CHROs Prioritize Employee Experience in Return-to-Work Plans

Return Work

Some industry observers have suggested that organizations might be less concerned with their employee experience now that layoffs are rife. But nearly two-thirds of HR leaders are making their workers’ experience a higher priority as they plan for re-opening their workplaces.

According to Gartner, 64% of HR executives are giving the employee experience a higher priority than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. Making the reality match their aspirations may be difficult.

Nearly two-thirds of HR leaders are making employee experience a high priority as they plan to re-open their workplaces. #HR #HRTech Share on X

“The return to the workplace is not just an operational challenge, it’s a human challenge,” said Elisabeth Joyce, vice president of advisory in Gartner’s HR practice. “While several people—including the CEO, General Counsel and CFO—will be involved in the decision of when, who, and how to return to workplace, the CHRO must be the voice of the workforce.”

Gartner suggests that they create new “employee journey maps” to identify and manage the process of returning to work. These maps should highlight the moments that matter to employees as they come back. For example, their first day on-site and their first team meeting.

Employee Experience Now, In the Future

The effort is about more than internal attitudes. Employee reactions will become known outside of the organization, Joyce pointed out, so the decisions executives make now “will define their employment brand for the next several years,” Joyce said.

Deciding when and how the workplace reopens involves more than a few sensitive questions. For instance, while many political and business leaders are urging that employees return to work sooner rather than later, many employees say they’ll stay away because of safety concerns.

“Given the unprecedented nature of this global pandemic, it is clear that workers are very worried about being able to stay healthy and safe as they are asked to return to their offices and worksites,” according to PwC U.S. Chair and Senior Partner Tim Ryan.

Gartner recommends including employees in a company’s decision-making about reopening. HR should gather data to understand the workforce’s comfort level, and actively monitor employee sentiment after they’ve returned to work. Keeping tabs on employee perceptions is important, as well. “It isn’t enough to establish safety measures; employee perception is key,” the firm said.

In addition, executives should be transparent about changes in health risks as the pandemic continues to unfold. Again, employee perceptions are at play: A lack of perceived safety can undermine employee confidence in any plans to return to work. 

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