This is a wonderful step to support our team both inside and outside of the workplace.”

In addition to apps like Sanvello, you can also find free guided meditations on Youtube and other sites. These resources can be communicated via the same method we mentioned in tool number one.

Tool #3: Plan for Moments That Matter

At InMoment, we have this saying: “Own the Moments That Matter.” And though this is applicable for improving experiences for customers and employees, we also mean that it’s important to really be present in the moments that matter most to you personally. 

We each have our own “moments that matter,” whether it’s going on a walk with our dog, taking an exercise class, spending quality time with our family and friends… the list goes on! In these stressful times, it’s more important than ever that we are deliberate about setting time aside for the things that make us feel our best. 

At the beginning of each week, set aside time in your schedule to do something for yourself, and encourage your employees to do that too! It can be something as simple as taking 20 minutes to get up from your desk to stretch, or you could even utilize your paid time off to have an extended weekend. Whatever it is, we each need to take the time to create (and own) our own moments that matter.

Encouraging a Self-Care Culture

It’s simple: companies are most successful when their employees are successful—and this stretches beyond professional success. To be their best at work, employees need to know that their employers encourage them to do what they need to in order to thrive. That means companies must clearly communicate about mental health resources and provide the tools necessary to assist their employees year round—not only during Stress Awareness Month. Doing so clearly displays employee commitment, and will lead to cultural and business success long term.

What is employee commitment? And how can brands demonstrate that? Learn all about it from InMoment employee experience experts here.

How Customer Aggression in the Workplace Has Forever Changed Employee Experience

We know that everyone is sick of talking about COVID, but the pandemic has had far-reaching effects on customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) that will persist long after the virus is finally contained. Staying on top of these effects is hugely important to continuous Experience Improvement (XI), which is why today we want to take you through one of the biggest elements we noticed in our recent experience trends report: customer aggression in the workplace.

Even if aggressive customers haven’t been a problem for your brand specifically, you’ve no doubt heard all the horror stories about employees and brands for whom they have been. The problem has become widespread enough that it’s changed many employees’ workplace expectations, and it’s in that context that we all need to consider a few questions. Why has this become so much more common, and how has that problem changed employee experience?

The Roots of Heightened Customer Aggression

Figuring out how best to respond to aggressive customers begins with finding out why this problem is ramping up to begin with. The answer probably won’t surprise you: the pandemic has been, to put it lightly, an extremely stressful time. Our research and that of many other organizations have found a direct correlation between that stress and the customer aggression we’re seeing in workplaces around the world.

As you might expect, this aggression has resulted in big changes when it comes to employee expectations. Whether it’s diffusing unruly airline passengers or a fight over Pokemon cards (not even kidding), many employees are experiencing enforcement fatigue from attempting to uphold COVID regulations in the face of hostile customers. As a result, many employees are expecting brands to make some pretty big changes in the post-pandemic era.

How Customers and Employees View This Problem

Another factor critical to addressing aggressive customers is understanding how experience stakeholders view the problem. That was another element to all of this that we closely researched, evaluating both customers and employees across a few different demographics. What these folks had to say might surprise you!

For example, when asked “what would you think if you witnessed a customer acting aggressively toward an employee at a place of business?” only 48% of customers said they’d perceive that behavior negatively. 6% of customers would develop a negative perception of the employee and the brand. Finally, when we looked at this data against a more generational backdrop, it became clear immediately that Generation Z shoppers would be the most likely to feel empathetic toward the employee.

Impact of Customer Aggression on Employee Experience and Brand Perception
Image #1: Customer responses to the question,“What would you think if you witnessed a customer acting aggressively toward an employee at a place of business?”

To be clear, this question was asked under the assumption that the employee remained calm while the customer was being aggressive. But what happens when we change the scenario to both parties being aggressive toward each other? With that change thrown into the mix, 24% of customers had a negative perception of all customer behavior, Generation Z shoppers became less empathetic toward the employee, and negative sentiment toward the brand among all customers skyrocketed from 6% to a whopping 35%.

