Workplace experience: A significant shift
The notion of ‘experience’, or employee experience as we know it—and its implications for the post-pandemic workforce—has undergone a significant shift. We now engage, consume, and collaborate in a manner that would have been inconceivable only a couple of years ago. We wear many hats and fulfill multiple roles at the same time and place, transitioning from employee to carer or parent at a moment’s notice.
The morphing of work and social identities is real. And it is not going away anytime soon. Amid this great reset, leaders need to acknowledge the multiple personas and competing priorities of their people, and accommodate for the experiences they are having. More importantly, they need to design holistic future experiences for their workforce—focusing on the ‘individual as a whole’ and not just the part where they are employees.
Another thing leaders should not overlook is the increasing focus on the ‘intangible’, things that we know matter but that we neither measure, nor value, on the same scale as tangible assets. Intangibles such as health, purpose, trust, and equity will form the bedrock of holistic experiences and will be key to attracting and retaining talent. According to a recent report 1, intangible assets will account for as much as 85% of the total business value across industries.
Holistic experiences: Implications for the leadership
When co-creating meaningful experiences, designing newer organization models and distributed digital workspaces for greater fluidity, business leaders would do well to adopt a systems thinking approach. Systems thinking as a discipline focuses on complex systems and encourages the viewing of a problem as a whole. Here are some key areas they need to focus on:
1. The CHRO as a sociologist: The future organization needs to be designed for dynamic and fluid structures that are democratic and agile, lying at the intersection of the employee, the individual and the community. The CHRO must set the tone by incorporating a global language of change into the workplace strategy, embracing sustainable development goals to address inequity.
2. The individual as a whole: Alleviating some stress for workers during this tough time by designing meaningful experiences have paid off for businesses. For example, organizations that have sponsored activities like art classes for children when holiday camps were not an option have found that actions like this acknowledge an employee’s persona outside of work have helped retain employees amid the ‘great resignation’.
3. Psychological safety, well-being and motivation: Unprecedented stress and burnout during the pandemic have led to an adverse impact on well-being. The role of the leadership is to create psychologically safe spaces for employees to bring their whole selves to work, says Professor Amy Edmondson 2.
4. Equitable experiences: True equity is rooted in creating conditions that generate similar outcomes for all individuals—irrespective of levels, personas, and social status3. Some glaring disparities during the pandemic have been the lack of access to comfortable seating, poor connectivity, privacy to conduct meetings, including the pressure to come on camera, revealing more about our settings than desirable. Similarly, women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
5. Insights over data: We value what we measure. What needs to be reset is the relevance of what we measure. For example, investments in mental health initiatives such as meditation apps or gym memberships are not a measure of success but intent alone. Effective insights should establish whether individuals who are at the brink of burnout are able to avail of these resources—freed by managers to reinstate necessary balance.
Future of experience: Technology’s role in creating holistic experiences
Holistic digital experiences would lie at the intersection of the individual, employee, and society. We have identified 21 elements that we believe are key to creating holistic future experiences.
New digital experiences should be human-centric, persona-led and deeply contextual; tailored to all and especially for vulnerable groups needing greater flexibility. Empathetic design could include ergonomics, predictive tools, digitally tracked work-life balance measures, and flexible policies. All digital experiences should focus on the individual as a whole, building greater trust, wellness, and inclusivity.
Workforce and workplace experiences
The new hybrid workplace will be contactless, multi-sensory, designed for fluid knowledge exchanges, sustained curiosity, and easing cognitive overload. Friction-free experiences that ‘cut out the noise’ will be especially valuable. Immersive platforms will enhance collaboration and learning while autonomous experiences powered by AI and chatbots will empower agile problem solving.
As organizations commit to ecological, social, and environmental issues such as equity and responsible consumption, these need to be reflected in everyday experiences. Companies must walk the talk by creating environmentally sustainable office spaces, hiring practices designed to reduce bias, and focusing on bridging inequities in gender and race.
There’s no better time than the present to take stock of what ‘experience’ means to your employees and organizations. It’s time now to create future experiences that are not only foundational in their values but also resilient to help ‘build back better’.