Employee experience is key to surviving disruption.

Back to Ideas

Perspectives A right arrow.

During the pandemic, organizations have had to make some really difficult decisions and it’s not over yet. Organizations will continue to face challenging decisions that will shape how they organize, operate, and manage as the economy slowly re-opens. This isn’t news, but it is something every organization has to navigate. Here’s the bottom line: employee experience matters; your employees may just be your greatest asset in managing this crisis.


What is changing around Employee Experience?

The Chief Human Resources Officer at Scotiabank, Barbara Mason, understands organizations are not going back to normal. In a recent Bloomberg article, Mason stated: “Our ‘new normal’ is unlikely to be us resuming our ‘old normal’ in terms of how and where we work. You can be confident that we are taking everything into consideration—this is a complicated situation.” Similarly, the Royal Bank of Canada is telling employees to expect “a long road ahead” before any coronavirus workplace restrictions are eased.

Many global tech companies such as Google will let people work from home until the end of 2020. Twitter also recently announced that employees can work from home “forever.”

On April 21, 2020, Leger reported 50% of employed Canadians are working from home and 79% of them report that they are having a positive experience. What does this mean for the new normal?

The biggest challenge organizations face right now isn’t just the uncertainty and timing of economic markets; they must also navigate the ambiguity around the future of work within the organization. There’s no predicting when “business as usual” will resume or what it will look like when it does. In times like these, culture and employee experience often takes a backseat to address more pressing business emergencies.

Waiting to address employee experience is a big mistake. Taking your people for granted may be the biggest risk your business could ever take.


Don’t take your employees for granted.

Your employees are your greatest assets and if you’re cultivating an engaging culture, they will be your biggest champions as well. It is your culture that will drive real business results. You always need to listen closely to your employees. In times of global pandemic, you probably need to listen even closer and re-establish your understanding of what work looks like today and what it could look like post-crisis. Gather the right information, and intentionally intervene to create the right conditions.


Recommendations to improve Employee Experience.

The single greatest action you can take as an employee experience lead is to acknowledge employees as people. Employees aren’t “working from home;” they are at home, working during a crisis. There’s a big difference. We can make the best of it by acknowledging our new conditions, and checking in on each others’ well being.

Ignoring our humanity in times of crisis simply doesn’t work because we are forced to confront it every day. Develop ways to check in with your employees, understand their needs and challenges, support where possible, but also enable them to find ways to act and take charge. Creating exceptional employee experiences will help your people navigate disruptive change, be more productive, and ultimately deliver a better ROI.


Regularly take a pulse.

Keeping your finger on the pulse of your organization is good practice in general. In these uncertain times, it is a requirement to have a quick and easy way to check in regularly on your teams and pick up on any signs that may need your attention. While pulse checks are quite common, you should adapt or expand on your normal lists of questions to include timely or newly critical questions. You may have to ask about work conditions outside of the office knowing that many employees are working from home.

Outside of the more ‘regular’ pulse questions, you can expand to ask about emotional wellbeing. Knowing that the pandemic can take a big toll on our emotional state, seek to understand employees’ emotional bandwidth and reactions to this new context.

As Brene Brown said: “either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behaviour.”


Define (and redefine) your new culture.

COVID-19 forced a new reality on every organization in every industry. It threw the balance we knew off and created new work arrangements never before expected. In some cases, employees are working longer hours (for example healthcare workers, delivery people, etc.) and in other cases, employees are faced with drastically reduced operating hours, new working environments (from home or with increased distancing measures,) and in some cases, the nature of peoples’ work has totally changed.

These are unsettling changes that can feel debilitating, disorienting, and just simply, new.

In this rapidly changing world, fostering a culture that enables the work is essential to drive your organization forward and ensure its survival.

You need to be one step ahead.

It is not surprising that all of this change will affect your organizational culture. The good news is that the crisis is also a real test of how well you understand your organization’s culture. That means you’re not starting from scratch. You should assess what holds true, and you also need to explore new avenues. Don’t feel beholden to the past.

It is wise to proactively formulate cultural elements that go in tandem with your new practices and routines. In this rapidly changing world, fostering a culture that enables the work is essential to drive your organization forward and ensure its survival.

It is essential to get clear on what your culture looks like today and how you’re tracking toward cultural elements that will support the new. Set up a participatory approach to redefining your culture. Involving employees in the process, and fostering a sense of ownership in the outcomes, will trigger a greater adoption of the positive changes you’re trying to seed.

Talk to your employees, use the results from your Pulse Check, engage them in working sessions, and open conversation.

The Culture Scan is a great tool to enable this work. It will help you visualize your culture, and provide key interventions to move the dial.


Create new rituals.

For most organizations pre-pandemic, there was always an expectation of gathering in a shared physical space each day. Many of our work and social rituals are designed around this specific construct.

