How Employee Experience Drives Hybrid Workforce Excellence

June 2024 | By Brian Cole, Ph.D.

Can you still create a compelling employee experience (EX) when you don’t get to see your employees in person? Welcome to the great EX-hybrid challenge. 

EX Remote (1)

EX is the sum total of all the interactions employees have with people, processes, technologies, and their physical working environment. These are the elements necessary to promote engagement and productivity, and retention.  

If an organization has an evolved EX program – and that’s a big ‘if’ – it is most likely built around employees working in a traditional office setting. Once the employee is no longer within close proximity to the leader, EX can become a forgotten priority. 

All the available data strongly suggests employers are fighting a talent management battle on two fronts: they are struggling to establish the programs and policies to keep top talent engaged; and they are also struggling to provide leaders with support to manage remote teams. 

 

EX appears to be suffering in the “hybrid” age 

Employee surveys are unambiguous on this topic: people like working from home some or all of the time.  

A recent Gallup global workplace survey showed that nearly 60% of workers want a hybrid working arrangement, with another 34% craving an exclusively remote environment. Only 6% prefer to be in-office. 

If hybrid is the future, then how are employers doing when it comes to EX? Again, the data is pretty clear: employers are failing to provide adequate support or tools to remote employees, and have not prepared managers with the skills needed for managing a distributed team. If managers do not have the skills to supervise and interact effectively with remote teams, then it seems pretty obvious EX is going to suffer. 

NTT Data’s 2023 Global Employee Experience Trends Report shows that while 94% of global executives believe EX is important for their net profit, 83% acknowledge that their EX capabilities are insufficient. 

Fortunately, there is good news when it comes to delivering EX in a hybrid world: even when your people are out of sight, you do not need to re-invent the wheel. 

 

The basics of EX work in any working arrangement 

The important thing to remember when tailoring EX for a hybrid workforce is that while the challenge is somewhat different, the basic elements remain the same.  

  • Provide tools that fit the job: The key to developing an effective EX for remote/hybrid workers is one-on-one interaction. That means giving your leaders the technology and skills that lead to productive conversations. Use coaching to support leaders through the challenges of managing remote/hybrid teams but also to impart skills that will help leaders engage with their teams. 
  • Plan for one-on-ones: When leaders get really busy, the first thing that gets cut from the calendar are one-on-one chats with the people they are leading. Leaders with teams that are hybrid or fully remote simply cannot pull the plug on these interactions. 
  • Shape career development remotely: EX can be largely framed by the opportunities employees get to learn and grow. Although some employers may think those opportunities are less important for remote employees, they remain key drivers of engagement and retention. 
  • Acknowledge the introverts: One of the reasons people work remotely is that they prefer less interaction with co-workers. Find ways to engage while still respecting their personal preferences. It may be as simple as emphasizing that you are available when they need to talk. 
  • Focus on end results: As is the case with in-office workers, establish EX metrics for remote employees. Things like productivity, profitability, and engagement matter regardless of working arrangement. In other instances, however, EX may require special efforts to limit worktime or reduce communication after hours.  

 

If EX is a key differentiator for successful organizations – and all available research suggests that it is – then employers must spend time and resources on developing an effective strategy to engage and retain employees who work remotely. Ignoring EX for remote workers is, ultimately, an invitation to your top talent to start looking for work elsewhere. We elaborate on the link between EX and retention here. 

To learn more about how a strategic approach to EX can lead to increased and sustainable success, check out my colleague Danielle Hochstein’s exclusive whitepaper “Exposed: How Good (or Bad) is Your Employee Experience.” She offers a deep dive into the four elements of our EX Leadership ModelSM and how they interact to drive engagement, retention, and performance long-term. 

Topics: Leadership, Team Culture, Communicating with Teams, Leading Remote Teams, Managing Remotely, Hybrid Work Environment, Trust, Employee Experience

Brian Cole, Ph.D.

Written by Brian Cole, Ph.D.