COVID Changed Workplaces. Here’s How Yours Must Adapt

COVID-19 may finally be receding from many parts of the world, but the changes the pandemic left behind aren’t going away anytime soon. The workplace, for example, changed virtually overnight, as many employees suddenly found themselves working from home and under strict lockdown. This shift in the Post-COVID workplace created a number of paradigm changes that a lot of organizations are still trying to catch up to.

If your brand is one of those organizations, we have you covered! What follows is a brief discussion about the post-COVID workplace. We’ll set the stage by going a bit more in-depth on those changes we mentioned earlier, and end by leaving you a few ideas on how your brand, workplace, and culture can adapt!

The Work-from-Home Paradigm Shift

For a lot of people, starting to work from home wasn’t as simple as setting up a laptop in the living room. Concurrent school closures meant that many employees had to balance homeschooling their kids with work responsibilities in real time. Childcare wasn’t the only home responsibility to blend into work, either—errands, laundry, and the like came together with work to create a previously unthinkable new paradigm. Couple that with waiting for lockdowns to end, and you have what one of our thought leaders fittingly calls “time soup,” a home reality in which everything is stirred together.

Working from home brought about some macro-level changes, too. It’s more difficult for employees to create connections when they’re physically separated, and this poses new challenges for brands that want to create cohesive cultures. Every company that wants to succeed needs a good workplace culture, so the question must be asked: how can brands like yours navigate this new work-life balance and this new culture landscape to find success and Experience Improvement (XI)? Don’t worry; we have a few ideas on that!

How to Adapt

The first key to adapting to the post-COVID workplace isn’t just to accept that working from home is the new normal—it’s figuring out how to make that new normal work for your organization. Think about the work factors unique to your organization—office footprint, nature of work, local COVID restrictions, and your employees’ current setups—without being afraid to try new things. Leaders at the messaging service Slack have said they want to take this time to question everything they thought they knew about the workplace… and that’s a great attitude! Challenge long-held assumptions as you establish what the new normal looks like for you.

Additionally, always be on the lookout for ways to create human connectivity at a time where physical contact is still a relative rarity. Your teams have already probably had Zoom happy hours and the like for the last 18 years, but don’t stop there! Get teams who don’t usually interact with each other into the same chat if you can. Connecting people whose paths don’t normally cross helps create that workplace culture that is so important to brand success. It also gives you a chance to sync different teams’ perceptions of your customer, which is vital for consistent experiences.

The overarching theme here is that adapting to this new workplace the right way isn’t ‘just’ good for employees; it can help you meaningfully transform your workplace culture and positively impact customer experiences, too! To learn more, click here to read the full-length point of view on this subject by our CHRO, Wendy Rand, who can show you more on how to not just adapt to this new normal, but thrive in it.

How Business Leaders Can Navigate Staffing Challenges in a Post-COVID World

COVID vaccines have finally arrived after a year of anxiety and uncertainty, which means that businesses can begin to seriously think about the post-COVID employee landscape. Of course, the reality is that that landscape is already here, and it brought with it a host of challenging changes. Today’s conversation provides a quick rundown of staffing challenges and other employee related obstacles, as well as what brands can do to overcome them.

Why Many Employees Aren’t Returning

One of the biggest trends we’ve seen these last few weeks is employees’ seeming reluctance to return to pre-COVID careers. This is especially true for verticals whose turnover rates were high even before COVID, like hospitality and retail. Turning to our experts, we have discovered a few reasons for this reluctance to return.

First, from what we’ve been seeing and hearing, a lot of employees who were laid off at the start of the pandemic have spent the last year cultivating side gigs into sustainable (and profitable) sources of income. These side hustles are more personally rewarding for these folks than their old jobs, which is why they’re hesitating to come back even if a conventional position offers more income and benefits.

Second, a lot of employees across many industries have become accustomed to the COVID-era work/life balance, a phenomenon that one of our experts calls “time soup.” In other words, employees have gotten used to work and home life responsibilities mixing together; a lifestyle that is not so easily untangled. Thus, many employees are only seeking out companies whose positions allow that flexibility, a paradigm shift that many employers are struggling to contend with. 

It’s also important to note that some employees are reluctant to go out into the world because they or members of their family are not vaccinated. Though numbers are lower in the US, we aren’t quite out of the woods according to the CDC (or globally for that matter).

