Reality check: have organisations finally recognised the importance of their employee experience?
For years, the employee experience was overlooked in favour of focusing on the customer experience. The pandemic prompted many organisations to refocus and realise the importance of their employee experience, a shift I’ve long been pushing for.
One year on from the sudden move to remote working, and we’re more exhausted than ever. The zoom-fatigue has stepped up a gear since there was a distant end to lockdown in sight. With this in mind, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on how organisations have adapted to support their employees, and to assess whether they have made the most of this brilliant opportunity to refocus on their employee experience.
When remote working was still relatively novel, organisations made a lot of noise about how they were supporting their employees to best adapt and thrive within these new conditions. I’m sure that it’s not just my Linkedin that is often flooded with photos of the gift boxes that corporates are sending their employees to thank them for their work during a difficult year. Which always prompts the following question in my mind — how much of this is a marketing campaign that misses the mark of addressing the underlying issues causing stress, exhaustion and burnout?
Although receiving a gift set from your employer is a nice gesture, this doesn’t make up for the longer hours worked, desperately balancing childcare, home schooling and work commitments as your mental health disintegrates with each passing day.
With the reports last week that junior workers at Goldman Sachs are revolting against their “inhumane” remote working conditions, it’s thrown a harsh light on the pressure being put on employees to be accessible at all hours, without any of the benefits or support that they would usually have if they were in the office. It’s highlighted that some organisations see this as an opportunity to see how much they can get away with, often including forcing employees to foot the bill of homeworking equipment. It’s telling that Goldman chief executive David Solomon’s response is to hire more people and strengthen enforcement of a no-work-on-Saturday rule, which is far too little far too late. Nobody should be expected to work every Sunday if you value the wellbeing of your employees! It’s also worth noting that since the revelations came to light, Goldman Sachs sent snack bundles to junior bankers in lieu of bonuses or reducing their working hours…(*sigh*)
Goldman have enforced a toxic work culture with minimal regard for their duty of care to junior employees, who are made to feel disposable. All of this is despite the fact that their profits went up to £3.8bn in the fourth quarter of 2020, sending a clear message on how little they value employees when they have the means to dramatically improve their day-to-day experience.
However, it’s not all bad news. The CIO at Aviva Investors, David Cumming, has revealed that they will not be investing in Deliveroo when it floats on the stock exchange in early April, and that a key factor in that decision was the treatment of their workers. Cummings called out the importance of employer behaviour and valuing employees, and that this isn’t in line with the aim of responsible investing.
Another dose of good news comes from Made Brave, a brand agency who have leapt at the opportunity to change their ways of working to offer more flexibility for employees. Their new approach and accompanying manifesto for flexible working aligns to their goal of achieving “more inclusivity, more diversity, and better equity for everyone”. It’s a great example of reassessing current ways of working with employees in mind, and set the bar high when it comes to taking action to promote staff wellbeing.
The pandemic has brought into focus the importance of humans in delivering empathetic services, and unfortunately corporates haven’t fully embraced this opportunity to pivot their culture to be more inclusive, flexible and supportive. Like many, I have concerns that the “return-to-normal” will reverse any changes made, but I’m also hopeful that over time, as more employers like Made Brave focus on optimising their employee experience, that the large corporates will eventually have to fall in line in order to remain competitive to attract talent. Applicants are already asking organisations how they supported their employees during the pandemic, and their expectations as potential employees is that organisations will prioritise employee wellbeing over profit in such difficult circumstances.
One year on, and there’s still a long way to go. Well done to anyone who’s survived a toxic work environment so far! I’m hopeful that as more people bravely speak up about their mistreatment, the sooner we can achieve a culture that supports and empowers employees to do their best work without pushing them to breaking point. Until then, I’d better keep banging on about the importance of designing experiences with your employees in mind….