How to reimagine experience for a hybrid world of work?
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Maya Angelou once said.
While delivering on the promise of employee experience was often equated to customer experience, the pandemic created new focus areas and this included:
- Keeping employees engaged and informed always
- Resolving employee help desk requests quickly with the help of AI
- Making self-service channels more accessible and easy to use
- Moving to a safety-first approach on health and wellbeing
With technology becoming a key enabler in reimagining experience, there’s a need to rethink technology’s impact on culture and performance, in building shared trust, and creating standards of behaviour and interaction for a virtual environment. In this context, analytics can play a game-changing role in boosting the workplace experience.
“Workplace analytics can not only help companies with the bigger picture, it can also enable pointed data than can support a disengaged employee,” said Nishanth Satheesan, Workplace Analytics Lead, Asia, Microsoft addressing a masterclass on beginning workplace analytics.
The power of analytics can be applied to improve experience by studying a number of different workplace facets in the company. And this includes understanding: 1) Weekly outlook for the employee, 2) Meetings overview, 3) Internal networks, 3) External collaboration 4) Team collaboration 5) Employee engagement measures that can support managers with management and coaching.
Here are a few focus areas for HR professionals to reflect on:
1. Instil the mindset needed for a distributed workforce:
Studies by Microsoft found that “while organizations prioritized technology adoption to enable remote working environments and overall business transformation, the change was not driven through technology alone.” There needs to be a mindset change too – which encourages organizations to rethink ways of working – how individuals, groups and managers interact with one another and support needed for change management. Take the example of the meetings in a distributed workplace, by leveraging workplace analytics, managers can have access to information on conflicting hours, multi-tasking hours where employees may be disengaged, and redundant hours – where multiple people unrelated to the meeting are attending the same meeting. These insights can further bolster the mindset change needed to navigate a hybrid world of work.
2. Increase focus on wellbeing especially mental health:
Employee burnout has become a critical issue for people productivity during the last several months. The misplaced notion of equating work for an ‘always on, and always available’ culture led to employee disengagement. In fact, technology can serve as the bridge that can help companies address mental health issues. While not all employees can be trained in time, Chatbots and AI-based technology can not only give the right responses to employees seeking help, they can also help build awareness of the resources that are at an employee’s disposal – from child care to mental health resources.
By leveraging tools like Microsoft MyAnalytics, employees can also access their own work patterns and learn ways to work smarter by improving their focus, wellbeing, network and collaboration. MyAnalytics enables personal productivity and workplace analytics focuses on organization wide behaviour.
3. Articulate the role of leaders and management in a hybrid work culture
Leadership is critical to employee engagement, with a combination of remote workers and on-site employees, leaders will play a crucial role in articulating the vision and bringing the alignment that’s necessary in a hybrid world of work. But operating entirely remotely is difficult. The HR function needs to create avenues for leadership engagement that help not just address employee concerns and build morale, it also needs to make sure that they are able to convey a sense of trust and care.
By leveraging workplace analytics, managers and leaders can access information not only on their engagement and collaboration, they can also access action steps that they can take up to improve workplace engagement. An example of leveraging technology in enabling leaders is Microsoft Productivity Score, which helps leaders improve experiences over time by recognizing and proactively addressing issues that can drive more value from investment. It helps identify areas where one can offer people training on how to use tools to their fullest capacity. “or example, the new teamwork category (available today) provides a score based on the percentage of people who engage in teamwork within shared workspaces like SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, and group mailboxes in Exchange. You can see how this engagement has changed over the past six months, which helps you measure your transformation journey. Insights like this can also help you to identify possible training opportunities so your users can collaborate in new or more efficient ways.” Read in detail here.
4. Create avenues for face to face and in-person interaction in the hybrid workplace?
The Microsoft Work Trend Index released in April 2020 showed that human interaction – the number of people turning on video in Microsoft Teams meetings had doubled from before working from home became mainstream.
In fact, companies can also introduce digital virtual meetings that replicate the feeling of a real life setting, using modes like “Together mode” on Teams which uses AI segmentation technology to digitally place participants in a shared background. It helps to participants to pick up ‘non-verbal cues, and it can also make back and forth conversation feel natural. Research shows that using “Together mode” may help the feeling of meeting fatigue that some remote workers are experiencing.
Whether celebrating holiday themed festivities, office parties or team celebrations, ‘Together mode’ can be used to make virtual gatherings more fun. By leveraging custom backgrounds, photobooth and background effects – using technologies that are designed to make employees relive a physical environment.
But there’s a need to go beyond enabling video conferencing. Even with a mostly remote working culture taking over the workplace, there’s a need for in-person events that help foster team building.
If companies want to find ways to encourage innovation, creative flow of ideas and to build camaraderie, there’s a need to facilitate physical interaction when possible.
While the focus of employee experience has mostly been on ensuring the health and safety of employees, there’s a real opportunity to not just experiment with new ideas. With employee experience moving away from a ‘personal and individual’ focus, there’s a need to accommodate for the environment that the employee is operating in – that means considering the family, location, and infrastructure needed for smooth work.
Listen to the conversations on how to reimagine work here.