How Brands Can Respond to Staffing Challenges

Many organizations are having a hard time pivoting to this new employee reality, especially in industries where working from home is difficult or flat-out impossible. However, the post-COVID employee landscape is not a loss for brands; it’s a new set of conditions. Adapting to change isn’t easy, but we have a few ideas for tackling this challenge and being able to hire the talent you need to deliver meaningful experiences.

The first and most immediate thing brands can do here is to survey their employees. Conventional wisdom says to survey everyone, but we believe that this problem is best addressed by surveying new hires who’ve been with your organization 90 days or less. Ask your newer employees not just the usual questions, like how things are going so far, but what drove them to your brand so recently. If they’ve joined you as COVID is subsiding, that means your brand must be doing something correctly to attract new employees, right?

Once you have that intel handy, apply it to your hiring and messaging as soon as possible. Identifying your newer employees’ key drivers and values will give you a good idea of who else to look out for as you regrow your workforce. This tactic will also help you hone in on employees who will be great fits for your brand. Hiring the right people and delivering on the values that encouraged them to apply to your organization is a true win-win.

Another factor that brands should bear in mind about this new workplace reality is how much we’ve learned about remote work; specifically, that more jobs can be performed from afar than anyone thought before COVID. Your organization can take advantage here by hiring the best talent wherever they’re located. Sure, it’s nice when people can get together in person, but after the last year, it’s become clear that some teams can function effectively even when they’re entire time zones apart.

The Customer Element

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because the current staffing and labor issues we’re seeing are having an impact on your brand and, ultimately, its customer experience (CX). Fewer employees means that organizations are stretched thinner, which unfortunately increases the chance that customers will have longer wait times or other adverse interactions with your brand. We believe that time and additional research will yield other tools you can use to bridge this employment gap—until then, though, short-term methods like our survey suggestion are the best means of mitigating this issue.

The post-COVID employment landscape is challenging, and adjusting to it is no small task. But the brands that arm themselves with insights and feedback from newer employees will be better-positioned to not only adjust to this new world, but also to find the best talent for their organization and thus provide Experience Improvement (XI). 

In the meantime, you can be sure we’ll continue to monitor these changes and provide brands like yours with the best employee experience (EX) advice out there. Follow the InMoment XI Blog to stay connected and to take this post-COVID journey with us!

How Employee Experience Impacts Your Business

You’ve heard it time and time again: employees are your greatest asset for business success. 

We all know it’s true, but only a few experts can articulate (and prove) how the employee experience directly impacts the bottom line. And perhaps that’s why so many brands stick to the customer experience and fail to include employees in their efforts. The thing is, however, that the customer experience and the employee experience overlap in so many ways.

In the first episode InMoment’s “XI Expert Take” video series, VP of Global Employee Experience Stacy Bolger dives into that overlap and explains how businesses can leverage their employee experience for organization-wide success. Here are a couple of takeaways we want to highlight for you:

Lack of EX Investment Equals Significant Revenue Drainage

As a part of her role at InMoment, Stacy Bolger often visits brands to brainstorm solutions to their greatest EX challenges. Despite the fact that these brands span across industries and the globe, Bolger has found that she often sees the same phenomenon unfold: brands that don’t have a strategy in place to survey their employees lose money.

In her “XI Expert Take” episode, she uses the example of a call center to bring this point to life. In her story, call center agents regularly take the same call about a process inefficiency that causes customers frustration.

“Let’s say that [in that call center] 150 representatives take a call [for the same issue] twenty times per week. That comes out to three thousand times per week. At eight dollars per call, that now has translated to $24,000 a week on the same call. And when we annualize it? That comes to $1.2 million a year that we are spending on a single call type and a process that a frontline employee has the insight to fix, knows the solution to, and yet that brand simply does not have the process with which to gather that feedback.”

That’s right. If the brand in Stacy’s example simply surveyed its employees asking for insights about the customer experience, it could save over a million dollars! And though this situation is hypothetical, the same kind of revenue drain is all too real for brands that fail to invest in the employee experience and examine the voice of employee (VoE).

Failure to Listen to Employees Leads to Lower Engagement

Voice of employee initiatives definitely excel at removing customer-unfriendly processes, but they also are absolutely vital to keeping employee morale up and churn down. Why? Because employees who feel listened to feel valued, are more engaged, and are likely to stick around a lot longer.

