• Today’s challenges present a unique opportunity for businesses to reimagine their people strategies.
  • Amid the ‘Great Resignation’, elevating the employee experience to attract and retain talent has never been more important.
  • Trust, autonomy and personalization are pivotal to meeting evolving employee expectations and succeeding in the future of work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes, but when it comes to the world of work, one thing is now crystal clear: the employee voice matters and must be heard. Increasingly, people want to work for companies that align with their values and where their individual needs are supported and met. This shift has culminated in record resignation numbers and the widely discussed “Great Resignation”.

It’s a moment of reckoning for organizations; to bounce back quickly and plan for future growth, companies need to retain their talent and attract new employees. But it’s also a once in a generation opportunity. Organizations have the chance to hit the reset button and reimagine their people strategies. Leaders must prioritize the employee experience, starting with earning their employees’ trust.

1. Earn employee trust

Traditionally, leaders moulded employee experiences based on what they believed or assumed would make their employees happier. However, during the pandemic closer attention has been paid to individual employee needs and it’s revealed a stark disconnect between what employers think their people want and what they really want. Over time, this disconnect has caused some employees to lose trust in their employers, and to question if their policies really reflect their values.

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to creating an employee experience that works for everyone, especially as the workforce is diverse and expectations are always shifting. So it’s critical to have a strong understanding of what your employees want. To achieve this, you need to listen to them and keep listening to them. But even listening isn’t enough. You need to respond and take action too.

When employers engage in a continuous, two-way dialogue with their employees, they gather the real-time insights needed to determine the best course of action and accommodate changing employee needs. Importantly, when this action is taken, it sends a signal to employees that their views are valued – helping to nurture a feeling of trust that’s fundamental to a positive and productive employee experience. And, what’s more, when employees can trust that their feedback is valued and helping to drive improvements at work, they’re more compelled to keep sharing it.

Bridging this gap between honest feedback and deliberate, meaningful action is key to restoring employee trust in the workplace. And, when it comes to retaining talent, trusting that your employer values you and acts in your best interests makes more of a difference than any arbitrary perk can.

2. Grant greater autonomy

As we’ve explored, earning the trust of your employees is critical. But to create the best possible employee experience, employers need to learn to trust their employees too. Our latest Employee Expectations Report found that the freedom to work with greater autonomy and flexibility became significantly more important to workers during the pandemic. Therefore, autonomy must play a more substantial role in the future of work too.

Autonomy doesn’t have to mean letting everyone do what they want all of the time. Rather, in this context, it’s about granting employees the freedom to explore what works best for them, taking into account individual and changing circumstances. It means trusting that your employees want to do a good job, and therefore empowering them to bring their best selves to work. Of course, not all roles can be done remotely, and not all organizations can grant flexible working hours. But a greater sense of employee autonomy can still be achieved with, for example, a more mindful, transparent approach to shift scheduling. Or by supporting job movement and skill development from within the organization.

Marking a radical shift away from presenteeism, or clocking office hours, leaders have an opportunity to seize the lessons learned from the pandemic and to create a world of work that really works for everyone. Happy employees lead to happy customers. At a time when people face mounting pressures at work and home, demonstrating greater trust in your teams will significantly improve the employee experience for everyone, while also helping to drive team loyalty, productivity, and overall business success.

3. Take a personalized approach

Once you’ve established two-way trust between employee and employer, the potential for the employee experience is limitless. No longer do leaders need to rely on assumptions about which benefits might boost productivity, or where and when their employees do their best work.

The continuous flow of data provided by employees through feedback and collated by the right technology enables leaders to create bespoke, equitable, and personalized employee experiences – supporting the expectations of complex, multigenerational, and diverse workforces. Even in large organizations, where it’s harder to accommodate every individual need, technology enables us to track trends and deliver better experiences for everyone. Once you understand the evolving preferences and goals of your people, machine learning and data-driven insights can be used to optimize experiences in a way that will help people grow, feel more supported in moments that matter, and be more productive.

We aren’t the only ones that see this tailored approach as key to the future of work. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends Report, 68% of executives agreed that workforce strategies will be more customized to individual needs in the future.

Opportunity for positive change

The world of work has been turned on its head, and what it means to have a positive employee experience has changed drastically in the past two years alone. But this disruption has also created an opportunity to reshape our businesses and get this right. The tightening labour market has already been the catalyst for major improvements in how many businesses work and lead. But this is just the beginning, and what’s next starts with establishing two-way dialogue and trust with your people.