A well-defined employee experience (EX) is widely accepted as a staple requirement in HR’s toolkit. However, post-pandemic, there’s a growing sense that the employer/employee power dynamic has dramatically shifted in favour of the individual.
So, coupled with ongoing societal change, organisations need to consciously design a truly magnetic EX if they want to attract and retain the best talent.
But employee experience is a huge area – how can HR identify the critical moments that matter most to employees and design an EX that is future-proof?
Here, we share three trends for the future of work that, if acted on, will create a compelling EX. One that fulfils a stronger desire for purpose and meaning at work; evolving expectations around trust; and a greater need for human connection in an increasingly digital world.
Let’s look at each in turn.
Trend one: Purpose is now a must-have, not a nice-to-have
‘Lack of meaningful work’ was recently cited by McKinsey & Company in the top five reasons for leaving among people who quit their job without another lined up, ranking even higher than compensation or flexibility. While purpose has always been important, Deloitte data suggests that younger generations are even more likely to join or quit an organisation based on it.
An organisation’s purpose is why it exists; from Netflix who ‘want to entertain the world’, to Patagonia who are ‘in business to save our home planet’. Research by Kings College London identified four things that make your purpose statement effective:
- Is it inspiring?
- Is it well-written?
- Is it authentic?
- Is it plausible?
The next step is to embed it throughout the organisation. By considering purpose at every step of the employee journey – from how you attract and recruit talent to how you develop, promote and retain them – you can ensure your organisation is full of people who feel connected to, and driven by, your purpose.
Trend two: Bridging the trust gap will be a business priority
Research suggests that compared with low-trust organisations, people in high-trust organisations have a substantially better employee experience. They were found to be 76% more engaged, 74% less stressed and 50% more productive. How can you leverage this and make your organisation ‘high-trust’?
Trust expert Rachel Botsman argues that the world is going through “one of the greatest trust shifts of all time – from institutional to distributed trust”. Where institutional trust was characterised by top-down hierarchies and placing our trust in centralised organisations, this new era of distributed trust sees us put our faith in decentralised networks (think social media or marketplaces like Uber). This shift is reflected in organisations and, with it, employees are expecting greater transparency and accountability from leaders.
Leadership behaviours such as building social relationships, granting autonomy and sharing information broadly are all things that can contribute to a high-trust culture.
However, it’s also important to consider processes, systems and structure, too, which strongly influence us day-to-day, nudging us towards (or away from) the right behaviours. They also act as ‘silent communicators’ revealing what is truly valued by the organisation.
If you want to inspire trust, make sure that both behaviours and systems are bridging the gap between what you say is important and what you value.
Trend three: Employee experience will be designed for human connection through and beyond work
We know that a desire for social connection is hard-wired into us and critical for our wellbeing. With the rise in digital and distributed working, and the British Red Cross reporting 10% of workers feeling lonely at work, we are facing unique challenges.
We also know that having good relationships with our colleagues contributes to a more positive employee experience and that it makes us perform better too.
The organisation plays a powerful role in making it much easier – or harder – for people to build good relationships and feel connected to others. There is a case to be made that it’s easier to build relationships in person, and there are ways to promote more of this.
However, to future-proof your employee experience, we believe it’s important to focus on strategies that will work regardless of whether people are physically together or not. Look at the whole employee journey and ask yourself, what are the current touchpoints and how can these become more ‘human’?
There are two lenses to use here. Firstly, connection through work – the social interactions you have during your day-to-day work and the meaningful relationships you can hopefully build. This comes down to regular, open conversations and opportunities to cross paths with others.
The other lens is connection beyond work. This could be through team volunteering days, social committees, cross-organisation mentoring programmes and so on.
Leveraging AI to enhance employee experience
Paradoxically though, helping employees form stronger social relationships could simply be through less time spent working. With increasing access to generative AI, we are more productive than ever before.
Will organisations choose to fill this time with more work, or will they use it to enhance the EX? Whether that’s the four day (or 4.5-day) week, whole-company shut down days, or something else, by gifting people more time to focus on their wellbeing and deepen their relationships with friends, family and their community, the organisation will get huge rewards too.
Future of work: Designing a magnetic employee experience
To create a truly magnetic workplace that makes people feel a sense of meaning, trust and connection…
1. Put purpose at your core
Employees are increasingly likely to prioritise purpose. To make sure your organisation is doing the same, start with an inspiring, well-written, authentic and plausible purpose statement; and work to embed it throughout the organisation.
Align your strategy, hiring and leaders behind it; support your employees to make it their own; and focus on genuine impact in your chosen area.
2. Bridge the trust gap
Technological advances are evolving the ways we view and build trust. Organisations can build a high-trust culture by focusing on behaviours, such as how leaders communicate and build relationships, and systems, to truly embed priorities into your processes and policies.
3. Consciously design for human connections
Our need for strong social connection isn’t going anywhere. By redesigning key touchpoints to foster more connection and community and by thinking holistically about the employee’s life at and beyond work, organisations can do their part to make work more human.
By continuously reviewing these three areas, organisations can future-proof their EX, attracting AND keeping the best talent.
Interested in this topic? Read Employee experience and the rise of compassionate capitalism.