The containment is barely finished, the long reboot to “normal” economic activity is underway, and one can already wonder whether the employee experience will survive COVID and whether the latter does not make the idea, however good it may be, obsolete.
And yet it cannot be said that it was not essential at the height of the crisis. We’ll wait for the figures over time and be wary of hot polls, but it’s quite clear that employees will value just as highly the way companies have taken care of them at this critical time. So, assuming that a good employee experience has led to more resilience and engagement, we can conclude that, on the contrary, even the most sceptical companies will be convinced.
Employee experience strengthened by the crisis
The employee experience also came out stronger “a contrario” from the sequence because companies that were not up to speed on the subject saw what it cost them. Looking at the 14 wounds of the employee experience it is obvious that forced remote work has put a lot of practices, processes and tools under strain which have finally shown their limits. So if those who have done well have justified their action, those who have done badly have understood what they should do in the future.
Yes, but that was before.
It’s always the same after a shock. You take it, you bandage the wounds, you’re in “care”, then comes the awakening phase with good intentions, then reality takes over and you forget everything or almost everything.
What will remain of the confinement (but we will talk about it at greater length in future posts) is what was done, i.e. the “care”, and what was failing, the organization, processes, tools, management not always adapted to the constraint of distance. Extensive use was made of human resources to compensate for the fact that the rest did not follow because it could be mobilised immediately in firefighter mode, unlike the rest which will take a long time to change provided there is the will, the courage and the means.
I’m not saying that if everything related to an organizational approach to employee experience had been in place, we could have dispensed with more human resources, far from it, but that we had to use more than we should have in order to compensate for a multitude of friction points that might not have existed. Hats off, though, to the HR people who were on duty all the time to act as firefighters, sometimes acting beyond their perimeter and sometimes because others had not done their job before or even during that time. But that only lasts for a while.
Employee experience vs. “Cash is King.”
Today we’re in the reconstruction phase. I’m not talking about the enterprise of tomorrow with all its philosophy, dreams and idealism, which will certainly disappoint a lot of people. I’m just talking about an enterprise that must relearn how to perform, innovate, make decisions and execute in a context where, as we will see, speed and frugality will reign, with a workforce that will potentially be more distant in a chosen or suffered way, permanently or occasionally. A world where “taking care”, which has been the watchword for weeks, will be replaced by “cash is king”. Not by philosophy or choice but by necessity.
And here we will quickly see that the culture of “taking care” that has become established will take second place, because the one and only priority will be to rebuild margins and equip with a more efficient production tool. Remote work has shown many managers that they can do many things directly without multiple intermediaries, partial unemployment has involuntarily flattened the organisation by removing from the circuits people whose action was not vital. And we saw what we could do without. And the idea, whether justified or not, that we are more productive in remote work will not only fall on deaf ears, because in the end, if we have people who are 10% more productive with a shrinking demand, there is no need for long reflections and complicated calculations to draw all the consequences.
“Cash is king.” “Margins and efficiency”. “Speed and frugality”. I was taking my hat off to HR at the beginning of this post and we really have to do it because tomorrow their thankless role as firefighters is over and they’re going to make way for the financiers and “operations” professionals who will build the company of tomorrow. We’ll call HR back if there’s a problem, we promise! As usual, at least there is one thing in the next world that will not change and it will be far from being the only one.
But yet “care” and “well being” have proved their worth for two months, haven’t they? Yes, but in an increasingly distant organization we lose many of the levers of well being which for many are spatially and temporally associated with the workplace. As far as care is concerned, the fact that HR has had to take matters into its own hands shows that there is a problem with the role and soft skills of the management line. Their remarkable work on the subject is in fact more the expression of a problem than its solution. Anyway, you need margins and efficiency, the rest will be seen later.
The employee experience will have an operational impact or will not be
The employee’s context remains as a lever of action in order to avoid being off the ground.
So to convey an employee experience vision in this context I wish you good luck, even if after all nothing prevents you from having the speech because it will be very easy to justify that you can’ t afford to move on to execution or to an execution other than a minimum.
Or else it will require a very clearly operational vision of the employee experience, a vision that translates, apart from an indispensable “care”, into a concrete impact on operations and business. Not by ricochet or on the assumption that “if employees are doing well, the business is doing well”, but directly.
So finally the subject of the employee experience probably comes out reinforced from the sad episode we have just lived. But the vision remains, the principle of reality will do the cleaning between the multiple possible approaches.