2020 was a year where organizations had to seriously relook at employee experience. It was a year that redefined their outlook towards EX in a big way, forcing them to tune up and listen empathetically to employees and act fast. While 2021 brought hope with the authorization and dissemination of the first COVID-19 vaccines, yet it is safe to say we are not going to the old ways of working anytime soon. This means organizations have a chance to seriously relook at the culture they are building and the experience they are going to deliver in the second year of the pandemic.
So what is next for employee experience? How can we redefine it for our new world of work, a big part of which has transitioned to hybrid work? In an exclusive interaction with us, Katyayani Krishna, Area HR Head for IBS (India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka) Maersk, shares what does employee experience in the new hybrid reality looks like.
How do we reboot Employee Experience and tune up for success in our changed world of work?
The pandemic has dramatically changed the world of work. From a complete office model, we have now transitioned to a hybrid ecosystem, a combination of digital and office-based work. This hybrid ecosystem model is in fact the future of work and here to stay and no longer just a pandemic necessity. In order to keep up with the requirements of the new world of work, we need to envisage an immense transformation in workplaces - traditional offices will evolve and become collaborative spaces/hubs redesigned for employee interaction, collaboration, innovation, and education. We need to ensure that we reboot our Employee Experience strategy and find ways to cater to the varied needs and aspirations of a dispersed, digitally enabled, and liquid workforce. Some enablers for driving employee experience in the changed world of work can be:
• Leveraging technology: We need to leverage technology in everything we do – how we hire, onboard, work as well as connect with each other. Employees (current or prospective) should be able to access everything they need to know - to work, understand the culture, grow themselves through a digital platform. Lack of a physical workplace should not hinder any of these. Self-service platforms are the need of the hour.
However, it is equally important to ensure that through technology and virtual reality, we do not forget the “human touch” in the process – otherwise, we risk an erosion of trust, cohesion, and shared culture over the long term.
• Raising the bar of engagement: The evolution of a hybrid work ecosystem has changed the landscape of employee engagement as well. An engaged workforce contributes immensely in rapid recovery and innovation for the organization, even as we adapt to remote, flexible, and socially distanced workplaces. This is the time to make employees feel taken care of, empowered, recognized, and closer than ever to the organization. Remote collaboration, regular leader connects, mentoring, coaching, flexibility should become the cornerstone of the people strategy going forward. We need to find newer ways to create a positive, motivating experience at work.
• Leading in uncertain times: We need to rethink leadership in the evolving world. This is the time for servant leaders; leaders who focus primarily on the growth and well-being of the people and communities rather than accrue power or take control. This leadership style will help invent a new norm, encourage diversity of thought, a culture of trust, and unleash the full potential in everyone.
With the increased chaos, ambiguity, and stress brought in by the pandemic, it is becoming increasingly important to sharpen emotional intelligence, communication, create trust, listen and most importantly empathize to effectively drive the people and business strategy.
• Building capabilities for the future: Capabilities such as agility (speed of adapting to change or ambiguous conditions), flexibility, and resilience have come to the center stage. In terms of skill development, it has become imperative to adopt newer ways of working (remote or digital teams) which seemed like an unthinkable concept in the past. Skill sets such as comfort with handling digital platforms, leveraging artificial intelligence, virtual team management, emotional intelligence and safety have gained prominence. Organizations will need to invest significantly in strengthening these capabilities for their workforce.
At Maersk, we are on a journey towards becoming the global integrator of container logistics, simplifying and connecting our customers' supply chains. We are striving every day to make the jump from being customer-centric to customer-obsessed. But we can achieve customer obsession only when we are equally obsessed with the internal customers – our employees.
Employee experience and customer experience go hand in hand. This leads to more satisfied and loyal customers and, ultimately, brand and company growth.
“Market-leading organizations recognize that a thoughtful and deliberate focus on managing employee experience (EX) is not only good for their workforce but also good for their company.”
What does employee experience in the new hybrid reality of work look like? What are some of the key defining parameters?
Workplace dynamics have undergone a massive transformation. As we strive to make workplaces more diverse, inclusive and enhance employee experience, especially in the hybrid reality of work, we must focus on the following:
• Multi-channel connect: It has become imperative to continuously engage with the employees through varied mediums, especially when most of them are forced to work from home. Going beyond the conventional ways such as face-to-face and one-on-one connect, team meetings, town halls, etc. is the need of the hour. It is increasingly becoming important to leverage technology and engage through social media and digital communication platforms with the employees.
• Flexibility: Flexibility, support and care have become the driving force for employee experience in the current ecosystem. These arrangements have now become the norm rather than the exception. Flexibility of work hours and location, support during key life events (such as marriage, childbirth, care for family members, etc.), opportunities for time-off for personal commitments (such as voluntary work, sabbaticals, etc.) along with complete trust and empathy from the leaders will play a crucial role in creating a great employee experience.
• Driving resilience: The pandemic has proven that disruptions are inevitable, and they mostly hit us without any warning. There are no playbooks for such situations and no organization can be prepared with the processes and changes that must be implemented when such disruptions take place. However, organizations need to be prepared for such disruptions by adopting agile and flexible ways of working. This is the time for organizations to invest in the upskilling and reskilling of their talents to not just be immune to such situations, but in fact be prepared to face unforeseen disruptions. Additionally, focus on aspects like mindfulness and resilience will help build mental agility and enable people to be focused, curious as well as creative.