Customer Aggression and Employee Aggression
Image #2: Responses if the employee was aggressive in return

Clearly, mutually assured aggression isn’t the solution. What is

Employee Commitment 

The conventional wisdom for a lot of brands here is to closely support employees as incidents like these occur. That’s certainly important, but as The Great Resignation is demonstrating, strictly reactive support is insufficient for employee Experience Improvement (XI).

The answer, then, is for brands to dig much deeper in their employee support, going from reactive employee advocacy to something more fundamental and progressive: employee commitment. You can achieve employee commitment by working hard to drive trust, transparency, and communication, with the end goal being to help employees feel a human, emotional connection to their work. Taking this proactive tack with your employees won’t ‘just’ empower them to deal with aggressive customers; it will help your organization retain talent amid all this unprecedented churn.

Defining how exactly to go about employee commitment is going to look different from company to company. The work isn’t easy and can take some initial time, especially as you identify the end goals your commitment initiative needs to fulfill and then design that program around them. But that guiding ethos of trust, transparency, and communication makes a world of difference for employees who are feeling fatigued from aggressive customers. It’s an approach that will make them feel truly supported instead of just patronized, which will inspire them to handle these situations gracefully and create Experience Improvement for themselves.

Understanding and dealing with customer aggression is extremely important, but there’s a lot more to this experience universe for brands to consider. Want to learn more about the trends we’re seeing amid employees and customers in 2022? Click here to read our full-length trends report for this year, where we take a deep dive into everything brands need to know for their experience initiatives!

The Employee Experience Maturity Path: How Does EX Improvement Impact Customer Behavior?

This article was originally posted on CustomerThink.com

Sacagawea, a knowledgeable young Shoshone woman, successfully guided Lewis & Clark through the Louisiana Purchase territory, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa, whose backyard was the Himalayas, successfully guided Edmund Hillary on the first successful ascent of Mount Everest. Ports around the world have skilled and experienced pilots whose detailed knowledge and map-memory of local shoals, sandbars and currents is essential to guide arriving ships to their berths. 

In the modern era, Tim Berners-Lee was the trailblazer of computer science—the inventor and mapmaker of the World Wide Web and HTML—without whom we simply wouldn’t have the internet of today. And then there’s Steve Wozniak, the technical pathfinder behind the initial system for Apple products and services. Every successful journey greatly benefits from having a reliable, capable, amply proven guide, especially one using a detailed, user-friendly map with signposts to mark steps needed to reach the intended goal. It is as true with employee experience (EX) improvement. There is a clear path to greater employee experience maturity and employee insights success, with a map and signposts to aid the guide.

4 Signposts on the Employee Experience Maturity Path Map 

There are four distinctive signposts which serve as a guide up the employee experience maturity path, each one bringing organizations closer to their goal of optimal employee behavior and value as enterprise assets. These signposts, or markers, represent the points along the path, or the trajectory, employee experience has taken, as companies become more mature in a) how they consider employee contribution, in other words the importance attached to it, and b) what role, or roles, employees have in enterprise culture, strategy, and business outcomes.

#1: Employee Satisfaction

The enterprise EX improvement and insights journey path often begins with very basic employee satisfaction, as companies are principally looking to manage and measure behavior at a macro level. For the employee experience maturity trajectory, it is the point of embarkation. Employee satisfaction will typically include job-related factors like compensation, workload, perceptions of management and leadership, flexibility, teamwork, resource availability, etc. 

#2: Employee Engagement

The next, and first real, EX journey signpost brings many organizations to employee engagement. Engaged employees have a stronger sense of purpose within the organization. Here, the predominant, HR-formed, construct is to consider employees as costs of doing the company’s business, and the overall objective is for their fit, utility, and productivity within the enterprise.

#3: Employee Commitment

This signpost represents and recognizes arrival on the path of a deeper awareness of what creates and shapes the full EX landscape: employee commitment to the organization, to its product and service value proposition ,and customers – and plan to optimize business outcomes and stakeholder value. Part of this more progressive awareness is also understanding, and mitigating, things which can impede EX success. Employee fit, utility, and productivity are certainly important, but they are insufficient where real employee experience and linkage to customer value delivery are concerned. Organizations need to have more contemporary and actionable insight into what motivates employees, connects them to the culture and customers, and drives their behavior as invested, highly contributory enterprise assets. 

