As we embark on the adventure that is 2021, the ability to understand employee experience will become even more crucial to maintain a stable and productive workplace. During the pandemic, both knowledge workers and hourly employees have experienced drastic changes in their work environment. 

For knowledge workers, work from home flexibility and the ability to live in a broader geographic region is changing how they plug into the enterprise. Are they still engaged? Satisfied? Have the definitions of these two words shifted within the last year?

There are many positive and negative aspects to a distributed workforce. And what’s positive for one employee might be a negative for another. 

What do employees think? How about leadership? How do attitudes differ by department, region, ethnicity, gender?

Safety for Hourly Workers

Many hourly workers face their own challenges as they navigate what can be perceived as an increasingly dangerous, and perhaps less rewarding, work environment. Many have been deemed “essential workers” without their consent. This recognition often comes with a paycheck that doesn’t support the sentiment and underscores the risks inherent to working with the public during a pandemic.

Are they content? Do they feel pressured to take risks in order to remain employed? Will they be leaving as soon as the job market recovers?

While many of these workers may have received ovations, hazard pay, increased medical leave, even sweet federal unemployment benefits if furloughed at the outset, the environment has dragged on into an unsustainable dirge. Many organizations are finding out how their employees feel about their experience as they try and re-hire furloughed workers and can’t. Many restaurant workers, for example, have been absorbed into shipping, grocery and other industries positively affected by the pandemic.

Getting the CEO to Understand Employee Experience

Does your CEO understand employee experience?Unfortunately most of the proclamations about how desirable (and long lived) WFO and other accommodative practices are, tend to come from CEOs with little data to support their claims. This recent article in Bloomberg is a good example showing CEOs from Barclays and JP Morgan Chase deciding, apparently without any objective data, that WFO isn’t sustainable and, I am guessing, with very little insight into how changing their policies would affect employee engagement and/or productivity.

Many CEOs are all about “data,” until something “feels” different. Then they’re all “gut instinct.”

My advice? If you are responsible for employee performance, engagement, retention, etc, in your organization, imagine having this kind of conversation with your CEO, absent any data. It’s a quick conversation: “OK, yes sir, let’s get employees vaccinated and back to HQ!”

There are so many complexities to that strategy that it seems unthinkable that it would be attempted without clear data about what the impact might be.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the workplace may have changed. And these changes will continue to evolve as employers adapt to new market challenges, talent needs, and more. The ability to understand employee experience, in real time, is almost table stakes as organizations race to emerge from the chaos that 2020 presented.

Employee Experience Goes Beyond Work Life

Many organizations understand that real-time employee feedback is needed now, more than ever. And that experiential data needs to be operationalized and incorporated into recovery strategies if they are to be successful. And, as we have written before, this experiential data needs to go beyond just work.

Employee moral and mental health affects retention and productivity. Unfortunately, they don’t exist solely within work hours. Taking regular pulses to understand the concerns and attitudes of the work and home employee can lead to real breakthroughs and ways to improve. 

For example, Continuum Global Solutions knew that access to money is an issue for their hourly workforce. So they instituted a program for hourly employees, giving them access to their paychecks between paydays. This kind of out of the box thinking represents a huge stress reliever “at home” so that employees can have a better experience at work.

Imagine selling that to your CEO without any data.