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We Ask the Experts

How can HR create a good virtual employee experience? 

BP Coty MHR Ellas Kitchen

Carving out a good employee experience has always been a top priority for the people function, as the statistics have proven.

For example, the number of HR decision-makers who say employee experience is the most important aspect of their HR strategy has nearly tripled in the last two years. This is according to a study from Forrester Consulting LLC commissioned by, SAP, Qualtrics, an SAP company and EY.

With the coronavirus pandemic sparking many changes to the world of work – and remote and hybrid working now high up on the employee wish list – it is key that HR now considers how to create a good virtual employee experience. Doing this well could have multiple benefits for both staff and the business.

For example, a good employee experience can result in happy staff members. Research from Oxford University’s Said Business School, carried out in collaboration with BT, found that workers are 13% more productive when happy.

Elsewhere, companies with engaged teams experience increased profits. A Gallup report – as was reported on by Matterapp – found that, overall, companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable.

So, to find out more about how the people function can create a good virtual employee experience, myGrapevine magazine caught up with four of our Advisory Board members. Their advice is below.

Simon Ashley,
SVP People & Culture – Trading, Shipping, Culture,
BP

“Once you get the technology right, I think there are three big influences on the ‘virtual’ employee experience. Firstly, always remember that when you connect to the workplace digitally you are still somewhere physically. Helping colleagues to have a good physical ‘out of office’ environment for example chairs, desks and a quiet space to work can enhance the virtual experience.

“Secondly, as teams become more hybrid in nature clear working agreements that cover things like when teams come together, meeting practices – especially for those with in-office and virtual participants – can have a positive impact.

“Finally, and most importantly, know when the day is done and it is time to leave the virtual office.”

Just 13% of employees are fully satisfied with their experience at work – Gartner

Just 13% of employees are fully satisfied with their experience at work – Gartner

Simon Ashley,
SVP People & Culture – Trading, Shipping, Culture,
BP

“Once you get the technology right, I think there are three big influences on the ‘virtual’ employee experience. Firstly, always remember that when you connect to the workplace digitally you are still somewhere physically. Helping colleagues to have a good physical ‘out of office’ environment for example chairs, desks and a quiet space to work can enhance the virtual experience.

“Secondly, as teams become more hybrid in nature clear working agreements that cover things like when teams come together, meeting practices – especially for those with in office and virtual participants – can have a positive impact.

“Finally, and most importantly, know when the day is done and it is time to leave the virtual office.”

85% of employees would like to work remotely at least two to three days per week post-pandemic – CBRE

Andrea Smith,
HR Director, Transformation UK&I,
Coty

“Companies need to consider how to invest in digital experiences that are all inclusive and encourage interactive collaboration through new ways of working, but also considers how to include and motivate employees with shades of introversion.

“A good virtual employee experience is dependent on building digital expertise and capabilities in communication tools. Leveraging technology that amplifies regular cycles of activities and interaction that establish direct connections and take employees to another listening level.

“The virtual employee lifecycle will eventually evolve to hire anyone, anywhere, using AI-driven platforms to support an engaging, rewarding work environment for team members, wherever they may be located.”

85% of employees would like to work remotely at least two to three days per week post-pandemic – CBRE

Andrea Smith,
HR Director, Transformation UK&I,
Coty

“Companies need to consider how to invest in digital experiences that are all inclusive and encourage interactive collaboration through new ways of working, but also considers how to include and motivate employees with shades of introversion.

“A good virtual employee experience is dependent on building digital expertise and capabilities in communication tools. Leveraging technology that amplifies regular cycles of activities and interaction that establish direct connections and take employees to another listening level.

“The virtual employee lifecycle will eventually evolve to hire anyone, anywhere, using AI-driven platforms to support an engaging, rewarding work environment for team members, wherever they may be located.”

Jeanette Wheeler,
HR Director,
MHR International

“Accessibility and ease of use are two fundamental aspects of any virtual employee experience being successful. To achieve this, HR should champion a technology that hosts everything under one roof. This will reduce any barriers for your teams and individual workers by ensuring their check-ins, pay details, learning resources, company policies and more are all accessible within one system or app with one login experience.

“Technology should also cover day-to-day admin tasks like absence management, allowing employees to request leave remotely, as well as offering ease and peace of mind for each worker to discuss last minute emergencies and other personal issues that may arise.

“Ensuring the platform is also mobile-friendly is a must in our modern-day working landscape, with the key benefit being that your employees are empowered to manage their own journeys, including training progress, accessing key information which can help them in their roles and enhance their employee experience at the point of need on their chosen device.”

Happy workers are 13% more productive – Oxford University’s Saïd Business School and BT

Happy workers are 13% more productive – Oxford University’s Saïd Business School and BT

Jeanette Wheeler,
HR Director,
MHR International

“Accessibility and ease of use are two fundamental aspects of any virtual employee experience being successful. To achieve this, HR should champion a technology that hosts everything under one roof. This will reduce any barriers for your teams and individual workers by ensuring their check-ins, pay details, learning resources, company policies and more are all accessible within one system or app with one login experience.

“Technology should also cover day-to-day admin tasks like absence management, allowing employees to request leave remotely, as well as offering ease and peace of mind for each worker to discuss last minute emergencies and other personal issues that may arise.

“Ensuring the platform is also mobile-friendly is a must in our modern-day working landscape, with the key benefit being that your employees are empowered to manage their own journeys, including training progress, accessing key information which can help them in their roles and enhance their employee experience at the point of need on their chosen device.”

Employers with engaged workforces see a 17% increase in staff productivity – Gallup's State of the American Workplace report

Catherine Allen,
Head of Making People Happy,
Ella’s Kitchen

I wonder whether the question is ‘can a completely virtual experience really be a good employee experience?’ The most important thing we in HR need to do is to listen to our teams and find out why they come to work. Over the years I’ve heard all sorts of reasons – to pay the bills, to make a difference, to learn, to get out of the house, to connect with others, to have a social life, to HAVE FUN! I’ve never heard anyone say they come to work to look at a screen! Put your teams' preferences, motivations and needs first in designing the employee experience.

Employers with engaged workforces see a 17% increase in staff productivity – Gallup's State of the American Workplace report

Catherine Allen,
Head of Making People Happy,
Ella’s Kitchen

I wonder whether the question is ‘can a completely virtual experience really be a good employee experience?’ The most important thing we in HR need to do is to listen to our teams and find out why they come to work. Over the years I’ve heard all sorts of reasons – to pay the bills, to make a difference, to learn, to get out of the house, to connect with others, to have a social life, to HAVE FUN! I’ve never heard anyone say they come to work to look at a screen! Put your teams' preferences, motivations and needs first in designing the employee experience.

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