Just a few months ago, we polled senior HR leaders for Mercer’s 2020 Global Talent Trends, and found that employee experience topped the list of priorities for 2020. This was not surprising given the talent-led economy, where employers struggled with human capital challenges like attraction and retention.
In just a few weeks’ time, however, the tables have turned. The escalation of COVID-19 into a pandemic — followed by a cascade of closures and stay-at-home orders — has sent stock markets crashing and unemployment rates skyrocketing. Companies are rapidly reprioritizing initiatives, and rightly so. It’s easy, at a moment like this, to set employee experience (EX) aside as a “nice to have”— to be picked up again in more prosperous times. But allowing EX initiatives to fall to the bottom of HR’s priorities would be a missed opportunity.
That’s because employee experience will keep happening, whether you attend to it or not.
Our collective attention was first drawn to employee experience during an era of economic boom; but it is far from a luxury. If anything, EX is even more important in times of crisis. The companies who prioritize improving it — putting their effort toward building a better employee experience — will be the ones best poised for success to weather this storm. While there is uncertainty around the length and depth of the impact, one thing remains certain: you will need your people to propel you forward — reshaping strategies, innovating new products and solutions, and driving commercial impact — when this is over. EX will be a critical tool for fueling your business recovery.
We define EX as the intersection of an employee’s expectations, the environment, and the events that shape their journey within the organization. These events are a collection of emotionally charged moments — what we call “moments that matter” — that have an outsized impact on outcomes such as engagement and commitment. These can occur inside or outside of work, and can be both scripted (i.e., planned) or unscripted. The current pandemic, strikingly, impacts moments across all four of those dimensions.
This means that the coronavirus pandemic is more than a moment that matters — it is a defining moment in both an employee’s career and life journeys. How businesses respond to it will have a lasting impact on employee behavior, their ability to attract new talent, levels of productivity and engagement, and employee commitment.
So how are companies responding to this defining moment?
Many companies are rising to the occasion, seizing the opportunity to both demonstrate core values and reaffirm their commitment to employees. We have seen companies from all industries exhibiting high levels of empathy by paying people who cannot come to work, and by going beyond the legal requirements for paid leave. Many retailers are showing their commitment to employees by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in employees working on the coronavirus front lines.
So what can you do, as an employer, to create a positive employee experience even in times of crisis? Here are four steps to consider:
In short, employee experience is not about perks — it’s a mindset shift that puts your people at the heart of what you do. This is not only important in a prosperous, employee-led economy, but also during times of crisis or economic stress. By continuing to commit to EX, you will help to drive better engagement, productivity and commitment of your workforce, and build reserves of good will that will benefit your employer brand long after this crisis is over.
The world is watching how companies are responding today, and that response will have lasting implications on employee behavior. Ask yourself: Is your company seizing the opportunity to balance empathy and economics through this defining moment?
Speak with a consultant to discuss how you can create a positive employee experience even in times of crisis.