Issue 26, Oct 2020 - The Next New Normal: Enhancing Workplace Experience during COVID-19 Pandemic

By Sean Ng | Co-founder and Managing Director | Cornerstone Global Partners 


The Next New Normal: Enhancing Workplace Experience during COVID-19 Pandemic

As organizations enter the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a rising call to increase focus on workforce engagement and well-being. According to a recent CGP Flexible Working Survey conducted in Asia Pacific, more than 50% of respondents ranked employee experience as the top initiative to be addressed by business leaders; while 57% of corporate executives responded working less efficiently in this new remote working arrangement, and citing concerns about the future of their roles and development of the industry they are in. 

Such statistics belie a fundamental truth – the COVID-19 crisis is indeed affecting people significantly in numerous ways, ranging from work-home living disruptions, capability and skill shifts, material commitment struggles, stress, job insecurities, etc. 

Hence, the return phase of the pandemic presents an opportunity for organizations to reflect on employee experience on a deeper level and implement a more tailored and sophisticated response to workplace problems. This can help employees feel more supported, and thereby promoting a shared sense of cohesion and social harmony across. Here I have highlighted three main recommendations that I feel are important that may help to elevate workplace experience to a whole new level:

Build trust and listen to your employees 
As business transformation plans unfold and organizational stability is at question, it is even more important that leaders must step up and build their credibility by being transparent and empathetic about the situation everyone is going through. Employees should be given airtime through various channels like town halls, individual sharing sessions, or even digital chat platforms; to communicate with employees regularly on how they are coping. 

Furthermore, periodic checkpoints on transformative action plans can be discussed, that allow employees autonomy to take charge of their career track, through tailored interventions according to the employee’s evolving needs. When employees feel supported by people they can trust, the respect and belief in leadership become an intrinsic motivation for employees to press on through uncertain times. 

Create and maintain a culture that fosters creativity, cohesion, and social harmony 
According to a report by Mckinsey & Company, it highlights the importance of a long-term clear purpose for employees by communicating to them and getting them involved in something bigger than themselves. This is extremely apt as such a sense of purpose can potentially be a massive driving force that rallies everyone together through this challenging period. 

As ways of working shift dramatically with the ongoing pandemic, empower employees to take ownership of new work duties, processes, and collaborations. These inclusive actions of trust and confidence on employees may break away negative thoughts of job insecurities and help build an integrated culture from a foundation of involvement and trust. Junior employees can also take on different side projects or mentoring duties, that enable innovative idea generation and strengthening of networks within business divisions for effective team building. 

Invest on workforce technology and analytics 
With the outbreak of COVID-19, organizations had to send their workforce home, where business infrastructures are rapidly transformed to incorporate remote working and allow smooth continuity of business operations. As a result, organizations will most likely continue to function remotely in the future, resulting in a dramatic shift of traditional office workplace effectiveness to focusing on end user experience and productivity online. 

For instance, organizations are recommended to relook into their workforce data to measure productivity beyond the traditional office settings and incorporate more human-centric analytics, such as health, stress levels, and social behaviours; to explore the relationship between employee engagement and physiological stress resulted. Furthermore, routine-based tasks can be automated through artificial intelligence (A.I.) applications, so that employees are freed from operational duties to pursue more enriching and complex tasks on hand. In fact, as organizations brace themselves for a new digital phase, cyber resilience is an aspect that cannot be neglected, to protect critical capabilities and services from malicious malware and cyber criminals exploiting the current situation for gain.  

As the pandemic continues to spread, organizations must continue to meet health and safety guidelines for their employees but improving employee experience must not be neglected. While perspectives and encounters of individual employees differ from one another, organizations must be constantly vigilant to adopt a heightened yet malleable approach towards employee engagement, to foster trust, respect, and employee happiness, in this new normal. 


About the writer: 

Headquartered in China, Cornerstone Global Partners (CGP) is an Asia-centric recruitment solutions firm with a global reach through offices in China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore, along with network offices in 40 other countries around the globe, including the United States. As a co-founder of CGP and Managing Director for Asia Pacific, Mr Sean Ng leads a regional team that provide recruitment-consulting services, which include traditional C-level to mid-level executive search, market entry/outbound investment consultancy, and organizational design solutions, through our industry-specialized recruiting team.




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