The employee experience at the workplace was already going through epochal changes before the Covid-19 pandemic. Glorified overwork, prevalent cultures of presenteeism, politicized workplaces, underrepresentation of groups, rigid and archaic hierarchies, and thriving inequality were all being recognized as harmful deterrents to building a good workplace culture. When the pandemic hit, it upended work as we knew it, bringing into sharp focus the importance of engaged, productive, and healthy employees in contributing to the sustained and resilient growth of an organization. This in turn brought about a renewed focus on the need to care for and nurture the workforce, ushering in a new paradigm for the future of work – people-centric workplaces.
What is an employee-centric workplace?
An organization that fosters a people-centric culture values and treats its human capital as an asset. Such an organization commits to continuously improving its workforce’s everyday work experience, starting at diligently assessing existing culture, strategizing a vision for the future, taking inputs from all stakeholders, investing in tools, technology, and processes that will realize the vision into reality, and constantly innovating towards better practices.
Organizations that achieve people-centric cultures have normally been ones that prioritized creating better human experiences, recognizing that their people inherently want to be good at their jobs and the onus lies on management to create conducive environments in which people can thrive. In this environment there is a genuine commitment to learning, development, empowering teams to do great work, promoting diversity, and a strong focus on employee well-being.
What does employee-centric mean in the future of work?
In the modern workplace, employee-centric design and activity are intentional and deeply embedded in the fabric of the culture of an organization. As the nature of the workplace evolves into more remote and hybrid workplaces, people-centricity will become a defining feature of organizations that are equipped for the future of work.
In the post-pandemic world, as companies prepare to build the modern workplace, on one hand, employees are increasingly skeptical about returning to the physical workplace. On the other hand, both leaders and employees have adapted and succeeded in implementing remote work, displaying remarkable productivity and growth. These factors gave rise to the idea of the hybrid workplace, where employees opt for the flexibility to choose where they work from. Work, in itself, has been redefined as tasks that get done, rather than being viewed through the lens of when, how, or from where a person gets jobs done. This paradigm shift in thought-process will define the future of work, where tasks can be completed irrespective of employees being in an office or a cafe or on their couches.
To facilitate this location-agnosticism, companies should transform their digital infrastructure and the processes that run their workflows where successful transformations will be characterized by their focus on the people as protagonists and the IT processes as supporting actors.
Alongside developing flexible working environments, leaders and managers should also focus on assuring their workforce of job security in the new normal. Particularly in remote and hybrid teams, where some, most, or all employees will work in distributed locations, management must ensure that their people feel supported, recognized, and assured of growth and importance within their teams.
Trust, Autonomy, and Data-Driven Visibility
The global work from home experiment enforced by the pandemic yielded a surprising peak in productivity, showcasing not only the resilience of the workforce but also the inherent capabilities for autonomous and productive work regardless of being under managerial sight. This culture of trusting employees to produce successful work while empowering them with the autonomy to make decisions will be the cornerstone of modern, employee-centric workplaces.
To support this culture of trust in an environment of limited visibility into dispersed teams, companies should rely on data to equip them with insights for decision-making and management. People managers and leaders should use data and work analytics to understand how their teams work, ensure that teammates are aligned with the organization’s goals and culture, and find avenues to help their coworkers to perform better. Many pitfalls of traditional workplace visibility can be overcome by this data-driven approach where bias can be mitigated, contributions can be recognized, and employees can be supported through timely managerial efforts.
A human-centered organization is anchored on the fundamentals of an organizations’ vision and purpose. Leaders have to begin by asking what they want to change about the world and what new world they will build. All strategic efforts of the company will then be tailored as responses to this fundamental question, and from this, a purpose-led organization can evolve.
In the future of work, where the majority of the workforce will be millennials and Gen-Z employees, purpose takes a deeper and important meaning, since this generation of employees demands sustainable, eco-friendly, and responsible businesses are the norm. As a result, in the modern workplace leaders can creatively engage their workforce and align them with shared goals and purposes that will improve employee engagement and retention.
A post-pandemic workplace can be built by the combined efforts of leaders, managers, and employees that are equipped to shape the future of work. This workforce cannot thrive without adequate effort to nurture its physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The ill-effects of the pandemic threw into focus the malaise of the culture of burnout and overwork that was touted as signals of success. In the new world, however, success has been redefined as a workplace that can achieve work-life balance by truly caring for its employees. Increased usage of wellness technology (about 70% of companies invest in wellness tech) in addition to creative ways of engaging and understanding employee feedback are already the norm today.
Again, data-driven insights should lead the way in achieving and sustaining this balance between work and personal life. Data about signals of burnout, overwork, and those of increased productivity and focus will all be thrown under the spotlight to nurture and support a well-rounded employee experience.
Why should organizations care?
All organizations exist to create value for their many stakeholders – the customers, the business leaders, and the employees. In order to truly create and sustain value, companies must focus on these stakeholders, creating strategic initiatives that will place stakeholder interest at the forefront. This effort starts at creating employee-centric workplaces, simply because this is where the majority of the value can be created.