#4: Employee Advocacy

This signpost has the EX parallel of the flag planted at the top of a mountain peak. Few organizations are able to reach this terminus point on the path (although it is certainly within reach, with strategic focus and discipline, for virtually any company). Companies with high rates of employee advocacy, and its accompanying strong set of business outcomes, are those which have embedded commitment and customer focus into the enterprise DNA, and where the culture, operations, and processes all flow through stakeholder value creation. 

How Does EX Improvement Impact Customer Behavior?

In looking at the progression from satisfaction to engagement to commitment and advocacy, we have examined research conducted over the past three decades. What we have observed are studies that examined some contributing factors of employee experience and value, such as reward and recognition, job fit, training, career opportunities, work environment, and departmental and management relationships. But the critical component often totally missing, or lightly addressed, from all of this material is the definitive linkage and commitment to customers.

Tony Hsieh, the late founder and CEO of Zappos, said: “The brand is just a lagging indicator of the company’s culture.” He hit the mark with that statement. Brand image needs to be complemented and supported by a culture and set of processes dedicated to both employee and customer experience. That brand promise has to be delivered for customers every time they interact with the company. Contribution to customer experience also needs to be fully, and strategically, baked into the organization and into every employee’s job description.

Consider how frequently your customers come in contact with your employees, either directly or indirectly. Whether it is through a computer screen in a customer service chat, on the telephone, or in person, every employee, whether customer-facing or not, should be an enthusiastic and committed representative for the brand. If, today, employee satisfaction and employee engagement are not designed to meet this critical objective of the customer experience, almost inevitably there will be a sub-optimal downstream result with regard to customer behavior.

The Importance of Creating a Culture of Commitment

In any group of employees, irrespective of whether it’s a service department, technical and operational division, or a branch office, there will be differing levels of commitment to the employer’s brand and the company itself, its value proposition, and its customers. If employees are negative to the point of undermining, and even sabotaging, customer experience value, they will actively work against business goals and outcomes. However, if employees are advocates, and whether they interact with customers directly, indirectly, or even not at all, they will better service and support customers.

For companies to create and sustain higher levels of employee advocacy, it’s also essential that the employee experience be given as much emphasis as the customer experience. If employee commitment and advocacy are to flourish, there must be value, and a sense of shared purpose, for the employee (as well as the company and customer) – in the form of recognition, reward(financial and training), and career opportunities. Combined with advanced analytics and other employee-related data, the advocacy concept can lead and enable any organization to be more stakeholder-centric, flexible, dynamic, and financially successful.

This is a clear path and map to EX maturity. Where is your company on the journey?

11 Articles You Need to Read About Today’s Employee and EX Landscape

In the midst of the fallout of a global pandemic and the Great Resignation, the employee experience (EX) is an incredibly hot topic. With such a complex EX landscape, what do brands need to do to retain their employees, inspire their commitment and advocacy, and attract new talent?

If you’re looking for the answers to these questions, say no more—InMoment EX expert Michael Lowenstein is here to help with all the thought leadership you need. Check out these must read articles below!

#1: Employee Engagement: Does the Defense’s Case Still Hold Water? 

When it comes to optimizing the employee experience, does an engagement-based approach still work? More and more, we are finding that employee commitment represents a more progressive and actionable EX construct. It better reflects the realities employers face in today’s talent landscape, and how employees are making job-related decisions.  

Read It Here!

#2: What Causes Employee Turnover? How Does Today’s Unprecedented Employee Churn Impact Customers Tomorrow?

Today, there are multiple drivers, or causes, of employee turnover. And, there are definite connections, or links, to how the rate of employee resignations can, and does, impact customer experiences and perceptions of value. So, how will unprecedented employee churn today impact customers tomorrow?   

Check It Out!

