Employee Experience Redefined: It’s Now About Safely Coming To Work

As part of our Big Reset Initiative, we have four working groups pulling together best-practices across 150+ companies on their Coronavirus response strategies, and we will be sharing their findings later in June. In the meantime, as I spend most of my waking hours talking with HR leaders, I want to throw out an important thought.

Employee Experience, which was perhaps the biggest new trend in HR, has now firmly landed with COVID-19.

Most companies think COVID-19 is all about digital transformation. Well I think its far more that this – it’s a big wakeup call that Employee Experience (and Customer Experience) is now primary to every business in the world.

Consider the issues we now face. In our latest survey with HR professionals, the #1 topic in “back to work” has been “how do we make it optional to return, yet create a safe set of workplace protocols that people will trust?” This is an issue with Employee Experience, totally reimagined. (Or rather, reinvented.)

In fact, in a fairly sweeping new mandate, the CDC now mandates that “Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace.”

In other words, we’ve moved from a focus on the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy to a laser focus on the bottom. And employers may now have a legal liability to carry this out. (I suggest you read this.)

Maslow's Hierarchy

I don’t want to pre-release all the information we’ve collected, but let me give you a few things to consider. In 2019 and early 2020 (prior to February), we defined Employee Experience around employee journeys, transitions, moments that matter, and a wide variety of wellbeing, coaching, and other benefits to make work easier.

Employee Experience: Before Coronavirus

Employee Experience Before Coronavirus

All these investments in wellbeing, engagement, personal support, and leadership development were important – because they were designed to attract, engage, and empower people to be more productive. Companies invest approximately 34% of payroll in benefits and insurance, so this investment was shifting more and more toward perks (gym memberships, commute allowance, unlimited vacation) and luxury benefits in a time of very scarce labor.

Then the Pandemic happened, and The Big Reset took place.

This is where we are today.

Employee Experience: Redefined 

Employee Experience - After Coronavirus

Now, instead of designing workflows for onboarding and promotion, we’re studying traffic patterns to avoid bunching up, we’re studying the best way to use elevator buttons, we’re moving desks and furniture around, and we’re doing everything we can to reduce, eliminate, and prevent infection.

One of the biggest new trends is tools for Attestation. Attestation is a whole business process designed to ask people to “attest” to their symptoms or behaviors. Companies are now ramping up tools and processes to ask employees to attest every day: do you have a fever? do you have a sore throat? do you have a headache? is anyone in your family sick? IF SO, PLEASE GO HOME. (And by the way, we’ll pay for your sick leave because we do not want you in the office.)

We have a new marketplace of reporting tools (VirginPulse just announced one called VP Passport, ServiceNow and others are now introducing these) to help automate this daily process, and we have to set up teams to monitor this information, implement data protection protocols (this is PII data), and figure out what to do whenever someone violates the policy. And we aren’t even sure if the company is legally liable for infection yet.

All the EX vendors in the market (ServiceNow, Medallia, Qualtrics, and everyone else) are launching new “mini-apps” or tools to help manage all the topics in orange above, and believe it or not, most HR teams are jumping into this fast.

Last night I interviewed the Tami Rosen the CHRO of Atlassian and they have already started redesigning office spaces and implementing a myriad of remote work, back to work, and new culture tools built on their experience with the Atlassian Culture Playbook. Software companies like 15Five, GitLab, Microsoft, and Facebook are well down the path of developing remote work practices, and this is all about recreating a whole new employee experience.

As I described a few weeks ago, the best Back to Work playbooks were originally being developed by Manufacturers. Today they’re also being written by insurance companies (Humana has a 175 page Back to Work Playbook that’s being updated in real-time), retailers, and software companies too.

Back To Work Is Happening, Whether We’re Ready Or Not

It’s very clear to me that Back to Work is happening fast, whether the virus cares or now. So your EX team has to focus on the gritty issues above, and I hope to be able to share a lot more with you soon. 

One thing I’d remind you as you think about your New Employee Experience. As I discussed with one of the biggest food producers in the world, in this particular cycle we don’t want to make any big mistakes.

As Tami and others have shared with me: if you bring the virus back into your workplace and create a new hotspot of infection, you’ll set back your Employee Experience for many months (or longer). We have to be careful, methodical, and learn from each other as best we can. And the CDC has now issued detailed guidelines to help you. (I”d suggest you read the Resuming Business Toolkit from the CDC which covers a lot.)

In this new world, Employee Experience, Wellbeing, and Trust are at the very center of your company strategy. We can build on all the work we’ve done over the last few years building EX teams and expertise. Now that plane has just landed, and we need to make sure it arrives at the gate on time with everyone safe and sound.

Stay tuned for much more, our Big Reset Initiative findings will be out in a few weeks.