During the height of the pandemic, much of the discussion surrounding the employee experience was focused on engaging a remote workforce, and throughout this conversation there has always been a general sense that this would be a temporary issue to manoeuvre. But, with companies like Twitter now allowing employees to work from home ‘forever’, how should business leaders engage a workforce increasingly in favour of hybrid working?

It’s hard to get it right, especially as no two employees’ experiences will be the same. Nonetheless, it’s such an important factor that employees would join or leave a company on account of its flexible working policy, or lack thereof. Indeed, according to a McKinsey survey, 29 percent of employees now say they would likely change jobs if they were required by their employers to work in the office all the time.

A new chapter for employees

This question is deeply connected to the upcoming talent revolution. Workforce predictions have long forecast a talent revolution of some kind, including a culmination in a ‘war for talent’. As the job market begins to open up again, employees are no longer as attached to jobs merely offering them safety and stability as they were at the height of the crisis. With this in mind, business leaders need to think about how to engage their employees and ensure their loyalty right now. Additionally, as unemployment rates lower, the talent pool is constricting. As well as engaging the people they already employ, companies need to work out how best to attract fresh talent to join their ranks. Many organisations are once more investing large sums of money into their operations and are embarking on post-pandemic recruitment drives, flipping the script on who holds the power in the job market from employers to employees.

Read the room – tracking employee sentiment

New opportunities and the sharpest increase in salary inflation in 24 years are enticing passive candidates – those not actively seeking new roles – away from their companies. According to a Microsoft study, 2 in 5 people are considering leaving their current employer, and experts predict levels of turnover will increase after restrictions are fully lifted. Technology trends including the rise of ecommerce and remote working could all play a role in why people might want to leave and find employment elsewhere.

With employees’ behaviours and needs constantly and rapidly changing, organisations need to keep up with how their employees think and feel in order to gauge their attitudes towards new ways of working, and what they think will work best for them.

Despite being a common practice, traditional sporadic surveys are not a sufficient approach right now. Instead, it’s time to adopt an ‘always on’ approach to gauging employee sentiment. Short, regular surveys can be leveraged that include open-ended questions inviting employees to share their thoughts in detail right in the flow of work. Text analytics can then be used to collect and quantify this feedback to understand employee sentiment towards their working situation at scale. Even better than this, however, is collecting feedback over video.

Providing feedback over video or voice can help employees feel less cut off from their employers and colleagues while establishing the best hybrid working balance. There are specific circumstances where this can work really well, for example, where English is not an employee’s first language. In an age of global digital connectivity, this is becoming much more common, and using video or voice allows employees to respond in their native language. Instant translation services can be used to share feedback with business leaders in English in real-time and text analytics can then uncover insights to support decisions on which actions to take. Not only is the language barrier overcome but the quality of communication is increased.

Furthermore, video feedback can be intelligently analysed through the power of artificial intelligence and digested into content, emotion and sentiment for the company leaders, enriching the insights gained from employee signals and paving the way to understanding the tendencies of feelings of the workforce as a whole.

Use feedback to inform actions and coaching

Once business leaders have listened to employees, they need to use the insights to inform coaching practices and implement change. Showing employees that their opinions on working conditions matter helps them feel heard and valued, even when they are working remotely.

How does this work in practice? When employees raise a particular business problem, business leaders should determine a specific listening method and location to gather feedback and ideas to guide actions. One particular leader in the business that cares deeply could take charge of the issue. Implementing this laser-focus on each business problem raised will help leaders take effective action and ensure employees feel heard.

Continuing the ‘always on’ approach into coaching tactics, managers can consistently encourage employees without micromanaging them by checking in, listening and trusting employees to know what works best for them. This in turn encourages self-direction, where employees feel they have the safety and freedom to take initiative and innovate on their own, not just do the unfulfilling bare minimum required of their role.

If it turns out that there is a department, function or division of a business that is struggling with performance overall, the organisation should work with the leader of the department launch ongoing, 360-degree feedback process for all the employees in the team. This feedback can be uploaded directly to a dedicated dashboard that effectively enables that department head to devise a course of action and a personalised coaching plan to engage employees while developing their skills.

Once implemented, an ongoing feedback loop will inspire intrinsic motivation in employees and help them to better engage with their role and to get the most out of it in return.

A great employee experience will attract the best talent 

The behaviour of the workforce is fast-changing, and so the relationship between employees and their companies and management needs to be adaptive too. In terms of a talent strategy, continuing down the same route as before is likely a bigger risk than adapting operations as a response to employee feedback.

Fostering an open, collaborative work culture across in-office and remote working – where employees feel valued and heard – will not only encourage current employees to stay with an organisation, it will also attract the best talent – especially those looking for an exit-strategy from a company that hasn’t quite got it right. This is the best approach for organisations looking to ride the wave of the talent revolution instead of being overwhelmed by it.