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Path to Growth: What Canada’s Employee Experience Looks Like As The Future Of Work Unfolds

Path to Growth: What Canada’s Employee Experience Looks Like As The Future Of Work Unfolds

Organizations have to be equally mindful of how to reimagine the entire employee experience to achieve success from anywhere. Learn more about the Future of Work.

When the time comes for Humza Teherany to take a break from his work, he no longer strolls over to an office kitchen or the nearby coffee shop. Instead, he heads downstairs, where he knows his 10-month old daughter will be waiting.

“I try to do my coffee breaks now where I’m rolling around on her mat, and then I go back to work and I’m serious again,” the Chief Technology & Digital Officer for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment says.

Like so many people, Teherany has seen the traditional work experience transform almost overnight amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And even as the recovery slowly begins to happen, he believes many of the new modes of getting a job done are likely here to stay.

“It’s been great from the perspective of being able to cut down on commuting time. Productivity has gone up in a lot of places,” he said. “On the other hand, work-life balance is not always as good.”

Teherany was making his remarks during our recent #PathToGrowth Live: Connecting You To The Future Of Work, and he was certainly not alone in seeing this as a period of readjustment.

Before the pandemic, for example, Erica Dhawan was a self-described road warrior who was travelling on average to two different cities every week. Having a third child right before the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus proved challenging, to the point where she rented out an office space two blocks from her New York City-based apartment.

“It was immensely hard. I struggled a lot at the beginning,” the WSJ best-selling author of Digital Body Language recalled. Eventually, she established new rituals to better demarcate work and family time, such as reading to her children at bedtime and meditating in the mornings. “I needed more self-care because I didn’t have those breaks I’d had when I was commuting.”

Today, organizations have to be equally mindful of how to reimagine the entire employee experience in order to achieve success from anywhere.

New Ways To Listen And Convey Empathy

As Dhawan pointed out, the speed with which businesses gravitated to digital tools to communicate and collaborate showed agility in the face of the crisis. What they may not have recognized is how much of the way we’ve worked with our team members has involved non-verbal cues such as pacing, pauses and gestures.

“Leaders need to realize that body language hasn’t disappeared behind a screen, it has transformed,” she said.

This calls for a strategic use of “digital body language, she said — signals that can indicate empathy, inclusion and psychological safety. This can be as simple as paying greater attention to how we communicate digitally. Dhawan told the story of an employee who wrote asking a boss if they wanted to meet Wednesday or Thursday and the boss replied ‘Yes.’

“Reading messages carefully is the new listening. Writing clearly is the new empathy,” she said. “Never confuse a brief message with a clear message. And hold your horses — we have to prioritize thoughtfulness over hastiness. Introverts may need more time to process, or someone may need to translate what’s being said from another language. A pause on a Zoom call could mean the necessary space to reflect.”

Addressing A Trust Deficit And Supporting Exhausted Leaders

This increased sensitivity is vital considering what employees have gone through since early 2020, said Salesforce Chief Digital Evangelist Vala Afshar. Consider the health crisis has coincided not only with an economic crisis but a climate crisis, increased incidents of inequality and racial injustice and the dissemination of misinformation.

“We have to continually remind ourselves we’ve experienced a trust deficit in the past 18 months,” he said. “Leaders need to recognize that people are working hard at home while working with all these interruptions and crises.”

This increased focus on the employee experience can’t be exclusive to the rank and file, however. Zabeen Hirji, who works as an Executive Advisor on the future of work at consulting firm Deloitte, shared data from a study jointly conducted with LifeWorks. It showed that More than 80% of leaders at the first or second level below the CEO said they finish work every day physically and mentally exhausted. Nearly 60% said they are not able to make time for self-care.

These are people with an outsized impact on their own workforce, which means what they go through can have a trickle-down effect on the performance of the organization and the economy, said Hirji. Leaders also might be reluctant to discuss their challenges for fear it could have an impact on their career. That means organizations need to reduce such stigmas as part of their strategy.

“Leaders are also feeling they’re not sufficiently able to support their employees,” Hirji said. “We need to provide resources and tools and help leaders to not just do more but actually help their team feel a level of job satisfaction.”

Using Flexibility And Reskilling To Empower Team Members

Another aspect of a great employee experience is simply giving team members flexibility, said Teherany. This includes flexibility in how and when they work as well as how they can reskill or upskill themselves. MLS&E is a digital-first sports organization with events going on 325 nights out of the year, for example. Games take place across multiple arenas.That means the optimal employee experience won’t be the same for everybody, he said.

On the other hand, arming employees with technology to solve interesting problems can prove highly motivating. Teherany described how MLS&E used the pandemic to revamp its ticketing process using technology from Salesforce, for instance, as well as enhancing fan experiences on mobile devices. Some of his engineers worked on a digital arena as well as a platform to manage non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

“These were new skill sets people had to learn on the fly,” he said. “You have to target people in terms of where they want to be and where they want to grow. And then if you get out of the way just a little bit, you’ll see they really start to shine.”

Afshar agreed, describing the ideal workplace as one less confined by walls but simply an environment where you can hear and see talent and ideas in the fabric of the organization at every level.

“In a growing, decentralized, boundless and frictionless economy — knowing speed to value in an important currency — the path to growth will require you to adopt a digital-first mindset and business strategy,” he said. “I think having relevance and vitality will require companies and even individuals to do that, and it’s going to separate the winners and the losers in this next normal.”

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