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Reinventing the Employee Experience in 2021

How to adjust or reinvent existing HR processes for the future of work

by Elle Mason

From water-cooler conversations to brown-bag lunches and happy hours – the way we experience work has changed. With remote work here to stay for 2021 – as far as we can tell  – let’s dive deeper into reinventing the employee experience this year. 

How is the employee experience different in 2021? 

Pre-pandemic, when we started a new job, we could get a tour of the office, see our desk / cubicle / office / workspace, get to know our coworkers in casual, natural settings and build genuine relationships in an authentic way.

We could celebrate birthdays and life milestones with cake, and praise people in a meeting without worrying about overlapping audio.

But things have changed. As almost everything has gone virtual, the way that we interact has shifted in a way that can seriously impact the employee experience that we have in an office. To name just a few ways:

  • Onboarding is virtual.
    Employee meet-and-greets, welcome sessions and basic getting to know you banter is all remote. Technical support can no longer just swing by – Laptops and essential equipment have to be shipped; remote logins, video conferencing and other materials have to be set-up with guided support. 
  • There’s a lack of in-person interaction and guidance.
    While many people welcome the reprieve from socializing, others are missing the contact and connection. 
  • There can be challenges with building and maintaining critical mentoring or work relationships.
    Mentoring relationships that would’ve developed organically through natural contact and interaction now have to be carved out – lest they get neglected completely. 
  • Managing work-life balance when you work from home can be difficult.
    Without the physical differentiator between work life and home life, many people are feeling more fatigued by the lack of separation and the inability to “leave work at work.”
  • People are experiencing video fatigue and it’s impacting their experience.
    Many people are uncomfortable with their colleagues getting a wide-eyed view into their personal living spaces, not to mention the potential of glimpsing children, significant others, pets, and other personal elements that they would rather remain private.

How to Adjust or Reinvent the Employee Experience

This is imperative for making the remote employee experience just as good as previous in-person hires.

Hiring
From the initial resume intake to the interviews and offer letters – all of this can be moved online. But a word of caution: While video calls have their value, be mindful of the fact that some applicants may not have a designated office space – so be sure that you’re not being biased or judgemental towards people’s virtual backgrounds.

With GoCo’s Magic Docs, you can send custom offer letters, documents, policies, and more for new hires and existing employees to acknowledge. They are easily kept in the loop, and you can also track and report on the data that they provide to stay organized. 

Even remotely, employees can always access their benefits information for appointments, review plan descriptions, and see their pay stubs.  

Onboarding
Ensuring that essential equipment is sent far in advance; scheduling video meetings for welcome introductions; having key documents, files, folders, reoccurring and team meeting details shared with the right people – these are all critical for a smooth onboarding experience.

HR leaders and managers can make sure that nothing falls through the cracks by creating a list that captures what the typical office onboarding experience would look like – including the intangibles – and building a digitized process for it.

Development
Virtual training, online brown bag seminars, targeted mentoring programs – there is no shortage of strategies for supporting the development of remote employees. Learning and development should be a continuous and ongoing progress  – not a one-and-done event. We’ve covered ways to ensure that people continue to be developed and engaged as remote employees, some of which can include:

  • Virtual coffee date meetings
  • Peer-to-peer feedback sessions
  • Supporting employees with a home office stipend
  • Online learning and trainings
  • Soliciting their feedback and opinions
  • Being generous with praise

There is no time like now to transition to digital HR processes. Especially when most of your workforce is not in the same place, streamlining your onboarding, payroll set-up, benefits administration, time tracking (and more) in one place is crucial. Specific to onboarding, you don’t have to worry about your employees having a worse experience because they’re at home. GoCo’s onboarding is completely digital, from offer letters to self-service benefits, to document management – so that employees can see everything at a glance.

The Future of Employee Experience

Employee experience was always going to have natural changes and shifts – even without the pandemic. Responding to the current state of affairs and staying on top of it by being forward-thinking is a great next step. Here are a few areas that will grow in importance as we think about the field in the coming years.

Flexible Work and Well-Being: While we’re all focused on remote work, flexibility is going to become increasingly important. This can include schedule flexibility (Do you work from 9am-5pm? 4am-8am and then 8pm to 12pm? Nights only?), location flexibility and even flexibility in how you arrange your broader work calendar (e.g. taking a lower salary for an increased vacation). Businesses should get more comfortable with the idea of employees customizing their work in a way that works for their needs and lifestyle, in addition to an enhanced focus on the holistic well-being of employees and their families.

Belonging and DEI: The conversation around diversity and inclusion has increased substantially over the past year or so, but businesses will have to look beyond the metrics. It’s not sufficient to simply add a few people from diverse backgrounds to the team – in what ways are they included and feeling a sense of belonging? How is this measured? Are they well-represented amongst all rungs of the organization – or only at the lower ranks? Do they feel open to celebrate holidays or show up to work in a way that feels authentic to them, or do they feel like they need to wear a figurative mask? This is feedback that is critical for leaders to elicit – and act on.

Social Recognition: Receiving praise for a job well done feels good – especially as remote work has left many people feeling more siloed or isolated from their broader workplace or teams. The degree to which people receive recognition from leaders and peers is going to become a key factor in their employee experience – which makes sense! After all, no one enjoys the feeling of their thoughts and contributions being constantly overlooked. And given how this can quickly become a matter of inclusion and exclusion, it’s critical to begin putting equitable social recognition structures in place.

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