#3:  The Key Post-Pandemic EX Holy Grail for All Companies: We’re Now in the Era of Required Employee Commitment and Linkage to CX

The COVID-19 pandemic has actively contributed to a reassessment of priorities by both employees and employers. Employees are reconsidering the personal value represented by their jobs and roles. Employers are reconsidering methods for building connections as well as performance. So, post-pandemic, what are the key enterprise considerations for improving employee experience?    

Discover the EX Holy Grail

#4:  The Impact of YOLO on Employee and Customer Experience

YOLO (You Only Live Once) is a current societal force which has been over 250 years in the making. Today, it is directly fueling the Great Resignation—especially among GenZ and Millennial employees. This has contributed to greater attention to factors of YOLO which influence employee behavior, especially employer disconnection and churn. So, what is the impact of YOLO on employee and customer experience?   

Find the Answers

#5:  In EX, Quo Vadis? Translated from Latin: Where Are We Going with Employee Experience Improvement?

The employee landscape is undergoing dramatic and rapid change, with a heightened emphasis on emotional drivers and connection to the employer’s culture. For instance, organizations are coming to understand that everyone in the organization is responsible for developing and delivering customer value. So, where is employee experience headed? 

 Learn the Direction

#6:  Do Companies Recognize the High CX Value of Employee Advocates? Shouldn’t They Want to Cultivate the Kind of Behavior Advocacy Represents?

Employee commitment and advocacy behavior influences customer experience, on both an indirect and a direct basis. Significantly more than either satisfaction or engagement, where employees are viewed as costs, committed employees are key enterprise assets, delivering superior, differentiated customer value. So, how well do companies recognize the value of employee commitment and advocacy?  

Read Article

#7:  Diagnosing and Improving Employee Connection to Company Culture

Employees’ connection to, or disconnection from, the employer’s culture—its fairness, transparency, equity, humanity, career opportunities, communication, management trust, etc.—is perhaps the biggest contributor to today’s high resignation rates. Yet, traditional engagement research only minimally addresses, if at all, what cultural factors work, or don’t work, for employees. Through new and focused research approaches, there is a clear, actionable path to enterprise culture improvement. So, will organizations do more to understand the importance of, and level of employee connection to, company culture? 

 Connect Employees to Customer Culture

#8:  Potentially, How Will the Future of Work and ‘The Great Resignation’ Impact Customer Experience?

Today, many organizations are focused on how the future of work will affect both customer experience and employee experience.  A major challenge, however, is the continuing high level of employee turnover. This is largely because employees, who actively desire to work for companies with a more humanistic culture and a purpose which they can support, are too often finding these lacking in their present employer. These perceived shortcomings can be reversed. So, how will key realities in the employee landscape impact CX? 

 Uncover the Impact

#9:  It’s Time to Recognize the Impact and Value of Employee Behavior: Making Employee Experience an Organizational Priority

As organizations become more mature in their approaches to employee behavior and experience, a key question which needs to be addressed is the level of enterprise priority, and investment of resources, employee experience receives. And, directly connected to this question, companies need to understand the degree to which employees are recognized as key assets, not costs, when their research and initiatives still follow an engagement-based model. Moving the strategic focus to employee commitment is the next, more progressive, stage of employee experience maturity. So, are organizations making employee experience and employee behavior a priority?  

Make Employee Experience a Priority

#10:  Employee Advocates: Their Role as Committed Company Assets, Active Communicators, and Key Contributors to Stakeholder Value

Advocacy, where employees are identified as active contributors to business outcomes and are recognized and leveraged as significant enterprise assets, is the ultimate stage of EX maturity. Although developing a corps of such employees is attainable with focused discipline and investment, few organizations reach this level. Not only are employee advocates committed to the organization and its customers, they are emotionally connected to the culture and purpose of their employer. They are active partners in delivering superior customer value. So, do companies see employee advocates as essential enterprise assets?    