• Sustainability: Our decisions today have a far-reaching impact on the society and environment. Incorporating sustainability into our business strategy is no longer an option but rather a responsibility that we have towards the society. We need to ensure that our decisions today do not adversely impact our future generations. For instance, at Maersk, we have set for ourselves goals towards carbon neutrality and are working hard to accelerate towards achieving these goals. By 2023 we will be operating the world’s first carbon-neutral liner vessel, seven years ahead of schedule promised earlier!
Benefits have undergone a major change as work models changed and employees need different benefits in a post-pandemic world. How will organizations reimagine benefits for a hybrid world and technology’s role in that?
Employee benefits can be life-changing for the workforce in the current scenario – especially the ones which revolve around care, flexibility, and wellbeing. They play a crucial role in the employee’s productivity, satisfaction, engagement and success at work. These benefits will become the key benefits that organizations will need to focus on, in addition to the already existing ones today.
• Wellness: Health is wealth! Last year has ensured that all of us internalize this statement. Organizations need to ensure that they offer the employees an opportunity to practice wellness which is not restricted to just physical well-being, but cover it in a holistic manner. For instance, “Yes2Health” is our four-dimensional approach to wellness at Maersk. The wellness charter focuses on physical, mental wellness, financial health and socio/environmental health.
• Balance and Flexibility: Flexibility in terms of time, place of work as well as period (in order to accommodate key life milestones or decisions) is the need of the hour. At Maersk, we are committed to providing work-life balance and supporting a fair, consistent, and engaging working culture by outlining different possibilities for employees to influence how, when and where they work. Our Flex Work Policy, in addition to the flexibility of choosing their work location, provides support during lifetime transitions, sabbatical opportunities, time off for voluntary work, dedicated dial-out time during WFH.
• Development: Upskilling and re-skilling is no longer just about increasing one’s competency. It is the only way in which one can stay relevant and protect oneself from the threats and challenges looming in today’s volatile market. Organizations, in order to build a future-ready workforce, would need to include development opportunities, coaching, and mentoring in the benefits package for the employees.
Technology is ubiquitous and will be the biggest ’ leveler ‘ or ’differentiator‘ in these times. In order to ensure optimum penetration to all the levels and have the highest impact, artificial intelligence, machine learning-powered entity resolution platforms, virtual working and engagement, are becoming the need of the hour.
“Every benefit needs to be available to the workforce at the click of a button, 24*7 and accessible from anywhere.”
Wellbeing as a focus area for organizations was majorly thrust into prominence for all organizations in 2020. What are the key trends that are emerging in 2021?
During the pandemic, workplace wellbeing has acquired a whole new meaning and significance. Some of the key trends where organizations need to focus on are:
• Holistic wellbeing: While most workplaces attach some degree of importance to physical health, the pandemic has brought the significance of mental wellness to the fore. Employee Assistance Programs are going beyond being one of the ‘good-to-have’ benefits and gaining significant importance given the ambiguous and challenging times we are operating in. Financial Health is another aspect that should be given due importance through counselling and financial planning sessions.
• Work Life Balance: With remote working, many individuals were initially of the opinion that it would aid work-life balance. However, it couldn't be further from reality. Digital fatigue, a faint division between personal and professional time, longer working hours have come out as the real problems during the pandemic. Resultantly, it will be important for organizations to take this factor into account while designing wellness strategies for the employees.
• Safe and healthy working environment: Whether it is the physical office or a remote work setup, safety will continue to be the most critical factor. Greener workspaces, ergonomically supported home working set-ups, timely opportunities for a digital detox, connects with leaders/team members will be necessary to ensure that employees have access to a healthy working environment.
• Sustainable business practices/impact on nature and environment: Wellbeing in the new world will not restrict to just individuals but will also extend to the society and environment. We all need to make strong commitments to ensure that we align our business strategy with sustainability. Resource efficiency, waste reduction and management, innovation etc. will need to be the driving factors behind all our actions. And most importantly, we need to develop more proactive sustainability strategies rather than them becoming reactive action.
Employee experience in 2021 requires continuous hearing and feedback from the organization rather than once in a quarter or once in six months surveys. How can organizations build a continuous approach to EX?
Today’s model of employee experience involves continuous listening and response. It is about finding ways to enhance ongoing, dynamic, and personalized experiences that focus on the needs of each employee. Periodic surveys can give us a good understanding of the employee pulse, but they often tend to be static or lag indicators. The need of the hour is to have a mechanism that can provide the necessary support to answer employee questions quickly, help managers identify and address issues before they become big problems, and offer leaders the insights that can help the organization stay on its course and thrive in challenging situations.
Our four behavioral pillars at Maersk help us in driving employee experience every day-
• Customer Orientation: Everything we do must be for the good of our customers.
• Agility: Being quick on our feet will help us to be better at our game.
• Collaboration: By working together we ensure we win together.
• People Orientation: When our employees do well, we all win.
These behaviors embrace and thrive on the opportunities associated with change and help us invest in creating a culture that understands the importance of and fosters each employee’s best self.
Know more about what’s new in employee experience at the People Matters Employee Experience India Conference on 10th June, 2021. Register Now!