The keys to managing employee experience in a distributed world
Employee Experience (sometimes called Workplace Experience, or WX) is a relatively new field. It comes to us from the same line of thinking that gave us User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX).
Putting ourselves in employees’ shoes
The main idea is that rather than just making decisions that mostly benefit the policy makers, we should ask ourselves: what kind of experience are people having as the result of our decisions? Is that experience going to make them want to stick around…or push them to seek a relationship with a different company?
The goal of Employee Experience, in particular, is to look at things from the employee perspective: what does it feel like to be an employee at your company? Would that experience cause an employee to be more engaged, contribute more, stick around long term and refer prospective talent to the company? Or might it prompt them to do the bare minimum and ultimately leave?
The implications of a poor employee experience are fairly obvious. Lackluster productivity and high turnover not only are costly, but could severely hamper a company’s ability to compete in the marketplace.
HQ ain’t what it used to be
Before COVID, Employee Experience managers might have focused on creating a more comfortable and collaborative experience within company offices. But the post-COVID landscape promises to be quite different, with many employers talking about implementing some form of WFA, or work from anywhere.
How will Employee Experience managers be able to influence the employee experience when not all employees actually come to the office? It’s a fair question. If the centerpiece of your employee experience was, say, a beautiful employee lounge, that lounge will only affect the experience of the employees who continue to come to the office. Indeed, you will need to focus on other factors to ensure a universally positive employee experience. As they say, it’s time to go back to the basics. Companies with engaged and productive remote workers pull it off by getting the fundamentals right.
Technology that empowers employees
Successful distributed teams tend to work mostly, if not entirely in the cloud, which means everyone has easy, anywhere access to the software they need to get their work done. Increasingly, most large employers fit this description, whether they use Google, Microsoft, Oracle or some other productivity suite.
Tools that help teams collaborate
Staying connected is even more important for employees who don’t have the opportunity to bump into each other at the water cooler. That’s why you see distributed teams relying heavily on communications software like Zoom, Hangouts and Teams. Software is also instrumental in how remote teams successfully collaborate on projects. Platforms like Microsoft 365, Google Workplace, Asana and Trello help teams stay coordinated on complex projects across time and distance.
Alternatives to WFH
In a distributed work scenario, the alternative to HQ isn’t necessarily the home office. At least not for everyone. The pandemic has taught us that not everyone can be productive at home. Even so, not everyone who has trouble at home will want to resume their long commute to the office. That’s where flexible offices come in. These professional offices for rent provide a productive work environment on flexible terms. Many large employers use LiquidSpace, the world’s largest flexible office marketplace, to help their employees find and book flexible workspaces close to home.
Managers who can bridge the distance
One of the biggest challenges for a traditionally HQ-centric company isn’t might not be technology, but good old fashioned management. Managers who depended on seeing employees every day to keep watch over their team (what some call a “butts in seats” approach) may not have the skillset to manage and motivate employees who they rarely if ever see in person. Distributed work introduces new dynamics and raises the bar for managers, who will need to become skilled at seeking alignment, encouraging full participation and enabling true collaboration.
Map the employee journey
A good way to think about the employee experience is to take a page from marketers, who like to create customer journey maps to identify gaps in the process. From the employee’s perspective, ask yourself:
- Attraction/Recruitment – What is my first impression of the company? What’s the company’s personality? Does it draw me in or put me off?
- Onboarding/orientation – How am I brought into the company and its culture? Is the culture compelling?
- Physical work environment – Where do I get to work? If it’s my home, does the company help me set up a healthy and productive workspace? If I get to work anywhere, does the company make it easy for me to book flexible workspaces by providing access to a platform like LiquidSpace?
- Work tools – How do I communicate with my teammates? How do we share ideas and collaborate on complex projects? Do I have to learn hacks and workarounds to deal with the company’s legacy technology?
- Daily work experience – Do I have clarity about the company’s mission and my part in it? Am I able to work autonomously most of the time? Has the company put in place technology that facilitates efficient remote work?
- Social experience – Even though we’re working remotely am I able to get to know and forge bonds with my colleagues? Do I feel a sense of camaraderie and belonging?
- Opportunity for growth & advancement – How does the company support my desire to learn and grow in my career?
Lastly, it also pays to take a page from companies that have historically supported a distributed workforce. For example a company called HelpScout flies new employees to their HQ in Boston for orientation. If the employee plans on working at a coworking space the company covers the cost. If they choose to work from home, the company helps pay for furniture and equipment. The social media company MeetEdgar helps subsidize internet access and monthly house cleaning for home-based employees. These are just a couple of examples, but they demonstrate the kind of creative thinking that might be necessary in the future.