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Elevating the Workforce Experience: Part 1
Deloitte's Workforce Experience by Design practice uses human-centered, equity-based design to understand workers like we do customers and design experience solutions that cultivate trust and loyalty. We define workforce experience as "the sum of a human’s lived experiences at work and how they feel about their organization" and believe there are eight key relationships that influence a worker's experience at an organization - two of which have been newly incorporated into our leading practice perspective. These elements include a worker's relationship with the work they do, the people they work with, the places they work, the technology they use, the organization they work for, their personal well-being, their sense of belonging, and the growth that delivers value to their career. A worker's sense of belonging and their growth are two new additions to highlight how organizations can foster diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities for the worker (belonging) and portable value beyond a worker's lived experiences (growth).
While work is dynamically shifting, core human values remain unchanged. Beyond working to earn a paycheck, workers also want work that is meaningful, provides a sense of connection, and contributes to a greater purpose. Moreover, organizations that deliver an engaging workforce experience are more likely to generate the kind of worker and customer loyalty that fuels business growth.1
Yet according to Deloitte’s 2020 Human Capital Trends Survey, while 79% of respondents rated fostering a sense of belonging in the workforce as ‘important’ to the success of the organization in the next 12 to 18 months, only 13% said they were ready to address this trend.2 It is more critical than ever for businesses to understand how to create an elevated workforce experience; one that will inspire, motivate, and connect generations of workers.
In this article, we focus on the first of these core relationship attributes – People. The People attribute focuses on the worker’s relationships with the customers they serve and the people they manage, report to, collaborate with, partner with, and engage within their work community. Underlying these relationships are six primary influencers:
Teaming – The ability of teams to collaborate, work together, foster relationships, and interact with customers
An environment that supports teaming fosters a culture of collaboration, connection, trust and respect. As more virtual work becomes part of the new-normal, leaders are faced with the challenge of engaging workers and creating a sense of teaming in the absence of shared physical space.3 By creating clarity on ways of working, building capacity and resources for agile work, and cultivating purposeful work, teams can continue to dynamically perform together even through times of uncertainty.4
Coaching – The ability and enablement of leaders to develop workers, inspire, create followership, and drive results
In today’s high-performing organizations, good managers serve as good coaches – they are generous with their recognition of good work, develop workers focusing on their growth, and provide actionable feedback to drive results. And a worker’s relationship with their manager is a critical factor in a worker’s experience.
To help meet the demands of a growing and changing workforce, managers can serve as facilitators of safe spaces; supporting each individual worker and accounting for their capabilities, experiences, and goals. In this way, managers can create followership, inspire their workforce, and effectively drive business results. In fact, appreciating an employee by saying a small “thank you” can perhaps be the most important motivational tool managers have. A recent Deloitte study showed that support and recognition from managers are commonly cited in the top five factors for job retention.5 Studies have also shown that high-performing teams give each other more than five positive comments for every criticism.6
Communication – How communication is conducted, delivered, and encouraged amongst people, teams, and customers
As technology enabled distributed work and quickly had to scale for remote work, many organizations are shifting from a primary focus on a physical space for the workforce. Many workers had to adapt overnight, all while continuing along their day-to-day work.7 How can workers maintain productivity and alignment with their team’s goals amid disruption and change?
In an age of increased transparency, communications need to be authentic, empathetic, and personalized (whether for small changes or major events) and can help connect with individuals regardless of where they physically sit. Communication between leaders, the workforce, and customers should strategically target the right audience at the right time with the right information. Furthermore, personalized, short, and to-the-point messages can help reinforce the purpose and strengthen the workforce experience for all workers. By expressing how each worker’s job plays a role in the big picture, employees can realize how their actions contribute to the mission of the organization.8
Trust - The safety and support workers feel to share ideas, address conflict, share burdens, and achieve goals
Humans thrive in environments where they feel physically and mentally safe, encouraged to speak their mind, and able to provide input without the fear of repercussions. A big part of creating that kind of environment is ensuring that the safety and support for all workers is of utmost priority. In fact, workers who feel treated humanely are more than twice as likely to take on additional responsibility and feel motivated to work.9 Building trust requires leaders to encourage workers to express divergent views while breaking the culture of conformity, unconscious biases, and providing sponsorship of workers. A trusting environment opens the door to improved collaboration, diversity of thoughts, engagement at work, as well as a sense of shared responsibility.
