It’s no exaggeration to say that COVID-19 has changed all of our lives irrevocably. It’s not just the mind-boggling numbers of people who died, lost loved ones, or are struggling to live with long-haul covid. It’s also the number of ways that our lifestyles have been altered in the wake of a global pandemic.
The lockdown restrictions, travel bans, and social distancing regulations might be slowly being lifted, but they’ve left their mark. Digital transformation was on the road before COVID-19 hit, but McKinsey estimates that the first 3 months of the pandemic shoved it ahead by 10 years.
It’s most obvious when you remember that everyone who could, shifted to remote working almost overnight, but the digital transformation acceleration also speeded up the introduction and adoption of customer portals, self-service apps, contact-free payments, digital invoices, and receipts, and much more besides. There’s no going back to an analog world.
Inevitably, the employee experience has changed too, in ways that go beyond a much more favorable attitude to working from home. Here are some of the many changes to the employee experience in the digitally transformed workplace.
1. Frontline Workers Get More Empowered
Digital transformation means more than just adopting cloud tools and supporting remote work. It means transforming the corporate culture into a digitally transformed culture, which operates according to a much flatter and more equal hierarchy. In a true digital culture, you can’t run the business from top-down.
C-suite executives need to be free to focus on uniting the organization, driving high-level revenue-generating initiatives, and ensuring that the company remains agile and responsive to rapidly changing circumstances. They can’t micromanage small details; instead, far more power needs to be devolved into the hands of frontline employees. A digital culture educates and empowers “ordinary” workers to spot anomalies and take the initiative to deal with them.
2. Teams Are Becoming More Diverse
Now that it’s the norm for employees to work anywhere, there’s no reason to let geography put restrictions on recruitment options. Today’s enterprises can hire talent from anywhere in the world, motivated only by the desire to find the best possible fit for the position, the team, and the company. By the same token, job seekers won’t feel constrained to apply only to positions that are within an easy commute.
More flexible working conditions are also more convenient for single parents who are highly motivated but can’t squash their availability into a 9-5 day. Equally, hybrid workplaces open up more opportunities for applicants with disabilities, who are often pushed out of the workforce by non-disabled friendly offices and HR departments who are nervous about their ability to meet requests for accessible workstations.
There’s even a chance that merit-based hiring will steam ahead, with phone interviews enabling hiring choices that aren’t influenced by skin color. In the long term, teams and organizations will become more diverse, spanning more cultures, backgrounds, and interests, which helps broaden horizons and drive innovation.
3. Work Is Becoming More Flexible
The digital transformation isn’t just enabling more remote work, but more flexible working practices. The swift adoption of digital communication platforms, document sharing tools, and project management platforms mean that employees can choose when to be in the office.
Once there’s no longer an assumption that everyone is “at work” at the same time, there’s far less pressure for every employee to work set hours. Companies are finally abandoning a culture of presentee-ism, recognizing that as long as your colleagues do the work, it doesn’t matter when they do it.
The new workplace normal accepts that not everyone will be online at the same time, and asynchronous communication tools help keep every team member in the loop no matter when they choose to complete their tasks.
4. Soft Skills Are Coming To The Fore
It’s slightly ironic that the further we get along the road to digital adoption, the more important soft skills become in the business universe. Once enterprises can automate more tasks and delegate them to digital tools, the real talent becomes the ability to communicate and connect.
Customers prize human interactions more as they become rarer, with 75% of consumers saying they want more human interactions. That means that employees can expect to spend more time on human interactions and less time on tedious computer-based tasks.
Despite all the buzz around the need for digital talent, employees who are excellent communicators and empaths are going to be most in demand. Managers need more training in soft skills to keep remote teams together and deal with employee complaints from afar.
5. More Meetings Will Become Emails
When the whole workforce was in the office every day, calling meetings seemed easy (at least from the point of view of the person who didn’t have to interrupt their work to attend them). But with hybrid workforces and remote employees, scheduling a meeting means checking when everyone is free, and often coordinating across time zones.
It’s a lot easier to use asynchronous communication, like emails, Slack channels, and in-platform chat to share feedback, brainstorm new ideas, and troubleshoot issues, instead of calling an all-hands meeting. Fewer meetings and more emails can only be good news.
The New Digital Employee Experience Has Arrived
Like it or not, the digital transformation has ushered in a “new normal” for employees with fewer meetings, more flexible working hours, more diverse teams, more responsibility devolved to employees, and a greater need for soft skills. Enterprises that embrace the potential of a digital workplace can use these changes to build a more inclusive, welcoming, and adaptable organization where both employees and customers are happier.
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