With reports of almost 1 in 4 UK workers expected to quit their job and change employers in the next few months, in what has been dubbed ‘the Great Resignation’. Business leaders are now prioritizing employee experience (EX) as workers think more carefully about their work/life balance following the chaos and pandemonium caused by the pandemic.   

We are often given the impression that to be successful in business, leaders must be cold, domineering and hyper-competitive; in other words, there’s no real requirement for business leaders to be kind. But this can have serious consequences for staff as EX takes centre stage and becomes the new challenge for management hoping to recruit and retain their staff in 2022.  

Renewed focus on EX as stress levels rise 

Given the past two years, it’s hardly surprising that the levels of work-related stress, depression and anxiety have risen. In 2020/21, figures from the latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) revealed that 822,000 cases were reported, accounting for 50% of all work-related ill-health. These rates are higher than 2018/19 pre-Coronavirus levels. This simply isn’t sustainable, and for many businesses, ensuring their staff are cared for and looked after has led to a renewed focus on EX.  

Managers have, in the past, rightly focused on customer experience (CX) as a means of creating unique and exceptional brand offerings. Competitors can easily deliver product or service parity in terms of quality and price, but to stand out and be truly distinctive, businesses and brands need to provide positive interactions from the start of the customer journey, until the very end.   

Readdressing the balance between CX and EX

tow Asian woman discussing EX priorities for 2022.

As we begin 2022, many businesses are experiencing unprecedented employee challenges. They must think carefully about how best to balance their efforts between providing exceptional customer experiences while offering forward-looking EX programmes.

In their Harvard Business Review article ‘Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work,’ Heskett, Jones, Loveman, Sasser and Schlesinger demonstrated the strong link between employee satisfaction, loyalty and productivity with customer experience satisfaction and perceived value. In other words, the importance of the employee experience to deliver a superior customer experience and, ultimately, profitable growth. 

Agile working, for example, has become a key component for such initiatives. Research shows that businesses were able to maintain, and in some cases, improve productivity, as virtuality became the norm. Virtual teams working from home benefitted from being able to gain more control over their working day while avoiding all the distractions of a physical office. Of course, for those with additional home-schooling duties or confined and shared workspaces, this wasn’t always the case. 

The last two years have defined how, when and where we work. It looks like hybrid working is here to stay, and will become the norm even after the worst of the pandemic is over.  

For many years, EX experts have long advocated for a more positive organisational culture. The pandemic has forced business leaders to prioritise EX as businesses recover and are required to operate in more decisive and agile ways. This will create both challenges and opportunities for business leaders as they search for more creative ways to allow employees to strike a more equitable relationship between their private lives and the world of work.  

As we look forward with optimism to a new year, let’s see what ex trends in 2022 and other business priorities can we expect? 

  • Workers are not ok – Mental health will become the most important employee engagement metric for businesses and brands. 
  • Managers will have to think like marketers – This is particularly true when it comes to surprising and delighting employees. Incentives, perks, and package (including healthcare and mental health support) will become more important than ever for a distributed workforce that chooses to work in-person or remotely.  
  • Reverse firing – It will become more common for employees to fire (or at least cause a hiatus for) their employers over their lack of purpose and unethical practices, such as the case of the CEO of the online mortgage lender – Better.com who, after firing of over 900 employees via Zoom had to take a hiatus due to his harsh tone and threats of strike action by Spotify staffers in the US following demands for editorial oversight of The Joe Rogan Experience podcasts. Employees will re-establish boundaries and balance in the pursuit of a better post-COVID quality of life. 
  • Keep employees in the picture – The global workforce has been clear that they want to be better informed and have a clearer oversight of their organisation’s direction, values and overall purpose, particularly during a crisis. Many people are facing indefinite job insecurity as the threat of a deeper global recession looms. Therefore, companies will need to step up and communicate with greater clarity on business continuity and long-term recovery strategies to invoke confidence and engage their employees. 
  • Software for soft skills – With remote and hybrid work being the way for many, technology will allow for greater collaboration and simulated “office” environments. Currently, we’re walking the strategic tight rope, balancing remote working with the value of face-to-face. Expect to see more ways of how we reimagine watercooler conversations and the power of networking. Using technology to better engage with junior workforces and support on-the-job training. 

These elements will play a crucial role in both attracting and retaining future talent in our global workforce, at all levels of seniority and job roles. Organisations will need to move quickly to embed a kindness-centric approach over the next few months, but with the understanding that this needs to be a more permanent shift to resonate with its post-pandemic workforce fully. 

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