How 2020 Upended the Employee Experience Model As We Knew It
Laura Zifchak (Poggi)

By: Laura Zifchak (Poggi) on October 23rd, 2020

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How 2020 Upended the Employee Experience Model As We Knew It

Employee Experience

Est. Read Time: 3 min.

In a 2019 survey, Deloitte found that 84% of business and HR leaders viewed improving the employee experience (EX) as important—and 28% considered it urgent. In the pre-pandemic world, with low unemployment and rising turnover rates, providing a positive EX was an essential talent attraction and retention tool. 


Then COVID-19 hit.


The past few months have completely redefined what EX means and why it matters. In the early days of the pandemic, most businesses were concerned about staying afloat, and while they cared about supporting their workforce, the focus shifted toward the essentials—keeping people employed, healthy, and capable of continuing their work in the face of new challenges. But now that the employment market is starting to regain steam and companies are considering what the workplaces of the future will look like, it’s critical for leaders to reevaluate what employees need to be successful, and what kind of experience they want to provide.


Author Jacob Morgan famously defined “The Employee Experience Equation” as 40% culture, 30% technology, and 30% physical space. But is that model still relevant, or have the ratios shifted as a result of the newfound emphasis on remote work? To help you evaluate and adjust your EX strategy, here are some key considerations to keep in mind.


Technology and flexibility will matter more than creature comforts

For a while, office perks like catered lunches and on-site fitness facilities were all the rage. But will perks like these have the same appeal if a large percentage of the workforce chooses to remain remote in the long term? 


Recent research from Gartner suggests that nearly half (48%) of employees will continue working remotely at least some of the time—and having seen firsthand how productive people can be from home, it’s likely that most leaders will let them. Even for those who chose to come into the physical workplace, things may look and feel a lot different, at least for a while. With additional safety precautions like mask mandates and one-way systems in effect, some perks may need to be paused or modified, diminishing their impact on EX.


Instead, technology and flexibility will be top priorities. To support an all-remote or hybrid workforce, businesses will need to continue investing in solutions that enable collaboration and make people’s lives easier. They’ll also need to ensure that employees have the flexibility to fit their work more seamlessly around their personal lives. The past few months have demonstrated that rigid rules around hours and locations often aren’t necessary, and by relaxing them, companies can both improve the experience for employees and adapt much faster when challenges arise. 


HR needs to be more accessible, even from a distance

Whether your company is planning to re-open physical locations or not, employees are going to have a lot of questions in the months and years ahead. HR must be prepared to step up and provide the support they need to understand and adapt to new policies and feel comfortable and equipped to do their jobs.


There are a few factors that will go into this. First, it’s critical to ensure that employees have access to an up-to-date, easy-to-navigate, and (ideally) tailored knowledgebase that they can turn to for answers at any time of the day or night—and that they know how to use it. Second, when they do need to speak to an HR representative, they shouldn’t have to go into the office or dig up the right email address to find support. A robust employee case management system makes it easy for workers to submit requests to the right person and for HR to rapidly respond, resulting in a seamless experience that keeps everyone happy and in the loop. 


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Frequent feedback is essential when visibility is decreased

In a close-knit office environment, managers could often check the pulse of their team just by walking around the room. With an all-virtual or hybrid workforce, that becomes more difficult. Non-verbal cues are easy to miss—or misinterpret—over email, instant message, and video, and critical issues may not become apparent until an employee leaves. Now that hiring is picking back up, managers can’t afford to let their best people slip through their fingers as a result of issues that could have been fixed.


To ensure they have no blind spots, companies will need to lean on digital feedback solutions like employee surveys. These solutions account for both on-site and remote employees and can be rolled out regularly and at scale with minimal effort. 


To reduce time spent analyzing feedback and ensure that time-sensitive issues are quickly identified and addressed, HR leaders should look to solutions that both allow for open-ended answers and have artificial intelligence (AI) built in. That way, hundreds or even thousands of surveys can be analyzed simultaneously in a matter of minutes and the underlying sentiment behind employees’ words can be assessed. This will allow managers and HR to gain a thorough understanding of how their dispersed workforce is feeling from one week to the next, enabling them to implement immediate improvements that reduce friction and boost EX.


Diversity, inclusion, and belonging are non-negotiable

The ongoing pandemic is not the only factor redefining the employee experience in 2020. The recent discussions around racial justice and equity have increased leaders’ awareness that diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIB) must be business priorities. Candidates and employees alike are paying close attention to what companies say and do, so a thoughtful approach to DIB is essential in order to attract and retain the best talent and enjoy all the benefits that diversity can bring.


It’s crucial for companies to get their own house in order before they can earn the trust of underrepresented communities. HR will be the backbone of these efforts, ensuring that policies around discrimination and harassment are clearly communicated and enforced and that underrepresented employees feel supported, listened to, and understood. Even in a virtual environment, this aspect of organizational culture cannot be ignored, and by keeping it at the forefront of their EX strategy, leaders can create a company where talent from all backgrounds can thrive.


The employee experience has evolved—and companies must evolve with it

This is a pivotal moment for the employee experience. Around the globe, employees are reflecting on what they want and need to be successful in this new world of work, and it’s up to companies to pay attention—or pay the price.


To learn more about ways the HR function can contribute to a positive EX by supporting employees no matter where or when they’re working, download our new whitepaper, Understanding HR Case Management.

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About Laura Zifchak (Poggi)

Laura leads the marketing team for the PeopleDoc by Ultimate Software products in North America. She joined PeopleDoc in January 2015 to help HR teams learn about HR Service Delivery technology, understand how it benefits their existing business strategies, and become expert users of our platform as customers.

Laura has experience with bringing technical software solutions to market with prior leadership positions at both IBM and RTTS. She has an MBA from CUNY Baruch Zicklin School of Business, and a BS degree in Marketing from Siena College.

With years of practice managing teams through rapid growth and constant change, Laura is passionate about employee and manager experience, and using technology to help scale and improve operations.