It’s been a tough year for all of us, from business owners like myself to people seeking job opportunities with new employers or even in new industries. Mental health has long been a priority to me, particularly as mental health problems run in my family. This year, I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact of our changed world and new ways of working on employers and employees alike. At the same time companies continue to hire and people continue to look for work. The pandemic has presented us all with an opportunity to reflect on what’s important and how we can seek happiness in our lives and careers.
At Bamboo Crowd, we've been fortunate to have inspiring calls with thousands of candidates over the last several months. And so, in the spirit of collaboration and kindness during this challenging time, I present this final article to share experiences and strategies for establishing trust and efficiency with a refreshed and supportive employee experience. While this article is primarily intended for business owners and leaders, job seekers may also be interested in knowing what traits and culture they should seek in a new employer.
And now, let’s talk about the employee experience.
2020 has put immense pressure on business owners and leaders. The uncertainty, recession, and lockdowns have made it hard for business leadership to navigate the future. Many businesses have laid off staff or furloughed employees and now grapple with the challenge of how to get staff back to work safely. This final article focuses on the employee experience and what business owners and leaders can be doing in our new virtual world to best support and retain their staff.
Many of these tips have come from my own experience, but also what I’ve seen work for many of our clients.
Rethink your entire employee experience and value proposition.
The pandemic and resulting lockdowns have been tough on all fronts. Business owners and leaders have experienced significant mental burdens navigating companies through rough waters. And for staff, their world is far from returning to normal. With this in mind, business owners and leaders should seize this moment to rethink their employee experience and employee value proposition (EVP) to reflect this new world and outlook.
When putting pen to paper for a new employee experience strategy, consider these five things:
- How do I create an employee experience that allows my staff to thrive as well as feel supported?
- What statement do I want to make that emphasizes the journey we’ve been on and underpins where we want to go next, together?
- What is the connecting DNA that binds our team together and allows us to take on this new world and the opportunities it presents?
- How should we change and reshape our operations and benefits to better reflect this new world?
- What are the key pillars that I want to hold the business accountable to when considering our employee experience and EVP?
Many businesses are now rethinking and re-establishing what it means to be an employee with their company. It’s a time-consuming exercise but it's so valuable in bringing everyone together, especially when we’ve never been more apart.
Virtual working only works when you have trust.
Yep, it’s the five-letter word that can be very intimidating. Trust is not an inherent part of all organizations. Never before have we been more measured, KPI-driven, analyzed, tested, evaluated. It’s pretty exhausting for everyone and one of the big considerations and challenges for the new “virtual era” has been company bosses picturing their staff on their game consoles or napping. But, without trust for your staff, you are destined to fail. You must work to instill trust into your staff to foster productivity in this new world. If you don’t trust your staff, you’re facing a larger cultural problem that goes back to whether you’ve hired people that fit your core values and EVP.
It’s a hard thing to offer, trust. However, I believe there are three easy and comfortable ways to begin to establish trust and confidence:
- Set clear goals and objectives
- Pre-book times throughout the week to catch up and touch base
- Give autonomy and practice patience
Essentially, you want employees to find clarity on what they need to do (remove ambiguity) by carving out a consistent weekly rhythm and giving staff the freedom, space, and autonomy to get those things done.
Be considerate of the common WFH challenges.
For some, working from home is easy. For others, it’s near impossible. Not everyone’s home and environment is created equal and we have to be understanding of that. My dog has ruined more calls than I care to remember and I have had to create a schedule that allows me to ensure that my environment works for me. For me, that means sometimes taking a couple of hours in the afternoon to work out and walk the dog but starting my day earlier. Whether you have kids, pets, elderly people living with you that need care, or if you’re juggling the one good spot in the living room between roommates, employers have to be empathic to the struggles that exist for everyone right now.
Allow staff to create a schedule that works for their environment and support them to either improve their current space or find new places to work. It takes effort, but your investment here will allow people to work better and more efficiently and be happier, overall.
Try to create special moments.
After work drinks, birthdays in the breakroom, even a bell ringing in the office when someone closes a sale (a flashback to my early recruitment agency years) are all a part of a company’s culture. This has been totally lost and work has now essentially become a series of fairly monotonous Zoom meetings. In these times, it’s so important to create special moments to bring everyone together and create that camaraderie that would normally happen in an office environment.
Continue to have happy hours, run an event on Zoom like a quiz night, send everyone a morning coffee and muffin to their homes, celebrate successes, and have fun. Although work exists on a video screen, it’s critical to make our time interesting and find creative ways to connect with people.
Be transparent and communicative.
Most of your employees will have one thing on their mind: Is my job safe? As we see unemployment fluctuating, this is a natural cause of concern and anxiety among staff. However, the reality is that not everyone’s job is indeed safe and we are in challenging times. But seize this opportunity to communicate with your team. Be transparent about business performance and be communicative about the challenges, opportunities, and roadblocks you face as an organization. One way to deliver this is with weekly meetings or even via email and weekly digests about the business and its standing.
Invest in new tools and set-ups.
Many businesses are struggling financially so investing in anything new really is a tall order. My top line message is: Do what you can to invest in allowing people to do their best work. Good video conferencing technology (including a decent camera) and a comfortable desk and chair will go a long way. So too will having all available tools and systems properly loaded and set up on a home computer. If you can’t procure all these things now, that’s fine! Just be communicative about this and put a plan together to get there.
Plan for the long haul and retain perspective.
Sadly, we could be here for awhile. For Bamboo Crowd, our U.S. business will remain remote for the future. With that in mind, our investment and focus has been very much on planning for the future and ensuring that we have an employee experience, structure, and systems that allow people to thrive and do their best amidst this new way of working. It’s tough, but being small allows us the opportunity to build our company in a way that works for everyone. For larger companies, this shift is harder and more costly, meaning you have to pick and choose where to focus your time and investment.
What I will say is that every company, no matter their size, has the opportunity to do this right. Doing it right means planning for the future and the long game, not just focusing on short-term tactics or band-aid solutions. These short-term tactics cause friction in your business and create confusion and uncertainty for your staff.
Whatever strategies you employ, remember that whatever world of work we return to will be different than the one before. To formulate the right strategies and tactics, firm up your perspective as a business owner or leader and visualize what the world will look like and what your place will be in it. If that means a new ‘hybrid’ model, great. If it’s WFH forever, awesome. Or, if it’s ‘business as usual’, that’s fine too. In any case, understand that whatever perspective you embrace and invest in will have tremendous implications on your employer brand and your ability to attract and retain staff. I guess what I’m saying is that there is no right or wrong answer in all of this – you will gain and lose staff in any scenario What is important is a clear view of the future and a combination of a long-term strategy and short-term tactics to get you there.
I hope these insights help our business owners and leaders out there. It’s been a crazy year but also one that presents tons of opportunities. This current moment requires serious optimism and bullishness about the market, a strong vision and mission, and a team of people that are connected through trust, a clear employee value proposition, and a great employee experience.
If you need any support or advice, please reach out! I am always available and would love to support your business’s growth as you take on this new world. As always, I am available at email@example.com