Employees’ lives and jobs across the world have been significantly influenced by COVID-19, and their working experience has been disrupted. Companies are investing time and effort in creating a positive employee experience during the pandemic.📚Download our eBook "10 Principles of Modern Employee Communications" and learn how to communicate with the modern employee in today's digital age.
The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing businesses to change their ways of working, embrace new technologies, and rethink their internal communications.
HR and IC teams are joining their forces to deliver a positive employee experience and keep businesses running during these unprecedented times.
How COVID-19 Is Disrupting the Employee Experience
The current pandemic is significantly influencing Human Capital Management. As employee experience is one of the most popular topics in the field, many companies are now adjusting their HCM strategies to keep their employees’ experience, morale and productivity as high as possible.
Remote work is the number one reason why the employee experience is disrupted. The new way of working, collaborating and communicating has changed the way companies operate and manage their workforce.
Some of the factors that affect employee experience, such as employee growth and development may be put on hold right now. However, there are other factors that employers need to give extra attention to during the crisis.
Below is the image created by Deloitte that represents the most important EX factors.
Supportive management, trust in leadership, positive work environment as well as cross-organization collaboration and communication are some of the best ways to drive positive employee experience during this crisis.
Let’s take a detailed look into the 17 actionable ways to improve EX at your organization.
17 Ways to Improve Employee Experience During the Pandemic
This crisis was a big shock for organizations across the world as they had to completely adjust their working policies in a very short period of time.
However, in order to get out of this crisis stronger, companies need to plan for business continuity now. We all know that our employees play the most important role here. That's why improving employee experience in order to keep employees motivated and productive is an absolute must-have.
If you are looking for ways to improve employee experience at your workplace during crisis, here are some tips for you.
1. Set up a clear crisis communication strategy
Did you know that only 47% of employers say that they have the capabilities or processes they would need to meet a crisis with the best possible outcome?
Lack of proper and timely crisis communication is a very important factor here as it impacts how your employees perceive your company’s crisis preparedness.
When a crisis happens, organizations tend to focus more on their external than internal communication efforts. Even though external communication is important, you need to put your people first.
Yet, nearly 30% of respondents to a Deloitte Advisory poll believe that employees are the most overlooked stakeholders when their organization is dealing with a crisis.
As a result, many employees lack a clear understanding of the situation, they may feel frustrated or scared which, consequently, negatively influences employee experience in the workplace.
2. Understand your employees’ needs and concerns by encouraging them to share their thoughts
The worst thing you can do to your employees during a crisis is leave them in the dark. If you want to improve employee experience during these unexpected circumstances, you first need to define what shapes their experience.
You need to get a better understanding of the challenges they may be facing in this new working environment.
Therefore, encouraging employees to speak up has never been more important. This is why we are seeing many companies implementing company-wide surveys in which they are, for example, asking employees about their “work from home” experiences. Managers may implement surveys for their teams to find ways to better support them and enable them for success.
Remember, however, that you shouldn't implement any surveys if you are not planning to act upon the results as this will certainly not boost but hurt the employee experience you deliver.
3. Get your leaders on board to build trust in the workplace
Now is the time to rebuild trust in the workplace! Even though leaders play an important role here, 63% of employees don’t trust their company’s leadership. During this crisis, we are seeing CEOs and other C-level executives taking a bigger role in internal communication.
Why do you think this is happening?
Employees want to hear the words of support and encouragement from the ones that are leading the company and have a better understanding of the influence the crisis has on the organization. Leaders need to be authentic and honest in order to build the experience employees expect and deserve.
Luckily, many of them have started to realize the importance of leadership communication. Moreover, organizations have improved the clarity of their messages — 52% of employees strongly agree that their employer has communicated a clear plan of action in response to the coronavirus, an improvement of 15% compared to mid-March.
Trust me, it is unbelievable what a talk or a message from your CEO can do to your employee's morale and motivation.
To improve employee experience even further, enable your employees to join the conversation. If possible, allow them to engage with the content delivered from the leaders and share their opinions and concerns.
Remember, transparency is one of the most respected and desirable company’s traits among employees.
4. Communicate your company’s vision
If you are worried about your employees’ engagement and productivity levels when working remotely, helping your employees better understand your vision is the way to go.
Most employees say that they would be more productive if they had a clearer sense of their company’s vision. Therefore, messages around your company’s mission and vision need more visibility, and they need big attention from your employees. On the other side, this may be very hard to achieve within large enterprise companies with employees scattered across the world.
Aligning employees in such organizations is only possible with the right communication technology that enables employers to deliver the right message at the right time to the right employees no matter where they are located.
5. Enable managers to build better relationships with their teams
To successfully get your messages across the organization, you need your line managers’ support. Even though their role is often overlooked in employee communications, manager’s role is actually critical here and it directly influences employee experience.
It is the manager’s job to explain to their teams what the business’s goals are, ensure that everyone on the team is aligned with the company’s vision, and make sure that employees understand how their work is tied to the company’s strategy.
With the current rise of remote work, line manager’s role in employee comms is even more critical as connecting and engaging with employees is more challenging when they are physically disconnected.
