Employee Experience in 2021 - Our Top Predictions

As we close out 2020, it’s time to prognosticate what the New Year will bring for employee experience.

We predict and hope that all frontline employees we've all been so reliant on this year will be as appreciated and valued as they have been in 2020, the waste management operatives, delivery drivers, nurses, doctors, facility workers, retail workers and many more. We predict an increased emphasis on flexibility, connection, and a huge reliance on technology, particularly communication technology that we once thought was useful and a ‘nice to have’ become essential things to make it possible to progress in a work-from-home world.  There is no debating it: 2020 was not the year many of us anticipated. Instead of being a banner year, it brought upheaval and uncertainty. Work as we know it was disrupted, which in turn disrupted employees’ home lives. Organisations were forced to make adjustments to how and where their employees worked. In many cases, it was a picture of “just hang on,” with everybody doing the best they could with the tools and information available.  

The reactive, survivalist tactics organisations implemented may have functioned just fine for the short term, but now what? As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop and will into 2021, many businesses are expected to take a long-term approach to changes many thought would be temporary stop-gaps.  

One of those things requiring change in light of the “new normal” is employee experience. Here are our top predictions for employee experience in 2021.  

Boundaries will continue to blur 

It’s expected that employees will have much greater flexibility to work where they would like to work in 2021, with many companies instituting “anywhere-plus-office hybrid” models of working. Remote work will be with us for the foreseeable future, settling at 300% of pre-pandemic levels at the minimum.  

In addition, boundaries of time and schedule will become more fluid, with employees given more freedom to work somewhat autonomously during hours that they set. Look for more project- or task-based work, rather than rigid working hours, to be the norm, as well as HR policies that are more fit for a majority WFH team.  

This concept of physical boundaries no longer existing when it comes to where and when the work gets done also extends to technology. Omnichannel environments and technology tools that boost productivity and enable collaboration will be more important than ever.  

Virtual onboarding of new hires

Onboarding new hires won't be the same virtually when it can't be done face-to-face, but employers will have to look a new ways to integrate new employees and help them to instantly connect with their colleagues and the culture of the company. Companies will also have to think of ways to reengage employees back into the office environment, even with flexible working, when offices are deemed safe environments for all types of work. 

Connection will take centre stage 

2020 taught us more than ever before that the mental health of our people matters, and the pandemic has taken a collective toll on the mental health of employees everywhere. One study of employees globally found that the mental health of nearly 42% of respondents had declined since the start of the pandemic.  

Keeping tabs not just on employee productivity, but on how they are faring emotionally, mentally, and physically will be a trend as we continue dealing with the outbreak. Employee communications tools will power personal interactions between leadership and team members, as well as create social experiences, gamification, and other fun or engaging ways to increase employee connection and affinities with others during what might otherwise be an isolating time.  

Leadership will be more present digitally 

Employee experience relies a great deal on leadership, but if leaders aren’t physically present, how can they provide direction, influence, and oversight?  

These things will be felt in two primary ways: First, leadership will need to develop and demonstrate new levels of trust in their employees to accomplish their work, even when they can’t oversee work behaviours and schedules in person.  

Second, leadership must use technology more effectively to communicate both their vision and their enthusiasm. This will look different in every organisation and for every leader. It may take the form of more personalised or one-on-one interactions with team members, or it may look like dialogues or Q&As with the CEO. Both of these scenarios will take place via effective communications tools (like Thrive.app), giving employees the ability to access leadership anywhere on any device.  

Long-term technology strategy for a dispersed workforce will be a priority 

We predict a shift away from ad hoc or short-term solutions for pulling a team together to more thoughtful, holistic technology strategies. Technology tools will be used to enable employee effectiveness via automation and AI, as well as to empower employee connection to the business and to other employees.  

HR and internal communications teams will develop new (or expand upon existing) policies, procedures and company culture initiatives with a tech-enabled, dispersed workforce in mind. Employee communications platforms and apps that will allow team members to lead, be led, collaborate, be heard, and even let off a little steam will be central to ensuring businesses don’t just survive under current circumstances, they also flourish.  

Organisations that prioritise digital tools to promote employee experience will be better positioned for success, whatever the future brings.  

Next Steps… 

How can you best guide your workforce and create the best possible employee experience during these unpredictable times? Let us show you how an app from Thrive can improve your EX in 2021 and beyond.