Many organizations have adapted collaborative technology to engage and enable their people when the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to suddenly and dramatically transition to remote work. But as the pandemic gradually eases, organizations are now beginning to rethink what work looks like and asking how they can bring employees safely back.
New Ways of Working (NWW) is a response to the needs of today’s workers, who expect employers to be empathetic and supportive, to listen and respond to their needs, and to give them greater autonomy over their working days and their careers. To meet these expectations, organizations should deliver an experience founded on flexibility, and drive intentional and purposeful workplace interactions.
During the lockdown, disparate attempts to maintain a sense of togetherness, reinforce feelings of safety, and support employee performance often seemed more like a quick fix than a cohesive program of care, leaving many employees feeling overwhelmed and disengaged.
In the future, embracing NWW means building a robust employee community that gives greater flexibility. Designing a sustainable NWW model is not just about where work gets done, but about how work gets done, taking into account the critical tenets of trust, agency, purpose, and employee experience.
And that’s where NWW should start: listening to employee sentiments, creating solutions that meet their needs, and empowering employees by giving them choices in how and where they work. During the lockdown, many organizations strengthened their ability to gather workforce data through focus groups, “town halls,” and regular pulse surveys. They must continue to use these channels, and others, to gather continuous feedback and to understand the experiential needs of their workforce to inform future design.
Granting employees trust, agency, and purpose
By gaining flexibility over when, where, and how they work, employees can better manage their increasingly intertwined work and personal lives, allowing them to navigate the sometimes-blurred boundaries. In a recent LinkedIn survey of American workers, half believe that, since the pandemic, hours and location flexibility are more significant factors when searching for new jobs, and a similar proportion feel work-life balance is now even more important.
There has been a lot of focus on how organizations can enable flexible working to accommodate individuals’ differing needs. With leaders starting to manage dispersed teams in multiple locations, trust will become more important than hierarchical power. Leaders must have conversations with their teams to establish work norms and expectations in the new normal, putting trust in the employees to get their work done and exercising judgment when determining flexible work schedules. When employees are not always in sight, leaders must drive a culture of trust and agency, trusting their teams to make the right choices to be productive, meet goals, and complete their work, while being driven by purpose, responsibility, and accountability.
According to research from MIT, an effective and dynamic employee experience can double the degree of innovation and increase profitability for organizations. Creating an appropriate experience based upon trust, flexibility, and agency, and aligning this experience with the strategic needs of the business, is arguably the most pressing, people-related challenge facing organizations today. Building NWW with employee sentiment at the forefront, the new hybrid workplace can live up to its promise to deliver a fulfilling working environment spanning physical and virtual spaces.
Seven questions to ask about NWW
- Have you determined how to create an environment and culture that truly brings together and engages remote and office workers?
- Have you defined the moments that matter for your culture, identifying how employees can engage with each other (and the organization), regardless if they are remote, hybrid, or on-site?
- Have you identified how the NWW will impact your employment brand across different groups of workers?
- Do you have a process for integrating employee feedback into employee experience design—and communicating these findings to the workforce?
- Can you easily and quickly identify people in your workforce that need extra attention?
- Can you support and engage a hybrid workforce, both technically and emotionally?
- How does NWW impact how you utilize your physical workspace and how your people interact when on-site together?
To learn more about delivering a connected employee experience in a hybrid working world, visit KPMG Workforce Transformation.