Eight Steps to Build a Happier, More Effective Workforce

The pandemic is changing the way work is done – and how companies manage their employees.

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COVID-19 is catalyzing what may be the greatest human resources transformation ever. As businesses face unprecedented challenges, HR teams are adapting to find what works now and for the future.

DocuSign hosted a virtual event with Chief People Officers from Workday and Zoom, to learn how they are handling hiring, remote work, and wellness. From their discussion, we pulled eight best practices to improve employee experience:  

  1. Take care of your employees

It’s axiomatic: If you support your employees well, they will support your customers. In the first weeks of shelter-in-place, the primary focus of HR was the health and safety of employees. Workday and Zoom distributed an extra half-month’s pay to their employees to support them through the transition. DocuSign offered its workers reimbursement for a wide array of expenses they might have incurred suddenly including home office equipment, eldercare and grocery delivery.

The emotional well-being of employees is highly important, panelists agreed. Zoom, Workday, and DocuSign have all invested extra attention in this area, whether by allotting time for team celebrations, holding themed workdays, or creating space for virtual hallway chats.

  1. Meet employees where they are

Today, work roles of employees are secondary to their other roles in life, such as spouse and parent. “The employee experience is first a human experience,” said Ashley Goldsmith, Chief People Officer at Workday. Grasping this new reality, HR teams are embracing an expanded view of employee experience to focus on things that would have traditionally fallen outside of the workplace experience. Workday offers a menu of modified schedules for employees who are caregivers and an option for a caregiver leave of absence for up to 12 weeks.

  1. Understand the expectations of employees

The current situation is setting a precedent for flexible work arrangements and remote work. Employees who can do their jobs from home may prefer to continue to work remotely even after offices open. Going forward, employees may expect flexibility and autonomy in how and when they get work done. Zoom has leaned into this shift to asynchronous work and is experimenting with a no-meeting day in which employees are encouraged to not have Zoom calls, and instead do focused, independent work. 

Joan Burke, Chief People Officer at DocuSign, shared that her company has shifted from a focus on mostly physical wellness with regard to health benefits to include mental health resources as well. This change came after learning from employees that they were really struggling to hold it all together this year. “We weren’t sure we were doing the right thing, but we took an employee-first mentality.” DocuSign now offers a virtual health network for telehealth visits, and a mental health benefit that extends what is offered through the Employee Assistance Program. 

  1. Listen first, then act

Lynne Oldham, Chief People Officer at Zoom, offered advice on how to begin the process of changing the employee experience. Zoom sent out pulse surveys in the early days of the pandemic to understand immediate needs, and subsequently a more comprehensive survey to gauge how challenges have been met and what still needs to be addressed. They have also coordinated virtual listening sessions, providing employees with an opportunity to voice how they’re feeling. Workday sends a short survey out every Friday to gauge how employees are feeling. 

  1. Candidate care should be top of mind

When looking at the hiring process, the panel agreed that candidate care has to be a top priority. Lynn Oldham advised it’s critical to give candidates as much latitude in interviews as possible. For example, she was on a Zoom interview recently where the child of the candidate joined the interview call because he was in the middle of school lessons. “You can’t hold old ideals of how a professional interview should be conducted,” she summarized.

Once candidates are hired, it’s important to understand that people consume information in different ways and thus learn in different ways, and that ramp-up time is potentially going to take longer for new hires.

  1. Find ways to emphasize culture

DocuSign has invested in people-manager training and resources to support the transition to remote onboarding. “People managers are part of the hiring process, they are onboarding employees and in many ways they are holding up the culture,” says Burke. Zoom has also invested in rethinking onboarding. It’s fully virtual now, and it’s even more of a deep immersion in the culture than it was before. “We take care of all the IT and benefits beforehand so we can go deep on values, culture, and brand,” said Oldham.

  1. Invest in remote core business processes

This is a given, a year into what has been a fully remote work experience, for most information workers. But if your HR department hasn’t already adopted tools to support virtual hiring, onboarding, and ongoing operations, all three HR leaders agree that it’s critical. Remote work is here to stay. 

Related: HR Technology Trends: Embracing Digital Transformation

  1. Experiment and continue to learn

Despite the emphasis on remote work, the HR leaders acknowledged that in-person collaboration cannot be replaced. It will be important to find the right blend of at-work and remote work for your company’s culture. For now though, everyone is still experimenting to see what works. Be open to innovative ways to keep employees connected and engaged, whether that be deploying employee collaboration tools, having a central repository for employee documents, digitizing the onboarding process, or getting employee agreements signed faster. Now is the time to invest in the right tools to support a digital, remote, and mobile workforce.

For more insights from the panel, be sure to watch the full, on-demand event Keep the World Hiring.

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