andy-cheng
Andy Cheng
June 15, 2020

4 Employee Experience Changes to Stay Competitive After COVID-19

When the COVID-19 lockdowns took effect in Silicon Valley, NVIDIA was one of the first companies to take action. The graphics processing giant, whose headquarters in Santa Clara house 3,000 employees, began allowing most of their workforce to work from home in early March, weeks before California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide shelter-in-place. 

Giving employees unshackled work flexibility wasn’t the only decision NVIDIA made, however. Since leaders expected the COVID-19 lockdowns to last for several months, the company decided to fast-forward yearly performance reviews by nearly six months to dole out annual salary increases much earlier than normal. The extremely generous decision not only put extra money in the hands of employees amidst a challenging time but also sent a message to employees: that the company will always put its people first.

Here are some other employee experience initiatives implemented by NVIDIA during COVID-19:

  • Created programs to help employees balance work and life
  • Continued paying contractors (regardless of their ability to work)
  • Provided online learning tools for employees with children
  • Extended remote work until the end of 2020

The COVID-19 effect on employee experience

With unemployment rates soaring amidst the pandemic, you might assume that organizations are deprioritizing the employee experience in exchange for agile cost-containment strategies. After all, employers have more business-critical areas to focus on to ensure an efficient and robust recovery, right? 

Shifting away from the employee experience couldn’t be further from reality. During periods of crisis, employee engagement is more important than ever—and HR leaders recognize this. A recent Gartner survey on 214 HR leaders found that 64% are prioritizing employee experience more highly now than before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Organizations investing in their people in the post-COVID-19 world makes sense from a business recovery and continuity perspective. Employees are navigating a new normal of work—distributed teams, family obligations, health and safety—and could use all the support they can get. At the same time, as many employees continue working from home post-COVID-19, employers want to ensure remote workers are set up for success. 

As COVID-19 restrictions loosen around the country, leaders are beginning to plan—and even enact—their short and long-term recovery strategies. Restructuring priorities means that now is the perfect time for organizations to pivot directions to better accommodate a newly-evolved employee experience blueprint. Here are several ideas for organizations to consider:

1. More flexible work options

Organizations are prioritizing employee safety by allowing many to continue working from home, some at least until the end of 2020. In fact, a recent Gartner survey of 317 CFOs revealed that 74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work post-COVID-19. Nearly a quarter of those plan to move 20% of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions. (See: 4 Ways Organizations Are Preparing for the New Normal).

Flexible work provides several advantages to organizations and employees in the aftermath of COVID-19. A study by OWL Labs found that employees with flexible work options were 22% more likely to be happy and engaged compared to employees without them. According to a Gallup report, organizations with high employee engagement see up to 65% less turnover, 21% boost in productivity, and 22% boost in profitability.

Flexible work in the post-COVID-19 era isn’t just an employee perk anymore—it’s a business necessity. Employees with flexible options not only avoid placing their families’ health at risk, but also achieve a better work-life balance, spend less time commuting, and have time for personal pursuits. Highly engaged employees will pay back their organizations in unrivaled productivity and innovation—things employers will need as they strive to recover.

2. Better collaboration technology

The post-COVID-19 workplace is marked with remote and flexible work—but the pandemic caught most organizations off guard, and IT teams rushed to cobble together work-from-home technologies. This resulted in many organizations adopting temporary solutions that don’t necessarily meet long-term IT strategies. For example, many adopted different solutions for team messaging and video conferencing, making toggling between different apps convoluted for employees.

In remote and distributed teams, communication and collaboration are mission-critical to business success, and they’ll need technology to help them achieve it. Employees may need to often switch between different modes of communication. For example, if a project group gets too messy, members might want to connect face-to-face over video conferencing to realign objectives. Disparate apps, however, means they need to search for meeting IDs, enter login credentials, configure audio settings, and wait for teammates before engaging in conversation. Too many steps discourage employees from finding the best form of communication, hindering teamwork and innovation.

To keep employees productive and engaged in the post-COVID-19 world, organizations will gravitate towards solutions that bundle these essentials together such as unified communications. Employees can easily toggle between team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone with a single click. Also, employees will only need to manage one app instead of several, allowing them to focus less on technology and more on creating.

3. A deeper focus on company culture

Company culture will be vital on several fronts in the post-COVID-19 workplace. As the economy slowly recovers, competition for the best talent will be fierce. Candidates will flock to organizations known for their company culture (e.g., how they treated their employees during the COVID-19 period) and how well they adapted to employees’ changing needs during the pandemic.

For example, organizations that bent over backward to ensure maximum employee safety (early remote work, generous PTO, delayed return to offices) will garner the most interest from candidates re-entering the workforce. Who wouldn’t want to work for a company that invests heavily in its employees?

Remote teams will be an area of scrutiny, too. As many organizations hire more employees who work either remotely or flexibly, organizations are challenged to maintain company culture among a workforce that’s rarely in the office. This means cultivating a culture of positivity starting with instructing managers on how to lead, nurture, and build strong bonds with their remote teams (see: 5 Qualities of an Excellent Remote Team Manager).

With current and future employees scattered, there’s never been a better time for organizations to revisit their core values and unify people through leadership. It’s easy for teams to lose sight of common goals amidst the post-COVID-19 era of uncertainty. With a clearly-defined company culture, however, employees can work toward the same goals and supercharge recovery.

4. More recognition and feedback

We live in an unprecedented era of work where culture and traditions are accelerating at breakneck speeds, and many workers might not adapt as quickly as others. At the same time, with an economic recession, employees aren’t certain about their job security. How can organizations reassure them of their value?

Today’s employees expect to have a consistent connection with their bosses and managers, especially remote employees. As employees learn to navigate a new normal, organizations should strive to provide employees continuous feedback on their performances. This not only allows employees to adjust their work accordingly, but also shows them that their managers value them as teammates and that the organization is happy to invest in their growth.

Employee experience must be a key focus during recovery

Some leaders might feel that investing in the employee experience should come after stabilization, but what they don’t realize is that happy and engaged employees are key to an agile and robust recovery. A company’s people are its greatest asset, and investing in employee experience could seriously boost short-term and long-term continuity plans. 

Now is the time for leaders to proactively elevate their employee experience strategies and demonstrate how they support their workforce during this challenging time. Is your organization taking the right steps?

Ensure that your employees have the right tools to collaborate regardless of their locations. Unified communications solutions like the RingCentral app combine team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone into a single platform where employees can engage with their teams from anywhere in the world and on any device. 

A unified system keeps communication simple and effective for employees, who are often overwhelmed in today’s attention economy (see: Your Employees Are Being Overwhelmed by Technology. Here’s Why It Matters). As businesses continue to regrow from the COVID-19 disruption, giving employees less technology to worry about allows them to focus on their tasks of driving innovation and move the company towards new heights.