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Future of Work

Building a Better Employee Experience for Today’s Workforce

Our panel of experts weighed in on what highly successful employers are doing to keep their workers happy, healthy, and engaged.

Arianna Huffington

Founder and CEO, Thrive Global

Why is company culture so important for employee well-being?

It’s important because we now know an enormous amount about how stress and burnout affect us, both at home and at work. The science is clear that when we prioritize our well-being, we’re more creative, productive, and resilient, and we make better decisions.

Well-being isn’t just a perk, it’s a competitive advantage. And there’s a direct connection between the health of a company’s bottom line, and the health and well-being of every company’s most important resource: its people. So, in the same way well-being boosts our immune system, culture serves as a company’s immune system, giving it the resilience to meet inevitable challenges.

What was the turning point that made you realize your workplace burnout was beyond the point of comfort?

My turning point came in 2007, when I collapsed from exhaustion and broke my cheekbone. I had bought into the idea that burnout was just the price we have to pay for success. However, I came to realize that that’s just a collective myth. I learned everything I could about the connection between well-being and productivity, and I made a lot of changes to my life based on what I found out. I started getting more sleep, I started meditating again, and I became much more deliberate about building in time to recharge.

Why is company culture so important for employee well-being?

Too many companies are too keen to put multitudes of rules and regulations on their staff. Not only does this stifle flexibility, but it also suggests a lack of confidence in your team to do their jobs as efficiently and effectively as possible. Give your people freedom to be independent and your business will reap the rewards. I truly believe that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business.

Karen Moseley

President and CEO, Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO)

Why should employers be proactive about employee health?

Attitudes about healthcare are shifting in the American workplace. As they do, business leaders are starting to realize that their responsibilities extend beyond the walls of their workplace and out to the broader community. While employee health benefits have historically focused on treating sick people, there is fresh attention being paid to how employers can keep people from getting sick in the first place.

That’s no small challenge, especially when you consider the fact that the United States spends more on healthcare than any other country, but dedicates 75% of that spending to treating preventable conditions, and only 4% to disease prevention. In other words, we spend most of our time putting out fires when we could just stop playing with matches.

Brittany Barhite

Head of Employee Experience, Firstup

Why is the future of work focused on employee experience?

Employee expectations have shifted. Workers today, especially the younger generations, put emphasis on having a sense of belonging and being valued for their contributions. Their expectation of work communication is similar to how they communicate in their personal and consumer worlds (concise, engaging, and tailored to them). They tend to have a stronger sense of what is authentic and block out overly curated communications. 

These modern employees want a modern, personalized employee experience. Traditional HR communications — sending emails, posting an update on a stagnant intranet page, or assigning a long eLearning with email reminders — is out of touch and ineffective. Employees want the same amazing experience they get when ordering from Amazon and other companies: a personalized, omni-channel campaign designed to reach them on their preferred channel with the information they need right at that moment. 

What are the most common employee experience challenges companies and HR teams are facing?

With so many channels and platforms used by distributed workforces, it has become nearly impossible to understand exactly when, where, and how to reach employees — so HR and internal comms leaders often feel the need to blast email communications everywhere. That’s the wrong approach, especially if the goal is to retain your employee base.

Overloading employees with information and noise can quickly lead to burnout and negatively impact employee experience. Furthermore, a substantial 80% of the workforce, encompassing 2.7 billion people worldwide, are deskless employees. Many of them don’t even have access to emails or platforms containing essential information on employee assistance programs, open enrollment, performance deadlines, or safety training.

How does an intelligent communication platform improve the employee experience?

Intelligent communication platforms like Firstup enable HR and internal communications teams to deliver hyper-personalized messages to every employee — based on employee attributes and behavior — similar to what we see in the consumer world. The platform can tailor communication and information delivery to each individual employee when, where and how they want to receive it — which in turn boosts engagement, fosters that desired sense of belonging, and helps them feel appreciated and valued.

How do employee insights help decision-makers improve their employees’ experience?

There is a direct correlation between communication satisfaction, employee engagement and employee retention or attrition. The more engaged an employee is with the company’s communication efforts, the more likely they are to be satisfied with their work and organization — and vice versa. Lack of engagement in employee comms is a telltale sign of quiet quitting, “grumpy stayers” or general dissatisfaction. 

There are clear differences in the level of communication engagement (e.g. views, likes, reads, comments, shares, etc.) of employees who remain with a company versus those who eventually leave. Looking at the data, communication engagement tends to dip drastically in the weeks and months before a final departure. 

