When service-based businesses like restaurants and hotels reopened after the COVID-19 lockdowns, many workers didn’t return. Workforce analysts and economists believed enhanced pandemic unemployment benefits were to blame and expected people to return to the workforce once those payments ran out. However, just last week the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of job openings has changed very little at 10.4 million as of September 30, 2021 while the number of Americans voluntarily quitting their jobs surged to record highs—or 4.4 million in September. As the labor market continues to tighten, businesses are searching for ways to lure in new hires and retain valuable employees.
In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of culture and employee experience and why it’s important to acknowledge that workers have more choices about where to work than ever before—and respond to these new expectations. Businesses that offer flexible work schedules, enhanced benefits, and more intentional career development opportunities will be better prepared to win the war for talent.
Good culture and employee experience help strengthen retention
It’s clear that the way we work is different than before the pandemic. Business leaders who recognize that fact and work to improve the employee experience in a way that attracts and retains valuable workers will succeed. In a global employee experience survey conducted by Willis Towers Watson in June 2021, 92% of employers said that enhancing the employee experience will be an important priority over the next three years, compared with just 52% prior to the pandemic.
However, the question remains—how can businesses positively shape employee experience for the future? With vaccine mandates taking effect and the technology and processes in place to support a hybrid workforce, many employers are beginning to bring employees back to the office. After nearly two years of Zoom meetings and work-from-home, employers must budget and plan to work on strengthening culture, building team cohesion, and improving employee experience in 2022.
Improving employee experience is about more than just self-service
Over the last couple decades, HR has focused on providing self-service technology to enhance employee experience. It’s time for employers to build on that concept by offering tools to help employees get connected with access to the support, mentors, and resources they need to navigate their journey successfully and productively. That means HR needs to focus on two main things to create a more human approach to experience: 1) the pandemic isn’t over yet and we still have to deal with the impacts of stress, wellness, etc; and 2) work has changed with an emphasis on more remote, hybrid, and flexible work models.
According to SHRM, the desire to improve retention has prompted many employers to address the increased stress that the pandemic has caused. More than half of employees report high-to-moderate levels of anxiety at work, leading many to quit their jobs in search of greener pastures. In response, employers are seeking to make work less stressful by offering flexible work schedules; increased paid time off; comprehensive wellness benefits including mental health, child care, and elder care benefits; and career development opportunities. All of these perks add up to a more positive day-to-day work experience. Including these benefits often makes your business more competitive and adds relatively little upfront costs.
Leverage AI to personalize employee experience
To truly optimize productivity and keep employees happy, it’s vital to create an environment tailored to specific employees. That’s why many forward-thinking companies are budgeting for artificial intelligence (AI) technology and virtual reality training solutions to personalize the employee experience. This allows business leaders to cater to each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, help them grow professionally, and keep them engaged at work.
Use surveys to uncover employee preferences
A recent article in HR Executive examined Microsoft’s investment in pulse surveys to measure how their workforce is feeling at any given point in time so leaders can take corrective action. As the pandemic continued to cause major changes in the workforce, Microsoft sought to survey employees more frequently to understand how those changes were impacting company culture and empower leaders to quickly respond to issues as they arise.
Build emotional intelligence and empathy
A recent workplace empathy study found that 7 in 10 managers reported difficulty in consistently showing empathy in the workplace. To build a truly inclusive workplace culture, you need to start from a place of empathy and care. That’s why more businesses are investing in training initiatives that build emotional intelligence for managers—so leaders understand the importance of transparency in the decision-making process and ensure a workplace where everyone feels safe to discuss difficult topics.
Spark excitement and connection
According to a survey conducted by IDC last year, 45% of executives said they anticipate demand for enhanced employee engagement software as one of the many outcomes of the pandemic. In addition to tools aimed to reduce friction for employees and ease their experience, some businesses are investing in gamification programs that aim to strengthen connections. For example, one app encourages new hires to learn more about the company and offers virtual currency to incentivize employees and spark excitement to complete routine tasks like responding to polls, reading emails, and completing office forms. The currency can be used to buy fun prizes. Client surveys revealed that there was a 200% improvement on how connected employees felt to the company after using this technology platform.
Build a great team
Asure offers software and HR services, including fully certified HR professionals, to help with culture need assessments, employee engagement programs, and more. With a team of HR experts on your side, you’ll have access to the resources and manpower needed to successfully build a personalized employee experience that attracts and retains the talent you need to grow your business.