The challenges of the past year have significantly transformed our outlook on people, work, and culture. In the new world of work, organizational culture must focus on adaptability, innovation, and most importantly, employees. An employee centric work culture is not only great for teamwork and morale but also aids improved productivity, ideation and overall customer experience. As we amplify our focus on employees, it is essential for companies to focus on two primary pillars – 1) build an empathetic approach towards employees’ wellbeing – which in turn will promote “holistic growth” as a fundamental value, and 2) foster an environment that encourages learning.
Building an empathetic approach towards employee wellbeing
The importance of employee health, safety and wellbeing cannot be overemphasized especially in today’s context. Prolonged periods of family/self-care and recovery, loss of loved ones and frequent lockdowns have been challenging towards employees and society at large. While curative support such as employee assistance programs, and access to counselling and therapy sessions are crucial support mechanisms, there is also a need to build a ‘proactive’ and ‘holistic’ approach to wellbeing. The pandemic has also blurred the lines between home and the workplace, increasing employee stress and impacting overall well-being. A holistic approach to wellness covering physical, mental, financial and social wellness should be an organizational priority. Organizations can explore initiatives on wellness assessments to understand individual needs. Effective initiatives such as health fitness programs, diet and nutrition consultations, stress management sessions, classes on mindfulness and meditations, are a great route to add value towards employees’ mental and emotional health, while bringing in a host of long-term benefits to both the employees as well as the company.
Organizations also need to be intentional about reducing burn out that can happen during work from home situations. Here, flexibility in how employees work and when they work, can be helpful in having more control over their life. Initiatives such as the “pitstop leaves” that are designed to prioritize rest for the ‘entire team’, provides an opportunity to completely turn off without having the guilt that others are having to chip in for them or the fear of extra workload on the day they come back. This is a great way to give the mind a much-needed break and focus on things they like to do eventually yielding better emotional and mental health. Another key focus especially in today’s work from home scenario, where employees are fast losing touch with colleagues is to create enabling frameworks building social capital and team camaraderie. These intangibles provide a great outlet for employees to share and create meaningful associations and friendships at the workplace.
Fostering a learning environment
In a world that is continuously resetting, professional skills consistently evolve, and lifelong learning has been at the core of individual growth. Today, reimagining training methods for the remote/hybrid employee has become crucial. Therefore, it is imperative that organizations continually invest in learning and development (L&D) practices and technology to equip the workforce to perform efficiently, train future leaders and empower employees with upgraded skill sets. At the core of this is developing a learning mindset. Managers can encourage this by providing challenging work assignments, encouraging ideation and creativity, pushing new boundaries and experimenting. It would also immensely benefit the organization to consider creating a safety net, allowing for learning from failures for employees to thrive in such a culture. This aids risk taking and fosters innovation.
As new graduates enter the workplace remotely for the very first time, orientation and induction programs have to be curated to create simulated workplace assimilation. Companies can further explore developing a special mentorship and guidance program that, throughout their experience at the company, can boost their growth and learning curve. Cross-cultural work opportunities, wherein employees can move across teams, can further help build their career profiles and gain exposure above and beyond set professional aspects. The need for employees to feel connected and valued has become even more important in the remote working landscape. Recognition programs that celebrate both individual and team success go a long way in building employee and team morale. In addition, integrating an emotional connection to the recognitions and rewards can deepen the perceived value of the program and improve the employee-employer relationship.
With many organizations working remotely or in a hybrid manner, it can be challenging to provide a common purpose, and to build a strong cohesive work culture. In the post-pandemic world, HR teams and leaders must embed empathy into the employee experience and engage employees while balancing employee well-being needs. Company culture and how employees experience it will be critical as we navigate and reinvent the future of work. Building a concrete foundation of learning and well-being for an organization can certainly lead to sustainably supporting the future of work. A constant drive to experiment, learn and adjust work practices to accommodate the challenges of the dynamic workplace can also help fuel long-term growth. By creating programs that are broad and flexible, organizations can help equip employees with the tools to live a well-balanced life and cultivate an employee-friendly workplace culture. In the war for talent, this will eventually become a key differentiator for employees and potential workforce talent to view their jobs as ‘one work assignment’ versus a ‘career company’.