Put yourself in your employees’ shoes. If you kept bringing up a recurring process or operations issue to your manager, but nothing was being done to fix that issue on a large scale, how would you feel? You’d feel small, you’d feel ignored, and you’d feel as if all the work you put in day after day amounts to nothing in the eyes of your employer. If you felt that way, would you stick around?

It’s safe to say that no one would enjoy that situation. And when unsatisfied employees leave, your organization loses tenured, passionate employees and a significant amount of money. In fact, turnover can cost a company about 33% of

an employee’s annual salary. How? Because when an employee leaves, the business has to take on multiple costs, including the cost to recruit and the cost to train! 

Putting a voice of employee program into place prevents this drainage. It creates a strategy with which brands can survey their employees about the customer experience. And when you combine strategic listening with advanced analytics that unearth trends in that data, you can alert the right teams within the company to take action and make change. 

When the employee sees a process they’ve flagged as an issue transformed into something more customer friendly, they feel like an imperative part of the organization (which, in truth, they are).

Tying Business Value Back to Employee Initiatives

In the rest of her episode, Stacy highlights other areas where employee initiatives excel, does some quick math to quantify the results, and tells you the steps you should take to get the ball rolling. 

But don’t take our word for it. You can watch the full twenty minute session for free here!

Why Your Brand Should Start (or Dust Off) an EX Program

A customer experience (CX) program is the best way to collect feedback from your audiences, glean useful learnings, and use that knowledge to meaningfully improve your brand experience. Initiatives like these usually determine whether your business is a leader within your vertical, or a follower. As such, they’ve become commonplace over the last decade or so.

What about employee experience (EX) programs, though? What value do they provide, why should your brand have one if it doesn’t already, and how can they help you improve your customer experience? Today, we’re going to briefly walk you through these and other questions within the EX world.

Creating Considerable Cultures

The first (and most obvious) case for starting an EX program is the benefit it provides workplace culture. Your brand needs to recruit and retain the best employee talent out there if it hopes to become a vertical leader—an EX program can help your organization identify its cultural strengths and fix breakages that might be repelling new employees or leaving current ones feeling disengaged.

On a more fundamental level, EX programs help employees find meaning in their work. We all want to be good at our jobs and to find them fulfilling, which is why it’s important to give employees a chance to speak up. Moreover, employees must be given an opportunity to make a difference, and meaningfully applying EX program learnings sparks that very phenomenon.

Saving Up

There’s another benefit that comes with using an EX program to positively affect your company’s workplace culture: saving money. Whether it’s recruiting a new employee, dealing with absenteeism, or contending with churn, there’s no aspect of employment that doesn’t come with a price tag. Employees are a company’s greatest resource, but they’re also usually the greatest expense.

This is why EX tools like voice of employee (VoE) and employee engagement (EE), among others, are vital to the success of your brand. Identifying improvement opportunities in your workplace culture helps employees find more meaning in their work, as we said, but it also helps your brand avoid some pretty substantial costs. With an EX program, you can better retain your workforce, avoid costly churn, and save a big chunk of change all the while.

Connecting with CX

It’s not uncommon for brands to think of CX and EX programs as wholly separate entities, but that’s not the case. If your employee has an improved experience with your brand—takes more pride in their work, feels that their feedback is valued—that positivity is highly contagious. A happier employee translates directly to a happier customer, even if that employee doesn’t interact with customers face-to-face.

In essence, EX programs create a more meaningful workplace culture for employees, and that passion improves the customer experience. Everyone wins with an EX initiative, and brands can ride the changes these programs help bring about to the very top of their verticals.

Click here to read our full article by EX expert Stacy Bolger on these programs’ benefits, including solutions and strategies you can start applying to your own organization today!

How the Perception of Productivity Affects our Engagement at Work

Weekends in my household are often consumed by time well spent with my wife and two young children, who enjoy everything from hide & seek and board games with crazy rules, to baseball and bike riding.  While I love these activities and the family memories they create, I too enjoy weekend time spent alone on personal projects around the house.  I call these “garag-ects”—projects generally accomplished in the garage.

Over the years, the bikes and sports equipment, toys and old ping-pong table, tools and materials have taken over my work space, each time requiring me to prepare a space to get started. It’s an unmotivating and incredibly inefficient environment, but I know that until I dedicate the time to organize the space required to tackle many garagectsin a single weekend, I will continue to lack the motivation and resources to engage in even a single item on the growing list of ‘to-do’ items.  In years past, I found myself able to fill a weekend with a list of accomplishments and was highly productive in the garage.  When I could start and complete a garagectin one sitting, I found myself entirely engaged in the process and motivated by the accomplishments each completion would bring.

