Technologies4 min read

HR’s Vital Role for Empowering Employee Experiences & Workplace Culture

Susan Insley

These are unprecedented times for human health and safety. The pandemic impacts the very nature of how we live and work. But business continues to move forward, albeit in new ways and, for many, from distributed locations.

For HR professionals leading their companies through this tumultuous time, it’s vital that we reflect on employee experience.

[caption id="attachment_22035" align="alignright" width="150"] Susan Insley, VP of Human Resources, VMware[/caption]

Here’s why: Your company reputation is tied to the employee experience—a combination of culture, work style, and technology. Employee experience during this pandemic could impact your business’ reputation for years. That’s why it’s important that we as HR leaders, keepers of the culture and employment brand stewards, send the right message.

Workplace Culture Defines Operations and Mindsets

As with any assessment, all leaders need to start by acknowledging where we are today. Most workforces are doing their best to overcome the challenges of distributed work or working in new ways. Compassion is vital for leading our employees and companies through this time.

Two of the most crucial factors for exceptional employee experiences are trust and empowerment. During this time, it’s even more critical to empower and support our people managers to give employees the flexibility and support they need.

Yes, getting the work done is important. But our employees’ well-being should (and does) come first. Each employee experience and the day-to-day situation is different, for sure. Some individuals are caring for elderly family members. Many are raising and teaching young children at home. Others are quarantined or living alone.

It is vital to consider the messages your top managers send your workforce not once, but regularly. Employees have long memories, and genuine messages resonate. The clarity you provide, how you make employees feel, and the programs HR leaders offer will likely impact the way employees view your company well into the future. And their behavior directly impacts your reputation with customers, partners, and shareholders. It’s up to HR in collaboration with managers to help determine whether that impact is beneficial or detrimental.

Workstyle Adaptability Uncovers Insights

Although it may be difficult or uncomfortable for some, new ways of working don’t have to be less productive. In many cases it will be more productive. And in the case of distributed work, it doesn’t have to be less “fun” than in-office experiences. At VMware, for example, our teams are creating new working norms and rituals as we shifted to being completely virtual.

[caption id="attachment_22024" align="alignright" width="300"]remote_work_security_VMware_Radius Helping employees adjust to a new normal: Tips for Enabling a Remote Workforce: “Work Is What You Do, Not Where You Go”[/caption]

We continue to keep team members focused on deliverables, setting attainable goals, and completing deadlines. As this is one of the only areas that individuals can control, we believe it creates a feeling of predictability and stability for our employees.

But we also recognize that individuals are feeling stressed and anxious. That’s why we designate HR partners to work one-on-one with managers to provide individualized guidance and support. Through these one-on-one meetings, managers learn how to support their employees’ unique work and psychological safety needs.

We’re also helping people managers learn about their employees on an individual level. Employee personality traits and creative expressions are bubbling to the surface. Here are two of my favorite recent anecdotes:

  • One of our more buttoned-up employees created a VMware mascot sock puppet that appears on-camera during virtual team meetings—bringing welcome light-heartedness.
  • We recently hosted a virtual “bash,” transforming a longstanding in-person social gathering into a global talent show.

These types of shared experiences allow executives, managers, and employees alike to get to know one another on a deeper level. And now more than ever, we can help our businesses form new cultural bonds and improve the overall employee experience.

[caption id="attachment_21431" align="alignright" width="300"] Read CEO Laurel Farrer's Leadership Voices column: 4 Phases to Help Your Suddenly Remote Workforce[/caption]

In response to the global pandemic, VMware’s close-knit HR and IT collaboration enabled us to transition 31,000 global employees to fully remote in days. We worked closely together to meet both technical requirements and employee needs. And we in HR continue to stay closely aligned with IT on guidance and policies. This helps ensure our employees have the tools and resources they want and need to complete their work to the best of their ability, no matter what device is at hand.

Looking Forward

Leaders are making decisions that impact long-term company reputation and culture. That’s why prioritizing employee experience is crucial. If you’re wondering where to start, here are my suggestions for HR leaders:

  1. Check-in with a few employees a week across levels and organizations.
    • Ask about their experience. Are individuals feeling supported? Safe? Do they have clear goals? What else do they need to be productive in their current work environment?
  2. Regularly connect IT and HR departments to evaluate the operating rhythm.
    • Are employees engaged? Do they have the tools they need? Do they know how to work the tools they have? What else would help them do their best work?
  3. Communicate a vision and be as transparent as possible.
    • Are you truly in this together? What do you hope and expect to achieve next? How will you navigate the journey through these tough times?

Becoming a Champion of Digital Employee Experience

u003cpu003eYour business competes for the same talent as your competitors. And most organizations aren’t just contacting prospective employees in the same city or region anymore. You’re reaching across the globe. u003c/pu003e

For many of us, these are unmapped areas, and it’s okay to make mistakes. But answers to these questions can go a long way to strengthening your employee experience not only now, but for years to come. Our company’s success and reputation depend on getting it right.