This is why it’s vital for HR and internal comms teams to have access to the right employee insights and data — so they can measure communication engagement to see which groups and individuals are most engaged and digitally present, look for trends and identify issues, and enable leaders to take action to improve the employee experience before it’s too late.

What are some other steps employers can take to improve the employee experience?

While numerous organizations collect insights on employee experience through annual engagement surveys, this data provides a retrospective view, which may not offer a comprehensive understanding of the current dynamics. Relying solely on infrequent annual performance reviews or manager check-ins, you miss crucial signals about an employee’s experience at every touchpoint along their journey — both big and small — that truly matter to them. With a direct correlation between communication satisfaction, communication engagement and employee retention, using data from intelligent communication platforms can help companies evaluate engagement throughout the employee journey with continuous, real-time feedback and benchmark for better outcomes. 

Another way to have a deeper understanding of all the employee moments that matter is through employee journey mapping. The employee journey begins with hiring and onboarding and expands to promotions, life events, and, ultimately, departure from the company. Every moment—from entry to exit—makes up the employee journey. How an employee feels during their journey can create either a positive or negative experience, which ultimately impacts their engagement. 

Much like sales and marketing teams craft customer journey maps and measure customer engagement scores, organizations should apply visual planning principles to create a robust employee journey map. 

Employee journey mapping is a design thinking process that uses a visual thinking tool to meticulously dissect the employee experience and analyze the various stages employees go through during their time within the organization.

By deconstructing these stages, you can explore each facet from different touchpoints, gaining a comprehensive understanding of the employee’s journey and their sentiments throughout. This analysis highlights strengths and areas of improvement, paving the way for enhancements to the overall employee experience.  

Tiffany Stevenson

Chief People Officer, WeightWatchers

Why is the future of work focused on employee experience, engagement, and well-being?

We are witnessing first-hand a major shift in the workplace that puts an emphasis on holistic employee well-being. As a result, employers are focused on investing in their employee’s health and creating a “culture of health” that prioritizes whole person well-being and inclusivity. We’ve seen this yield long-term benefits that are mutually advantageous for employees and the organization, including increased productivity and quality of life, and optimized health.

A key component to holistic employee well-being includes providing access to quality weight health care to improve health outcomes, especially during a time when chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes are on the rise.

Why is company culture so important for employee well-being?

There’s a saying that we reflect on in this work: a culture is what it does. Creating a culture that is centered around the duality of contribution and well-being without making one of these mutually exclusive is the cultural nirvana we all must strive for. This means that organizations are well served to center employee experience alongside business execution. Employee wellbeing takes many shapes and forms from thinking about how much flexibility we can provide to ensuring we’re mining for gaps in someone’s daily work experience (E.g. microcultures within teams and with managers). Healthy, engaged teammates drive maximum contribution, which drives peak performance. 

Are there any initiatives or upcoming trends in employee health and wellness that you personally support?

Employers are at the center of a huge opportunity to improve the health outcomes of their employees by providing a higher quality of weight health care. By eliminating weight bias and stigma from a culture standpoint and investing in programs to make weight health care accessible for all, employers can not only have a positive impact on many stages of someone’s life, but also realize cost-saving benefits by driving meaningful outcomes in preventing, managing, and reversing disease. 

This is similar to the path of the mental health movement, when employers began implementing mental health offerings, as it marked a significant moment in time to alter the course of a once highly stigmatized condition. For weight health, we are equipped to follow a similar path to make care accessible and stop stigmatizing it or making it about vanity — ultimately making an important contribution to our workforce and society more broadly.

Cormac Twoney

Chief Technology Officer, Envoy

What is the main challenge businesses are facing today when it comes to employing a hybrid workforce? 

The workplace has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, reshaping the very purpose of workspaces. Leaders across workplace/facilities management, security, and IT are under pressure to understand how their workspaces are being utilized, and equip their teams with the right technology to ensure the security and safety of their employees.

While many organizations are eager to introduce new and advanced technologies to support their evolving workplaces, most still rely on outdated manual processes and legacy systems. This tremendous technology gap has left leaders unequipped to maintain security and compliance across their workforces.

Adapting to new technologies can help tackle these issues, but brings its own hurdles, including the need for thoughtful planning and careful implementation, with clear communication and collaboration across departments.

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