Network - The opportunities available and interpersonal relationships that connect people and build a network
Maintaining connectedness can be a challenge. Connective channels where workers build networks of coworkers, colleagues, and leaders that they can reach out to professionally and personally are key for an elevated workforce experience. These networks can help individuals feel included – providing a space where they are valued for who they are.
Leaders can build networks by capitalizing on the ubiquity of social media to directly connect with workers and humanize their role – sharing their own personal experiences and even giving peers a glimpse into daily routine or life events. Managers can also take the opportunity to organically create networks that are not defined by physical space. For instance, managers can informally build relationships with workers by proactively reaching out to celebrate personal milestones or to check on their well-being. Over time, a culture of connectivity will also help workers be able to connect with their colleagues, build trust within their team, and even identify opportunities for collaboration and growth.
Accountability – The level of accountability across people (i.e. teams and customers) that encourages collaborative behavior and shared goals
A balance of autonomy and accountability for work is crucial for workers to have a sense of empowerment within their roles. To foster accountability, organizations should reflect a culture of transparency, collaborative sharing of ideas, and encourage team members to raise potential risks or roadblocks. Timely follow-up, regular check-ins, or even daily group huddles can help the team resolve any barriers to productivity while promoting day-to day ownership of tasks.
In addition, documenting goals and leveraging digital platforms to circulate goals can make all the difference in terms of creating transparency in accountability. Consider from the perspective of the worker – goals that are clearly defined enables a sense of satisfaction once attained, and consensus on these goals can help with personal ownership over results. Additional team alignment on the desired vision can help the entire team feel valued and create an environment of communal success with each goal attained.
In summary, the People relationship between workers and those they interact with day-to-day strongly influences the Workforce Experience. For an elevated workforce experience, it is imperative that workers can share burdens, find opportunities for coaching and mentorship, build connective networks to bridge communication between individuals and groups, foster trust, and create accountability among team members. By investing in an elevated workforce experience, organizational leaders can unlock the potential of their people, and ultimately make work better for humans and humans better at work.
Melanie Langsett is a Principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice, where she leads Deloitte’s Workforce Experience offering. Melanie consults with clients on the full talent life cycle, with expertise in transforming employers’ relationships with their workforces to maximize workforce experience and business outcomes.
Maribeth Sivak is a Specialist Leader in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice, where she helps clients implement design thinking to reimagine and redefine the workforce experience. What makes her unique is her ability to thread workforce experience through solutions from strategy to design through implementation to deliver a transformative workforce experience and business results.
Jen Guo is a Senior Consultant in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice, where she helps clients envision, redesign, and organizationally manage their ideal employee experience. Jen uses her PhD in Psychology to provide insights on employee needs, better understand pain points, and deliver a successful change program for cross-industry clients.
Naina Sabherwal is a Consultant in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice, where she helps clients across the world assess, strategize, design, and implement global solutions to optimize their payroll and workforce management. Her passion for enhancing human experience coupled with her diverse experience in Human Resources Transformation projects, constantly propels her to deliver true business value for clients.
A principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice, Melanie has more than 30 years of employee benefit administration and human capital consulting experience serving a wide range of Fortune 500, nonprofit, and public sector clients. Melanie consults her clients about the full talent life-cycle with a particular expertise in transforming the way employers recognize and reward their workforce to maximize business outcomes. Melanie is frequently asked to speak on total rewards and human resource topics and has provided numerous training sessions for plan sponsors on leading practices in benefit operations.