During these times, as well as in the future, employers need to enable their managers to better support their teams using appropriate communication and collaboration technology solutions.
This is the only way to ensure that remote employees get the information they need in order to stay engaged and productive.
6. Adjust your HR priorities and make the HR function more agile at your company
Recently, there was a great HR Pulse research published by Josh Bersin. Based on the data from the research, we can see that the current HR responsibilities have changed dramatically, all in order to deliver a better employee experience. in the workplace.
With the increased issues around social isolation, mental health, personal finance, and stress levels within organizations, HR department’s role is now quite different than it was a few weeks ago.
Here are some things that they are doing now and may have never done before as a part of their job:
However, many of them are facing new challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. That's because many HR teams are designed as service delivery functions, they are not prepared for agility.
Therefore, redefining HR roles within you organization can help you focus more on things that drive better EX.
7. Help your employees stay connected with their peers
Today, it is all about teamwork, not individual work. However, this becomes much harder when employees are not physically connected. Working on collaborative projects gets harder as communication is done only via digital tools.
Luckily, there are many tech solutions that can help employers improve their employees’ experience when it comes to collaboration with their teammates.
However, connecting your workplace doesn’t mean only enhancing teamwork. It also means engaging your entire workplace in daily company conversations. Such communication should’t go one-way. Instead, you should drive two-way conversations where employees feel free to speak up and share their thoughts on important topics.
8. Share important company updates in a timely manner
I think we all understand the importance of communicating during this crisis. Many employers are making weekly or even daily updates to their company’s operations and working policies.
All these changes, as well as important pandemic-related information and safety tips need to be communicated to employees in a timely and personal manner.
How do you ensure that everyone gets and actually reads this critical information?
This is a challenge most large enterprises are struggling with right now. Yet, it significantly influences employee experience and the way your employees perceive you as an employer.
Today, employees are used to information to find them, not the other way around. They are used to their favorite news apps, social media and messaging tools, and they expect their company's internal communication solution to mimic the way these apps work.
9. Eliminate information overload to keep your teams productive
In global enterprise organizations, access to irrelevant content and exposure to information overload can cause employees to “tune out”.
It is very important for employers to understand that too much information can be just as frustrating as too little information.
Organizations with complicated communication structures are much more likely to create confusion among employees, noise and miscommunication in the workplace, resulting in redundant messages, inconsistent discussions, poor employee experience and lower productivity levels.
To avoid information overload, you have to make sure that the right content finds the right employee at the right time.
Not everyone should get the same, generic enterprise messages or emails. Instead, information that employees receive should be personalized based on their functions, locations, languages that they speak, their interests and favorite communication channels.
Only then you can ensure that your employees read the content you share with them. Moreover, your employees will be more productive because they won't be wasting their time searching for the information they need.
Such approach to workplace communication will significantly improve your employees’ experience and ensure that employees engage more with your internal content.
10. Address the silo effect to improve cross-functional collaboration
Silo effect happens when groups within your organization become separate and distinct “silos”. Employees within these teams collaborate and communicate with each other but are cut off from the rest of the organization.
As cross-functional collaboration is becoming increasingly important during these days, many executives are now recognizing this problem as one of the main challenges faced by their organization.
However, they still don’t have a clear plan around identifying and eliminating silos within their organizations.
They first need to understand the main reason why this happens. According to research by Queens University of Charlotte, 39% of employees believe that there isn’t enough collaboration between people in their organization. Inefficient internal communication is the main culprit for such situation.
But how does this influence employee experience?
When there is silos and lack of cross-functional communication, redundant work is inevitable. When two departments work on similar initiatives without knowing what their colleagues from the other departments are doing, can you imagine the amount of stress and frustration among your employees?
11. Create and share stories, not facts
In order to boost employee experience during this pandemic, internal communicators need to come up with more creative ways to engage and connect with employees. Trust me, only then you can really get their attention.
People remember stories, not facts.
Therefore, the importance of storytelling in internal comms has become as important as storytelling in marketing. The same way marketers come up with creative ideas to get the prospects’ and customers’ attention, company’s internal communicators such as HR, IC, leaders and managers have to do exactly the same.
If we know that 2 in 5 employees ignore HR emails and that 71% of employees don’t read or engage with company emails or content, I think we can all agree that something needs to be changed.
If you want your employees to actively participate in your internal comms initiatives, try creating content in forms of video, images and infographics that will be much easier and fun to consume.
Additionally, forget about mass emails and outdated intranets as channels to distribute your content. Instead, personalize the content by segmenting employee audiences and deliver it via their preferred channels and devices.
12. Give special attention to your employees who can't work from home during the pandemic
Not all employees can work from home. Millions of employees around the globe can't fulfill their roles offsite and they are are facing some major challenges now.
Therefore, employers need to find a way to support them and provide exceptional employee experience.
In order to appreciate their work during these hard times, their manages as well as HR and Internal Comms have to adapt to their new ways of working, and they need to be able to communicate with them efficiently.