Employees that feel important and valued at the workplace are committed and engaged to work towards shared objectives. 84% of employees surveyed by a Deloitte study reported that they felt motivated to contribute to their teams when they felt that they were being taken care of by their employers. Employee engagement is also critical to employee retention, where companies that succeeded at employee-centric policies reported an 8% turnover as opposed to 21% turnover in companies that lacked human-centric policies.
Better communication, collaboration, and outcomes
A workforce-centered environment creates a culture of openness and transparent communication that results in better collaboration between employees. Combined with an open hierarchical structure, this can lead to a free flow of knowledge, information, and ideas that can spark innovation and lead to better business outcomes. Creating positive work cultures will help teams be more productive at work and contribute towards long-term business success.
Better customer experience
Great customer experience is and will always be the primary driver of success for any organization. In order to create value for customers, organizations must build customer-focused solutions and provide exemplary customer service. For both these activities, employees are key to making an impact. In an employee-centric workplace, the workforce is empowered to create solutions that will positively impact customers. Such a workplace will also enable employees to practice effective strategies for customer engagement, throughout the value chain, at every interaction with a customer.
Productive employees, happy customers, lesser employee turnover, and increased innovation can form the impetus for organizational growth and success. An IBM research shows that companies that take a human-centric approach to growth report 32% higher revenues than traditional organizations. In these organizations, innovation supports new outcomes to market twice as fast as competitors and ultimately leads to outperforming other companies.
How to build an employee-centric workplace in the future of work?
A top-down approach
Hybrid workplaces and increased remote or work from anywhere cultures are the future of the workplace. To create employee-centrism in this environment, change and commitment must start at the very top line of leadership. To start with, companies must reimagine their vision and structure the purpose of their businesses to cater to creating value for all people involved. This vision should then be realized by building employee-centric policies and practices that are adopted across teams. In order to sustainably manage this workplace, leaders should measure data to inform decision-making and use this data to innovate better ways of establishing human-centric long-term workplace processes.
Culture of trust, collaboration, and innovation
A team’s performance is dependent on a leaders’ ability to build an environment of trust, excellence, and collaboration. Such a culture allows team members to self-evaluate their performance, seek support from their peers, and collaborate towards shared goals. Setting purpose-driven goals, mindful communication, facilitating conversation and feedback, and ensuring data-facilitated management will contribute towards building a human-centered business.
Visibility using data
Visibility is the ability of a team to acknowledge and appreciate the work of all contributors. Knowledge workers flourish by knowing that their work is recognized and valued within organizations. This individual visibility snowballs into building team morale where every individual comes together to be innovative, collaborative, and supportive towards a shared purpose and vision. In the modern workplace where visibility is limited due to remote work, leaders must depend on data to ensure that they are able to create an environment of acknowledgment, appreciation, and reward, irrespective of work location. Data-driven visibility will help people managers to not only recognize how and what work is being done, but it will also aid in supporting employees better in cases of bottlenecks and overwork.
Focus on growth and learning
The new generation of employees is hyper-driven and aspiring to self-improvement. An employee-centric workplace must create an environment that nurtures the personal and professional goals of its workforce by creating enough opportunities for growth through learning and development.
Employees’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being are at the core of a healthy and thriving future-ready workplace. Particularly in a hybrid or remote environment where it can be easy to fall into trends of overwork, burnout, or blurred work-life boundaries, people managers must focus on ensuring the well-being of their teammates. Wellness programs should go beyond campaigns and be implemented as actionable activities – from small steps of avoiding overwork and fatigue to larger wellness initiatives for physical and mental health, managers and leaders must dedicate time and resources to nurturing a healthy workforce.
Focus on productivity
Create a culture of quality that focuses on empowering teams to do their best work. Brainstorm and communicate success metrics, plan work to facilitate success, equip teams with tools to do good work, nurture different work styles, empower diverse teams, and focus on productivity as the end goal. Such a culture will foster innovation, increased collaboration, and sustained development.
Make data your best guide
As companies venture into building the workplace of the future, data will be the guiding light to many aspects of business, particularly to support remote and hybrid workplaces. Be it building team culture, ensuring employee well-being, facilitating work-life balance, or promoting collaborative innovation, data will play a central role in providing leaders and managers with a viewpoint of employee efforts, the technology that aids the workforce, and the processes that drive success.
The future of work is an evolving phenomenon where disruption will be more commonplace and success will be defined by the ability of organizations to be resilient and agile. To thrive in this future, organizations should depend on their workforce’s ability to reinvent capabilities, technologies, and policies to manage and overcome disruptors. There has never been a more opportune time to commit to building a better and more equitable world of work.
💡 Hatica’s work analytics platform equips engineering leaders and managers with visibility into effort allocation, delivery velocity, and collaboration trends and prompts signals of burnout, enabling leaders with insights to promote employee productivity while improving employee well-being.