Hybrid work: 5 tips for prioritizing the employee experience

A top employee experience is just as important as a top customer experience. Consider these best practices to keep your employees happy, healthy, and productive
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Companies everywhere talk about how important the customer experience is, and they’re not wrong – it’s a top priority for us, too, because without our customers, we’d be out of business. But at Clario, we place just a little more importance on driving an exceptional employee experience.

I’ve found that employees who are invested, feel recognized and challenged, have a sense of fun, and feel tied to the mission of the organization tend to deliver an outstanding customer experience. The quality of the product they deliver is better, the way they support customers is better, and they’re more empathetic toward the customer and what they experience every day. When you have invested employees, all of that comes a little easier.

Having a superior employee experience is important for a variety of reasons, especially given today’s hypercompetitive job market. It’s easier than ever to find a new job, which is why it’s so critical to work on elevating the experience your own employees have every day. We do this by cultivating a workforce that values diversity and inclusion and ensuring that they’re doing meaningful work, feel recognized, are compensated well, and have a transparent career path.

IT's role in the employee experience

Leaders in every organization are responsible for helping the company become a destination employer. You want to create the right culture, hire the right people, and demonstrate servant leadership. That’s important no matter where in the organization you work; in IT, however, our role is unique – we can play a big part in improving the employee experience through the technology and services we support.

Take the onboarding process, for example: If a new employee arrives on their first day and no one knows who they are, their laptop isn’t ready, and no one has properly welcomed them, that’s a terrible experience. But when you place high importance on the employee experience, that picture looks radically different: The new employee’s equipment is ready, they know what their role is in the organization, and all their systems and applications on their laptop work. When you check in with them to make sure everything is ok, that employee will feel like they’re welcomed, known, and cared about.

In a broader sense, IT plays one of the most important roles in removing any employee friction. We have opportunities to automate or digitize manual processes, remove duplicative systems or logins, and fix systems that don’t talk to one another. We can avoid pushing out patches when they’re in the middle of something important, we can reduce the time they spend on a help desk call, and we can simplify how many logins they must manage. When we proactively remove these big rocks from the employee’s backpacks, we lighten their load and enable them to focus on more value-added work.

Some of the opportunities IT tackles to improve the employee experience wouldn’t be labeled as groundbreaking, cutting-edge initiatives. But it’s necessary work. Take time to sit and talk with your employees and get as much data as you can out of your help desk and ticketing systems. This will help you identify trends and proactively tackle problems in the employee experience – before your employees get so burned out that they leave. When the organization knows you care about the “little” things, you’ll earn the trust you need to tackle the big things.

[ Get more tips from Ferro and other CIOs on creating a positive hybrid work culture in a new report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services: Maintaining Momentum on Digital Transformation ]

Prioritizing the employee experience in a hybrid work environment

The hybrid work environment that many of us are in today is a tricky one for providing a top-notch employee experience – some members of your team might be working from home while others are in the office. It’s difficult to maintain consistency during meetings or to have opportunities for camaraderie and team-building when your team is dispersed.

But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible. There are several things you can do to ensure that you’re maintaining your employee experience with a hybrid team:

1. Test your meeting space

It’s so important to make sure you’re inclusive of everyone on your team – both in the office and working remotely. This even applies to your meeting spaces. Look at your conference room or meeting space and test whether you can clearly see the whiteboard so you know everyone can see what you’re discussing. If you’re using virtual whiteboard technology, then make sure everyone can participate and work out technical issues as quickly as possible. Make sure that the technologies you’re using work well not just for remote employees, but customers and clients, too. One way to do this is to create a model home office within the workplace – set up a space where you participate as a remote employee to ensure that everything looks and works properly.

Make sure that the technologies you’re using work well not just for remote employees, but customers and clients, too.

2. Take some meetings remotely

On a similar note, make some meetings remote regardless of who is in the office on that day. This gets everyone on equal footing so you can all stay laser-focused on what you’re talking about. Identify certain types of meetings that might be more conducive to remote-only, such as operational reviews or status meetings. You might even consider making all one-on-ones and coaching sessions remote-only so that everyone on the team is getting equal face time.

3. Make time to connect virtually

An important piece of the employee experience is making sure that your employees have fun. That’s a lot easier when they’re in the office and can play ping-pong or go bowling together, and a lot more difficult when part of your team is remote. Be intentional about planning team-building exercises that can be done remotely, such as virtual happy hours, virtual meet-and-greets, and virtual show-and-tells.

4. Promote fairly

Transparency and fairness in hiring and promoting are more important than ever in a hybrid work environment. There can be no handshakes over happy hour or interviews with local candidates at a nearby restaurant. Everyone applying for a promotion or open position should have a consistent interview experience, which will likely be virtual for the foreseeable future. This will eliminate bias in hiring and career advancement decisions and send a clear message that everyone is on equal footing.

5. Take care of your team

Your team members are people with lives outside of the 8 hours they’re working; it’s important that you make an effort to take care of their whole being and have a finger on the pulse of their wellness. This means empowering people to take time off. The worst thing a leader can do is make people feel like it’s a badge of honor to not take a vacation. Give them permission to enjoy time off and their families, devoid of work emails and work responsibilities.

Constantly working to improve the employee experience is important to us at Clario. Having happy employees who value and enjoy the work they do not only helps us attract and retain top talent, but it also helps us produce exceptional work and provide exceptional customer experiences.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Jay Ferro
Jay Ferro is currently EVP, Chief Information, Technology, and Product Officer for Clario, a global data and technology company that minimizes risk and uncertainty in clinical trials, so that organizations can move ahead quickly – and with confidence.