However, many employers don’t have a strategy in place to create targeted internal campaigns for their employees who are still going to work during the pandemic.
13. Make work more meaningful and empower your employees
Having a meaningful work is what attracts and retains Millennials and Gen Z workforce. Even though most businesses are now focused mainly on business continuity, some are also looking for ways to take advantage of the current situation.
For example, if you are developing a new solution that eliminates challenges that the pandemic has brought to us, give your employees the opportunity to participate. Encourage your employees to share their own ideas and lead their implementation. That way, you can make their work more meaningful and rewarding, which boosts your employees’ morale and experience.
Consider implementing a company-wide initiative in which all of your employees can participate. Make it more fun by creating a recognition program around it and make it transparent to the whole organization to gain, thus called, social effect.
This is an excellent way to encourage employees to innovate and to connect your workplace even more.
14. Align your internal and external communication efforts
Earlier, we briefly mentioned trust in leadership. One of the main reasons why mistrust happens is because of inconsistencies between your internal and external messages.
Always remember that your employees have access to both, and it is not hard to notice when there is a gap between the two. When this happens, employee experience suffers.
As your external communications efforts may be booming now, it is the time to close this gap by making communications consistent.
Moreover, you should share your external messaging with your employees as such information can help them better understand the business overall. In other words, your internal and external communications should be aligned.
15. Implement new technologies to enable remote work
Organizations across the world have confirmed that COVID-19 is driving digital transformation at their workplace this year. This is not surprising as, without the right technology in place, it is impossible to ensure business continuity in this new, online working environment.
Employees need access to solutions that enhance communication, collaboration and project management and it's employers' responsibility to ensure the use of the right technologies during the pandemic. It's the only way to improve employee experience and enable employees to do their jobs successfully.
On the other side, managers, leaders, IC and HR professionals need access to solutions that will help them manage their remote workers and better understand how their employees cope with these unprecedented times.
16. Develop a change management strategy to support your DX projects
To implement new technological solutions, you need to have a proper change management strategy around it.
Even though many employers didn’t have time to prepare for such changes, it is crucial to remember that the main prerequisite for successful implementation and adoption is proper employee communication.
Most people don’t like change, and changes may have a negative impact on their experience.
Therefore, in order to lower employees' resistance to change, employers need to give their best to openly and honestly communicate the importance of new DX initiatives and their value to them personally as well as for the business overall.
📚 Also check our Organizational Change Management Guide.
17. Measure and keep improving your strategy
Do you know how your employees feel? Do you know how engaged they are? Do you know how they adjusted to remote work? Do you know what their biggest concerns are?
Unfortunately, many employers don’t!
So, how can we then make sure that the new initiatives that have been implemented will improve their working experience?
This is yet another call for employers to be more data-driven and to make business decisions based on real data.
When you don’t have much time to experiment with different solutions, you really need to understand what are the biggest bottlenecks in your organization in order to make most beneficial changes.
Let’s take, for example, IC departments that are responsible for keeping organizations aligned and informed during the crisis. Surprisingly, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) found that 60% of internal communicators are still not measuring the success of their IC strategy.
If we want to make sure that employees are well-informed, we need access to data and insights around:
- Was the message delivered on time?
- Was it read?
- What type of content employees engage the most with?
- What communication channels do they prefer?
Only when you have such data and the ability to measure your IC initiatives, you can make proper decisions on how to better communicate with employees in order to drive positive employee experience.
The Impact of Internal Comms (IC) on Employee Experience (EX)
Lately, we are seeing IC professionals getting the role of one of the most important business partners within organizations as their influence on shaping a positive employee experience is significant.
This is not surprising because when the information flow within organizations is streamlined and clear, and when employees feel well-informed, they naturally become more motivated and engaged.
When organizations put extra effort in the employee communication practices, employees feel heard and valued which positively impacts the overall workplace culture.
When it comes to communication in the workplace, here is what employees expect from their employers:
When your entire workplace is aligned, you are much more likely to have employees to live by your core company values, collaborate in a more efficient way, and accept your change initiatives to overcome a crisis such as the current pandemic.
Therefore, keep in mind that, to deliver a great employee experience, you first need to assess your employee communications strategy. It is the only way you can ensure that your employees have a great understanding of the business goals and deliver outstanding work results.
How Smarp Can Help You Deliver a Positive Employee Experience During the Pandemic
Having face-to-face conversations with all your employees during critical times such as the COVID-19 pandemic may be easy within small companies, but it may not work in large enterprise organizations.
Smarp’s employee communication platform provides a central place for employees to start their day, making it easy for them to stay connected and enabling employers to communicate at scale with targeted and personalized messages.
Smarp’s app makes workplace communications transparent, open and more streamlined which enables employees to stay informed and more productive as all the relevant information is available at their fingertips. Powerful analytics enable employers to get a better sense of their communication efforts by getting valuable data and insights.
Our clients have shared their communication best practices for engaging with employees and improving employee experience in the workplace during the pandemic 👇
What's next? Download the eBook “10 Principles of Modern Employee Communications” where we share tips & best practices for successfully communicating with your employees in today's digital age.