Engagement across the employee lifecycle — key to the future

Both people and technology are key to employee experience.


According to the 2019 World Economic Forum Executive Opinion Survey, less than 10% of business leaders from the G20 and OECD countries considered the spread of infectious diseases as a global risk. In 2020, the pandemic made organizations shift gears, responding with agility to moments of crisis and ushering in a new work order. Employee experience is now at the focal centre of this workplace renaissance.

Organizations have taken cognizance of this changed definition of work. The 2021 Human Capital Trends survey shows that 61% of executives across various organizations have shifted their focus to work reimagination, as opposed to 29% before the pandemic.

Additionally, 75% of organizations expect 30% or more of their employees and 25% organizations expect over 70% of their employees to be working remotely, going forward.

Yet remote employee burnout is on the rise, with 56% of employees fearing being "always on." This means that enhanced employee experience will have to be delivered to employees where they are, in novel ways, and tailored to their needs, across the entire employee lifecycle.

Engagement throughout the employee lifecycle

Organizations with leading employee experience practices have identified key moments that matter for different employee groups. These moments fall across the various phases of an employee’s tenure with an organization, including:

Hiring, onboarding and assimilation: Most organizations have started to digitize their recruitment processes. However, with the lack of in-person interaction it is even more critical to engage candidates with informative content, retain their interest and tailor the processes for different roles and levels.

Practices like resume masking, short candidate videos, pre-selected questions and multi-evaluator panels have replaced the archaic practice of four to five rounds of interviews. Organizations are leveraging advanced technical and psychometric tests, automation, AI, mobile and data analytics not only to hire the right fit for a role but also to eliminate any form of conscious or unconscious bias.

A remote workforce survey found that 51% of new joiners did not feel enabled to work in a remote environment and 59% were not sure of what was expected of them in their new role. This can be resolved with a smooth and friendly onboarding process that features a buddy programme and frequent team and manager connects to establish support, impart knowledge, and build mutual trust and camaraderie.

Immersive trainings on organizational culture and values are a must to establish an affinity with the organization. Seamless technology support throughout is a given. The answer also lies in a hybrid work model, implementing processes that are the right fit for different teams and functions.

Performance management, advancement and retention: Performance management is moving in the direction of agile goal setting, frequent coaching conversations, wellbeing, engagement, transparency and honesty. Companies are moving away from metrics of attendance and output. 

Managers are increasingly relying on dedicated performance management tools that provide quantitative data and analytics, which in turn makes for meaningful, data-led decision-making regarding employee growth and career advancement.

To ensure employees stay longer, organizations are aligning their people strategy, policies and programmes with employees’ changed priorities. Today, an organization’s purpose, stance on social commitment, inclusion, diversity, equity, and focus on holistic employee wellbeing take precedence over role, compensation, opportunities, etc.

Recognition of work accomplished and acting on employee feedback are also factors that boost retention. Employer branding, both internal and external, is playing a heightened role in retaining key talent.

Exits: Organizations are focusing more on managing exits in the virtual world, where it can be more difficult to identify early signs of someone considering leaving an organization and their underlying reasons for doing so.

Exit interviews are playing an even bigger role than before, to fulfil employees’ need to be heard and to ensure that they leave not as disgruntled employees but as brand ambassadors. Employers are now increasingly looking into lead indicators to reduce attrition, adopting measures such as predictive analytics, active listening and translation of these into “mass customization” of actions.

Shaping the workforce of the future

Organizations that have identified and course-corrected the inclination to return to the pre-pandemic ways of working have won half the battle.

As per a recent report by Gallup, 63% of employees felt that it is highly probable that they will find a job as good as their current one. As per the same report, globally, employee engagement scores have dropped by two percentage points, while the daily stress levels of employees have increased by five. This immediately raises the stakes for employers as far as competition for talent is concerned.

Employers have been quick to action with continuous communication by leadership, open-ended policies, flexibility, holistic health and wellbeing initiatives, etc., to help employees deal with faded differentiation between work and home life, fatigue, apathy and mental health issues.

The way forward will see us move from “wellness programmes” to integrating employees' overall wellbeing into work itself, so that employees are physically, mentally, socially and financially healthy as they work and don’t necessarily have to get away from work to feel well and happy. This quality of life at work is what will continue to inspire employees to do their life’s best work.

Employees will also have more control over the work that they want to do and the learnings they want to acquire. The idea behind this is to make choices that are backed by passion, interest and motivation, which when aligned with organizational goals, will lead to improved performance, growth and success.

Learning techniques will advance to more need-based skill enhancements that are app-based, interactive, not time-bound and have bite-sized modules.

People managers will perhaps play the most pivotal role in employee experience and engagement. Companies are developing managers as perceptive culture ambassadors, to embody elements of work/life balance, integrity, listening and discerning, compassion and trust. Managers can make a world of difference in how employees are feeling about work by involving them in setting goals, giving meaningful feedback, coaching and planning for personalized, long-term growth.

Technology will unify employee experience by fueling collaboration, connection and teamwork. This can be enabled by integrating tools and resources that employees need for decision-making and driving better outcomes, all on a single platform. Technology is also at the core of continual listening platforms and tools required to act on employees’ feedback.

With enhanced credibility, while HR will continue to ensure that leaders are focusing on the three legs of people strategy — leadership, engagement and development — they could transition from a functional mindset to that of impact. 

To do so, HR will have to expand focus to the human element of workforce, approach reimagination of work as an ongoing process with people and teams at the centre of all efforts, and at the same time be prepared to handle the cultural implications thereof.

In conclusion, the world of work is in disruption. We are no longer looking at performing the same tasks better or arriving at outcomes by using latest technologies, but to achieve new work outcomes with innovative collaboration between people and technology. Both employees and technology capabilities are central to this change. 

The key takeaway is that the human angle is not a mere aspect but core to the future of work — looking at everything from a distinctly human perspective to forge a path forward.