COVID-19: Employee experience in times of crisis

COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on people’s lives across the world. This has resulted in the disruption of employee experience across all organizations - big or small. An organization’s employee experience is the sum total of everything that an employee feels, encounters, or observes throughout his journey in the organization. It is the aim of a good organization to provide a positive employee experience to their workforce to boost their morale and enhance organizational productivity.

The disruption in employee experience due to the COVID-19 crisis

The ongoing pandemic has introduced many changes in the employees’ personal and professional lives. A major change was brought in the form of the work-from-home culture. What started as a stop-gap arrangement until things went back to being normal, has now become the new normal. Most employees are away from the offices for prolonged periods of time. The environment where they worked has changed as they hardly have any face-to-face time with their colleagues, which is in sharp contrast to the earlier work regime. In the pre-COVID-19 world, much of an organization’s efforts to improve employee experience centered around physical spaces like the office campuses, training centers, outbound programs, etc. Today, with most employees working from home, the employee experience efforts are being prioritized and adjusted according to the changing scenario.

How are organizations focusing on their employee experience during the COVID-19 crisis?

When employees are going through uncertainty at home and work, companies that can make tangible efforts to enhance the employee experience will be able to keep their employees motivated. This will lead to a higher degree of output from the employees which is required when the survival of the business is on the line.

A great employee experience depends on a series of experiences for employees. Here are some of the ways in which organizations are curating an enhanced employee experience to fit the current needs of their workforce.

Safety first

The COVID-19 crisis is a healthcare crisis. Employees and their families are at risk of catching an invisible, novel virus. At this uncertain time, organizations need to stand up to the task of providing care to those who need it. For example, ensuring that employees who show up for essential services have access to appropriate safety gear is crucial to the survival of a business.

Similarly, ensuring that all employees have access to psychological counselling and healthcare services is helpful in keeping them fit. For instance, pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson has launched a telemedicine program for their employees across the world including India. The company offers phone-based confidential counselling support to employees through their employee assistance program. The aim of the company is to provide its employees with an outlet to share any health issues and find some redressal at a time when healthcare services are somewhat disrupted.

According to Venu Srinivasan, chairman of TVS motors, the company has a team of doctors monitoring the health of their employees. Their employees also have the option of ordering medicines at home apart from access to physicians. This is a great example that demonstrates how an organization can let its employees know that they put their employees’ safety first.

Create a transparent employee communication plan

According to a Deloitte advisory survey, 30% respondents feel that employees get overlooked when an organization deals with a crisis. When employees are overlooked, they end up with feelings of frustration or anxiety. They cannot trust the organization and lose their sense of belonging. All of this adversely affects their morale and productivity. Clearly, it can also hamper business success especially when the company is going through a rough time. Therefore, it is crucial that there is a transparent line of communication with the employees. The employees should be made aware of the company’s stance and initiatives which helps in keeping them aware and engaged.

A company can create an open line of communication by creating a crisis team of leaders from amongst the employees from different support functions such as HR, legal, communications, etc. The team could then cascade timely information to make sure employees and the organization are on the same page. Tools like surveys or emails should be available for employees to share any feedback. By listening to employee feedback and acting on the relevant inputs immediately, can ward-off early issues to a certain extent.

It also helps if employees are aware of their role within the organization’s plan for tackling the crisis. For example, eCommerce major Flipkart has clearly communicated the tasks expected of each employee in order to keep the virus at bay. Every employee has been assigned a numbered chair. Employees are mandated to wear masks. They need to keep all their belongings inside the desks so that every workstation can be fully sanitized. The transparency that an organization demonstrates in how it handles a crisis builds employees’ morale as they feel empowered to contribute to a safer workplace. This further enhances the organization’s employee experience.

Demonstrate that you care

DTH service provider Tata Sky believes that changes in work dynamics such as erratic work hours may lead to attitudinal changes in the employees. Therefore, it is trying to address the mental well-being of their employees through different initiatives such as virtual interactive sessions with nutrition and fitness experts, motivational talks from health experts and virtual Zumba classes, to name a few. It has also trained its managers to be more empathetic towards issues such as unavailability of employees or poor internet connectivity. This allows its employees to work at their own pace and embrace the new normal. Similarly, Mahindra has launched webinars on emotional hygiene for its employees working from home, apart from conducting a series of interactive sessions with clinical psychologists to help maintain the peace of mind.        

One of the most critical aspects of any organization’s crisis management is the response to the crisis. As the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the employees’ well-being, an organization’s response mechanism can help the employees survive the pandemic. Lastly, because a crisis can be uncertain, companies are also constantly learning and adapting according to the environment.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to cause disruption in its wake, it has become necessary for many companies to fight for the survival of their businesses. However, an important element of business success is its people. In a crisis like this, a business that demonstrates commitment towards the needs of its people will earn their trust and loyalty. This is an apt time for the organizations and their HR teams to create a thriving employee experience which facilitates higher productivity and leads to success.



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