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Employee Experience

3 iconic brands on how they are building a new way to work

As employees start to return to workplaces after 18 months of working remotely, we have an unprecedented opportunity to create a new way to work that will improve on what went before and unlock multiple new opportunities for employers and employees.

The question is, what do we keep from before, what do we add, and what do we let go of?

Qualtrics’ recent Future of Work Study gave insight into this topic, exploring how employees want hybrid working practices to be designed, how people want traditional offices to be redesigned in response to the changes, and how working remotely is impacting productivity — and our perception of it — in the workplace.

In a recent webinar, we dove deeper into the topic of the Future of Work, speaking with three of the leading employee experience specialists in Asia Pacific about what they're doing right now to adapt to the issues they’ve faced and what they're focusing on as they look ahead.

Casey Hotham, Future Workplace Experience at Telstra; Jalpa MacMillan, Team Listening and Insights at Woolworths Group; and Dilip Boury, Head of Employee Listening at Standard Chartered Bank, shared their key lessons from the past 18 months, and how they’re using data insights to inform how they design the work experience for more than 300,000 staff members across their organizations.

We also had the chance to hear from our attendees on where they are in their future of work programs. More than half (52%) said their company had already embarked on a journey to design a new way to work, while 42% said they had not. Just 9% said they expected their people to work entirely from the office going forward.

“Seize the moment and be ‘change makers’”

Charged with Future Workplace Experience at Telstra, Casey Hotham oversees the future workplace experience plans for Telco’s 25,000 permanent staff, as well as a significant number of contractors. Hotham shared that, for her, going forward into the future of work isn’t about needing to have all the answers — it’s about staying curious and adaptable.

“Have a clear, but adaptable strategic ambition, be curious and data-driven in your decision making, connect with kindness and compassion, and be clear about the outcomes and impact you want to have for your people, customers, and the broader society,” Hotham advised.

Fundamental to achieving this is listening to what people have to say and learning about what matters to them.

“The pace at which things are changing is unprecedented, and a simple act of listening can be so powerful,” she said.

Experimenting with hybrid practices and learning based on the insights is key, Hotham advised, as well as drilling down beyond what seems obvious at face value from your data sets — and being ready to adapt.

“People may say they feel more productive, but it may be masking burnout. You need to be mindful of the unintended consequences of hybrid working.  This includes ensuring you’re not putting in place practices that are unfair or inequitable across a diverse workforce,” added Hotham.

Stakes are high in the war for talent, according to Hotham, and this is a chance to seize the moment and be “change-makers,” because how we create unique workplace experiences will be critical in determining who wins out.

“Take a test-and-learn approach”

As the Head of Listening at Woolworths Group, Jalpa Macmillan’s work sees her designing the employee experience for the company’s 200,000 staff across Australia and New Zealand. In this role, Jalpa finds herself thinking a lot about the cultural impact of new working styles and what it means for leaders’ ability to stay connected to their teams when it becomes harder to see or hear from each other in person.

According to Macmillan, a big question for leaders is: “How are you keeping those connections (with employees) alive?”

As employees in the corporate segment at Woolworths Group start to return to the office, Macmillan said she’s keenly aware of the need to manage and measure how people re-adjust to work “in real life” — rather than just assuming things will go back to how they once were.

Research shows there’s an adjustment period when people re-enter the workplace and meet people they may only have interacted with previously online. Being prepared to manage and measure this adjustment will be key to ensuring a smooth transition from remote to hybrid working.

Like Hotham, Macmillan agreed that moving towards a new hybrid normal that works better for all must involve taking a test-and-learn approach — one which combines employee sentiment with data about their actual behavior in the work environment.

“Try something, see how it goes. Look at current behaviors around the office space and use these as you redesign your approach: what days of the week do people like to come in? Do they need space for collaboration?” she said.

“Take the opportunity to drive meaningful change”

For Dilip Boury, Head of Employee Listening at Standard Chartered Bank, the ambiguity of the past 18 months and even the year ahead has meant leaders must engage more regularly with staff — even if there are 86,000 of them across 59 countries, as is the case with Standard Chartered Bank.

For Boury, “mobilizing people virtually” is one of the biggest challenges of the hybrid work era. Achieving this must involve branching out into new ways of listening that are both active and passive and using the data collected to tell meaningful stories back to the business about the new way forward.

“Innovation, experimentation, and learning will be critical going forward,” he said.

These capabilities are fundamental to how Standard Chartered is responding to today’s business challenges. For example, the company's future of work program has evolved to become a permanent and sustainable way of working at Standard Chartered, despite its initial creation designed for the purpose of simply enabling employees to work remotely at the outset of the pandemic. The program is continually evolving as Standard Chartered works to balance the benefits of remote working with the social and innovation benefits of face-to-face interaction with clients and colleagues.

Having seen how much is possible, Dilip’s key takeaway is not to let this unexpected opportunity to reimagine work slip away.

“These moments don’t present themselves often in life. Let’s take the opportunity to do something with it and drive meaningful change. We can uncover amazing new possibilities — let’s not get stuck in frames from before but instead use it to improve the lives of everyone in our organizations,” he said.

A better way to work

As organizations drive toward a more flexible and hybrid future in which they build a happier and more productive organization, it’s important to remember that, to deliver an incredible experience, organizations will need to take into account and act on the diverse needs of every employee.

Many organizations have proved their ability to do this since the beginning of 2020. The challenge now is to maintain this momentum as teams design and improve working models tailored to current and evolving employee expectations.

It is a challenge equally as big and important as the one at the outset of the pandemic.

Watch the full discussion with Telstra, Standard Chartered, and Woolworths Group here.

Steve Bennetts // EX Solutions & Strategy APJ

Steve Bennetts, EX Solutions & Strategy APJ is a contributor to the Qualtrics blog.

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