Learn More

#11: Elves Rule: Employees ‘Make’ the Experience for Customers, and They Should Be Recognized for It

Just before Christmas, good little children all around the world are preparing their lists of preferred gifts. They are told that the holiday presents they receive will come courtesy of Santa (and Ms.) Claus. But, isn’t it the elves, toiling in anonymity (except for the occasional movie) at their North Pole workshop, who—like employees everywhere—are those most responsible for creating customer joy? So, how well do organizations understand and recognize employees’ essential role in the customer experience and the creation of value?

Check It Out

Understanding “The Great Resignation” and Brands’ Own Role in Creating It

The news media has been rife this last year or so with stories of The Great Resignation—an unprecedented tidal wave of job market churn that has seen millions upon millions of employees quit their jobs. As with most topics related to employment and the economy, the finger-pointing over who and/or what’s behind this phenomenon has been incessant… and loud. No matter which lens the issue is viewed through, though, one fact is apparent to all: the phrase “I quit” has become one of the employee world’s loudest slogans.

Despite what all the debate over The Great Resignation might imply, though, there is in fact a hierarchy of causes and events that we can definitively track to what we’re seeing in the job market right now. What follows is a quick illustration (and examination) of the sequence of events that precipitated The Great Resignation, as well as what brands like yours might be able to do about it if you find that many of your employees are headed for the exit.

The Great Resignation’s Deep Roots

The first misconception about The Great Resignation that I’d like to dispel is the notion that the COVID-19 pandemic is directly responsible for its inception. This assumption is built almost exclusively on the close timing the two phenomena share, which, frankly, is correlative reasoning at best. Additionally, when the pundits pushing this idea actually care to delve deeper, they insist that the challenges and perspectives brought about by the pandemic caused many employees to reconsider their positions, hence the current job market churn.

The truth, however, is much more nuanced than that. As countless employee experience (EX) experts have been documenting for years now, many employees were feeling dissatisfied with their jobs or disconnected from their wider organization long before COVID-19 was even a term. Burnout, disengagement, and a lack of employee support have, unfortunately, been hallmarks at many organizations for many, many years. The pandemic, therefore, did not mark the beginning of the sentiments that culminated in The Great Resignation; it merely catalyzed employee sentiments that had already existed for a long time.

Culture, Infrastructure, and Operational Challenges

There’s more to the story of The Great Resignation than widespread employee dissatisfaction with their daily work or their disconnection from their employers’ brand purpose. In fact, much of the narrative is that many companies have insufficiently invested in employee support resources. Though you might expect that more brands would be proactive about countering declines in employee performance and tenure, the sheer and extraordinary amount of churn now being seen tells quite a different story. That story, unfortunately, is one of countless companies’ inability to provide even the most basic support and experience value for their most critical assets.

It’s pretty clear where this story is headed:  a combination of employee disconnection, perceived cultural toxicity, and burnout due to factors like lack of available support resources has directly impacted the job market. When the COVID-19 element was added to this set of challenges, with all of the disruption, stress and uncertainty it brought, it became a catalyst for The Great Resignation.  Many employees were already worn down from facing these issues, and their conclusion was to seek new roles not just outside of their current employer, but even beyond their own industry.

In other words, high percentages of employees, feeling they have only one life to live, said:  “I quit.”

A More Progressive Employee Experience Concept

Even if your brand isn’t one of the thousands of companies around the world currently scrambling to remedy its employee support investment problem, you’ve probably heard the phrase “employee engagement” get thrown around as a remedy to The Great Resignation. As the story around this approach goes, employee engagement espouses policy creation as the solution to employee disengagement and burnout. It’s built around discovering employee discontentment, reacting to it with new policy created within HR departments, and hopefully lowering costs all the while. 

However, while policy certainly has its place in any organization, employee engagement alone will leave any company falling woefully short of its retention goals. There’s a much higher strata of the employee world known as employee commitment that brands will need to reach not ‘just’ to survive The Great Resignation, but also to build fundamentally human connections with employees and thus achieve Experience Improvement (XI) for them.

Click here to read my full-length point of view document on employee commitment, and how it can help your brand achieve more foundational and transformative goals than what can be achieved with reactive policymaking.

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