“Loyal employees in any company create loyal customers, who in turn create happy shareholders”
— Richard Branson,
founder of the Virgin Group
WORK-from-home (WFH) arrangements have truly transformed how employees got through their day-to-day tasks. This is supported by countless anecdotes about the challenges faced by employees as well as their managers, such as employee on-boarding, talent development, coaching, and collaboration on projects.
In fact, there have been mixed findings on the impact of WFH on worker productivity. For instance, a University of Chicago survey of individuals indicates that most respondents who have adopted home working practices reported higher productivity than their expectation before the start of the pandemic; while another study in Japan showed that the productivity of employees adopting the home working arrangement during the COVID-19 pandemic is, on average, 30–40% lower than that in the office. Another study in the US among small and medium-sized firms reported a decrease in productivity of about 20% on average, as revealed in a paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
Customer experience likewise suffered because of WFH. I’m almost certain that readers of this article have experienced a breakdown of customer service from their supplier, who reason that most of their staff are working from home, bogged down by poor internet connection and distracting home environment.
Even most employees now do not like their WFH experience. What was initially thought by many as a dream job of working from home in one’s pajamas has not turned into something dislikeable. More than half of the respondents in a survey conducted by Martec Group in the US said that they “dislike” working from home.
No wonder why 92% of human resource leaders in the US set employee experience as a top priority in 2021 according to a recent survey held by isolved and published in Forbes. Employee experience is the employee’s perceptions about his or her journey through all the touchpoints at a particular company, from hiring, onboarding, engaging, performing, rewarding, developing, to departing.
A Gallup research shows that the employee experience matters because all of the individual moments of an employee’s experience play a role in how a worker feels about an employer’s purpose, brand and culture, which directly affect employee engagement, retention, and performance. Hence, it is directly linked to customer experience — happy employees equal happy customers.
So how can we make employee experience a “happy” one? Technology and people managers play key roles here.
Using collaboration tools, videoconferencing platforms, and employee engagement apps can do wonders, if properly deployed and used in companies. A reliable internet connection is a must to ensure uninterrupted and seamless communication among colleagues and to customers. Increasingly, small and medium businesses in the Philippines scores the lowest in Asia Pacific for WFH preparedness, according to a recent IDC study, citing “reliable network connectivity as a concern when supporting remote working.”
Another important factor in ensuring satisfactory employee experience are the people managers themselves. They need to acquire skills on how to effectively manage remote workers. They need to effectively plan for virtual meetings and catch-up sessions with employees, maintain effective lines of communications, and learn new techniques to measure performance. Virtual coaching skills is a key competency that managers need to develop in order to help their employees through the stress of working from home.
Employee experience, indeed, should be a top priority of organizations, alongside customer experience in this time of WFH arrangements. While countries and organizations race to have their citizens and employees vaccinated in order to return to work in the office setting, WFH will be a permanent set-up for a lot of jobs. Therefore, companies need to constantly revisit their employee experience.
It pays to have happy employees.
Reynaldo C. Lugtu, Jr. is CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consulting, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is the Chairman of the Information and Communications Technology Committee of the Financial executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX). He is Fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be e-mailed at email@example.com