Back2Better: Beyond Cheerleading – Workplace Experience in the Next Normal

October 22, 2020

An Exclusive Collection of Resources for Navigating the Future of Organizations, Work and HR Post-COVID

Beyond Cheerleading – Workplace Experience in the Next Normal

The world of work leapfrogged a generation abandoning the office for working from home (WFH) literally overnight. From the management perspective, the transition has been seen as surprisingly successful in the “sheltering in place” phase of the pandemic. The question remains whether remote working becomes permanent and what the implications of such a change would be on employee productivity, collaboration and teams, organizational culture and not the least the workplace design itself.

Anna Tavis, clinical associate professor and academic director of the Human Capital Management Department at NYU School of Professional Studies says that companies have gone through four phases in relation to the world pandemic:

  1. Cheerleading: we can face this situation together
  2. Location and Real Estate: do we really need all these offices
  3. Congratulations: look how well we are doing this
  4. Scenario Planning: what will the Next Normal be

One thing is clear: companies must commit to enhancing the quality of Employee Experience on the other side of the pandemic because the spotlight has been thrust on how corporations take care of their employees at all levels.

Employee Experience is Changing Company Culture

The COVID crisis is unlike previous business crises and has largely been about the employees and their experience of both work—in the office or at home—and their personal lives. This has driven organizations to change their cultures and to pay more attention to every facet of the employee’s lives—from child care to mental health to food preparation to home office design.

With this heightened emphasis on the organization’s largest asset—its employees—Employee Experience has moved to the forefront.  Employee Experience is the cumulative impact of experiences employees have with an organization before, during, and after their employment journey that are designed to maximize organizational and individual outcomes. Before the pandemic,

only one-third of organizations had an Employee Experience strategy and, for the most part, these strategies focused only on current employment experiences rather than pre- and post-employment experiences.

Back2Better: To understand people means understanding their experience. HR is in a critical place to drive future business decisions based on their knowledge of people.  Where can you help make post-crisis decisions that will change your culture and determine future business direction?

COVID-19’s Effects on Employee Experience

The HR function was thrust to the front lines of the crisis and business continuity shifted to the responsibility of CHROs. HR effectually was in charge of the company’s biggest product—their workforce.

Several difficult questions surround returning to the workplace and what that means for health and safety as well as productivity. The initial reaction was that people were working just fine from home.  However, a recent survey by Gensler found that about 70% of employees want to work in office the majority of the week and 30% of people want a flexible work environment. Only 12% want to work full time at home. This is important to keep in mind as organizations consider what their workplace of the future will look like and how that effects Employee Experience.

Additionally, the pandemic has shown that the focus on the employee connects directly to both the bottom line and trust in the company. The Edelman Trust Survey conducted a follow-up survey after the start of the pandemic which found that despite good stories and cheerleading in the news, employees felt that corporations did not fully do their part.

Those companies who best demonstrated their support for both employee work and personal lives are faring better in this crisis and are seen as more caring and more trustworthy.

Back2Better: Trust matters to consumers, employees, regulators, investors, resilience against risk, the market, and media. Can you use the pandemic as an opportunity to increase the trust people have in your organization both internally and in the marketplace?

The Next Normal

There is no going back to Business as Usual. Anna Tavis shared several points that will be crucial in the Next Normal:

  • It is time to move away from Talent Management and High Potential Development and focus on Employee Experience. 100% of employees need to be accounted for in the business strategy.
  • It is not just about “when you are here” but it is also about the experience outside employment. You need to extend the same attention to people leaving and those not hired yet.
  • It is about employee skills/lifelong learning and expanding learning beyond the organization to the larger community. Giving back, providing opportunities to underrepresented communities, and creating alternative ways to get credentials without going to college are critical.
  • It is about employee experience added to the KPI’s.
  • It is not just about technology and data. We have found that technology is not a panacea. What we know about technology needs to expand so that we understand how we respond to it and how we feel about it.

Back2Better: The seismic shifts have put a spotlight on employees in every facet of the business.  No longer is it enough to focus on the 10% of high potentials.


Going forward, the workplace will join the other human-centric design domains (consumer, customer, talent pool, vendors).  As Minouche Shafik, Director, London School of Economics has said: “In the past, jobs were about muscle, now they are about brains, but in the future, they will be about the heart.”  Organizations that understand this will move toward broader strategies that focus on corporate purpose, delivering value, investing in employees, and supporting the larger community rather than just focusing on shareholders.

To learn more about the Back2Better 50 Webinars in 50 Weeks series please visit here

If your team is dealing with similar issues or have questions you’d like answered please fill out the form below!

Back2Better: Beyond Cheerleading Workplace Experience in the Next Normal with Anna Tavis

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