Organizations that did not have a common work from home culture before the pandemic are now experiencing acclimation pains to shift to remote work and home-based offices. Adjusting to a work from home routine can cause a lot of friction and a sense of disconnect that can affect the wellbeing of employees—and their productivity.

But remote work doesn’t necessarily mean working alone. Look for opportunities amidst the apparent chaos. What about switching travel time to video coffee chats? Or instead of lunch at the canteen opening a video conferencing room to join if eating at your desk?

The key is to find opportunities that you’re now missing because of a new context. Find ways to continue to engage your colleagues and make it part of your day.

At The Moment, we have integrated a few new behaviours that are helping us to cope. To share ideas and inspiration on our new work from home conditions, we opened a new slack channel #work-from-home. We also created a channel called #moments-of-joy to share in our daily adventures and silly moments—everyone needs a little levity and joy in these crazy times! One element on The Moment’s culture scan that’s really important to us is ‘eating good food together.’ We took this norm and switched our regular lunchtime together to a full team video gathering on Friday at the end of the day. We call it fizzy Friday! It’s a great way to unwind and connect as people—and an example of how we continue to enable the culture that keeps our humanity and personal connections front and centre.


Enable collaboration.

The strength of the relationships and the ability to collaborate between employees will determine how responsive and agile your organization is. In the weeks and months to come, your organization has probably shifted and will continue to work remotely. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to establish work from home protocols and infrastructures to support your employees, even if you’re unsure about your organization’s long-term commitment to staying remote. This will impact your business positively or negatively depending on how practical and human-centric your solutions are.

At The Moment, we have been helping our clients to collaborate more effectively and efficiently in a remote environment—and most importantly, bringing joy into the work.

The strength of the relationships and the ability to collaborate between employees will determine how responsive and agile your organization is.

As Innovation Consultants, we are expert facilitators and designers that combine the passion of process design with expertise in a multitude of tools such as Zoom, Teams, Mural, Slack, Asana, and other online platforms to enable collaborative work. We help bring teams of different sizes together to jam, explore, assess, and make decisions about complex challenges and problems. This is key if you want to address productivity—you can’t expect collaboration to happen in the same ways that it did before.

Keep in mind that technology and the right features are key, but not enough. A good sequence of activities, well-planned conversations, and the ability to adapt the process to the flow and energy of the team are critical. You want the time invested to yield specific results and unlock clear decisions and actions.


Unleash trust.

You can only move at the speed of trust. In fact, trust is a key accelerator—especially during times of crisis.

It’s important to be transparent with your employees as contexts change. Great leaders will speak up about issues and create a safe space for employees to do the same. Seek advice from different levels within your organization. One often overlooked source of information lies with front line teams. Remember, front line teams have immediate contact with your customers and gather a lot of insight into how things are changing in the market. Build a plan that both offers cultural interventions, but invites employees to tap into their inner leadership and take charge where possible.

The current situation is too complex to manage with the old ways of working and conventional management hierarchy. Top-down management creates a limited capacity to dynamically sense and respond to the daily changes we are experiencing. Consider shifting into self-management by creating clear accountabilities and distributed decision making across the system.

A useful tool, inspired by Holacracy is the Integrated Decision-Making process that would help move you out of consensus and enable you to move at speed while inviting feedback and contributions.


Anchor in purpose.

In many ways, COVID-19 could be a kind of’ “dress rehearsal” for many disruptions to come. Having a human-centered culture with a clear sense of purpose that goes beyond profit and bottom-line performance enables your team and organization to do much better in times of disruption, and even thrive.

In his interview, Unilever CEO sees Purpose-Led businesses continue to gain relevance: “[Unilever] is guided by three deeply held beliefs: that brands with purpose grow, companies with purpose last, and people with purpose thrive.”
It is increasingly important to anchor the work and your culture in meaning and tying these pillars to your employees’ needs. Connecting to purpose will enable your employees to thrive in new and delightful ways.


The Bottom Line on Employee Experience.

There is no doubt we are living through disruptive times—and no one is immune. Understanding and intervening on employee experience is just as, if not more so, important than your conventional business metrics. Pulse checks, Culture Scans, employee well-being indexes—these are all tools that will help you understand how your employees are coping. It’s the quick, decisive actions you take with the information you collect that will help employees to excel, and your business to thrive.

As Simon Sinek wrote, “customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

If you want to measure your market performance, start with your employees. Organizations that are human-centered respond more quickly to emerging needs, reinvent themselves in more innovative ways, remain relevant for their employees and customers, and maybe most importantly, prove to be the most resilient.

Start with your employees; they are your greatest asset. How will you tap into their potential?


Start Here.

Looking for a clear place to start? The Culture Scan is a tool designed to engage employees to understand and visualize the culture you have so that you can intervene and shift the changes you want to see. This is ever more true in today’s environment—and it’s a clear place to start when you want to get an overall picture of where things are at. Fill out the form below to get the complete guide to start today, or click here for more information on how The Culture Scan can help you unleash better employee experiences.