Perception of Productivity Drives Employee Engagement

In this way, I have something in common with the vast majority of employees who work in any role across all types of industries and organizations.  Perhaps not just the family aspect or the growing list of projects in the garage, but the continuous intrinsic need to be productive in order to feel truly engaged.  In fact, research suggests that employee happiness and engagement at work is driven by the perception of productivity – an employee’s sense of being able to effectively execute his or her duties and role for the organization in an effective and efficient manner.  Coupled with the ability for an employee to see his or her contribution, the feeling of productivity is powerful in establishing and maintaining high engagement levels.

The social and physical environment for an employee in the workplace may be just as important as an organized garage when it comes to enabling a higher sense of productivity.  As organizations invest in employees by regularly asking for feedback and insight in order to make effective changes and promote a culture for employee-generated insights, it can be valuable to include measures that connect productivity and the outcomes of the work done day in and day out.

Bridging Concepts of Productivity with Employee Surveys and CX Measures

Many organizations are beginning to find ways to include such measurement within regular employee engagement surveys, where for example, employees are presented with specific items connecting the concepts of productivity while also bridging data between employee surveys and customer experience measures.  These items may cover processes & procedures and incentives, to goal-setting and technology, and might include items such as;

  • Our organization always acts in the best interests of our customers.
  • Our organization eliminates processes and procedures that interfere with best serving my customers.
  • Staff in our organization are given incentives to provide the best possible service to our customers.
  • My co-workers consistently think about how to better serve our customers.
  • Our organization hasformal programs and processes for improving customer experience.
  • Our organization sets specific goals for achieving and improving customer experience.
  • Our organization effectively uses technologyto deliver a consistently positive customer experience.
  • Our organization commits the resources required to exceed the expectationsof customers.

employee engagement diagram

Such measures offered to employees serve as a great way to connect traditional siloes between HR and CX Professionals who independently measure the employee and customer experience respectively and provide a mechanism for employees to weigh in foundational concepts affecting their work and the outcomes for customers.

Asking the Right Employee, with the Right Measures, at the Right Time

Another growing strategy organizations are deploying includes the use of employee experience (EX) surveys to monitor the more standard aspects of the employee life cycle.  This process includes asking the right employees, the right measures, at the right time – while they are top of mind and while the employee is most invested in a particular experience.  By measuring the initial impressions of an organization during the recruitment and hiring stages, through onboarding and acclamation, to communication and recognition, and typically ending with exit experience, an organization can identify employee-driven ideas for improving the experience in each of these areas affecting nearly all current and future employees.  These surveys can be administered in a more intelligent, automated fashion by leveraging employee record files to distribute certain survey types based on tenure, employment events (such as promotion or training) and communication processes by the organization, including quarterly townhall meetings. By including even just a single item on an employee’s perception of productivity, the organization can better identify quick wins across processes in the employment life cycle to improve this concept and engagement.

Make Sharing Experiences Easy

One other emerging trend includes the use of open-ended prompts, either as part of the regular employee survey process or as part of an open listening strategy where employees can share a story/idea at any time through a dedicated portal or open exchange.  Just as we do as customers when we experience something very positive or negative, employees also want to share their stories.  One positive and inspiring method is to provide a mechanism for employees to identify any instances where colleagues, processes, or the work environment allowed them to be overly productive and/or provide an exceptional experience to a customer.  Every employee has days where, from their vantage point they accomplish an incredible feat or series of feats in one day.  Providing opportunities for employees to share these stories will generate ideas for how to foster such productivity while recognizing employees for their accomplishments.  Such stories can even be shared publicly in electronic employee boards and in recognition mechanism across the organization to further drive engagement.

Speaking personally, I can physically feel the difference in my engagement when I’m in an environment that promotes focus and productivity.  Whether provided to me by the leadership at my place of work, or self-created in my garage, my working conditions including the processes, tools, space and people should foster productivity and be intentional in design to allow for my best work.  When this occurs, I’m most likely to remain engaged in my efforts and connected to the purpose of my work.  In my case, this means a weekend engaged in making my garage a more productive environment.

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