By: Geraldine Woloch-Addamine
Founder & CEO at Good4work - https://good4work.com/
The big picture: trust is the new employee experience + 3 tips to get started
Over the past few years, the employee engagement market has slowly but steadily shifted towards the Employee Experience. Companies now understand the importance of winning the talent war as their best competitive advantage. The best experience for employees keeps them engaged, productive, and dedicated to their customers’ satisfaction. But one size doesn’t fit all. Each company must design its own employee experience in alignment with its strategy and brand.
The Employee Experience market ($15 Billion markets in early 2021) mirrors the Customer Experience Market with the same operational marketing, workflows, or tools and tactics. At the strategic level, a high-performing culture is the cornerstone of a better experience, more engagement, and productivity.
Before the pandemic, among the Employee Experience hot topics, we could find inspirational leadership, recognition, Employee Resources Group, career transitions, and parental leave.
Now, we’re talking about leaders’ resiliency, workplace safety, mental health, or a supportive culture to keep everyone engaged. But how to approach the overhaul of traditional managerial or HR programs in this new context?
The most prevalent indicators to measure Employee Experience are turnover and retention rates. However, it gives a limited appreciation for a great employee experience as the causes for leaving a company can be vastly different. The reasons for leaving can be difficult to differentiate between poor leadership, a toxic culture, a bad manager, an inadequacy in a job role, or more personal reasons.
While metrics are not optimal for measuring employee experience at the company level, there’s a consensus around identifying the main components of an excellent employee experience.
And guess what? Trust in leaders comes in pole position as a factor affecting employee experience along with a positive culture with no or few toxic behaviors.
It’s pretty clear now that an inclusive culture of trust will also be the new competitive advantage at the core of the employee experience market in a hybrid environment.
Okay, but where do we start? How to build trust in 3 steps
Trust perception combines three psychological factors: competence, benevolence, and honesty. Considering that one of the most critical skills of a Manager (especially in the virtual world) is communication, you can’t build trust without being intentional about connecting with EACH of your teammates. And not just with teammates you like or know better or meet in person.
Suppose you don’t compensate for virtual distance with an intentional mindset to make it a point (this should be a virtual work value) to over-communicate with fairness with everyone on your team. In that case, you run the risk of being perceived as incompetent. Pretty harsh but good to know.
But beyond intention and competence, what are the best tips for building trust virtually?
Step 1: Mix your communication with formal and informal conversations.
What creates a great employee culture and experience is the sum of all the interactions an employee can have across the board in his company lifetime.
It starts with the first onboarding email and follows through with informal intro-chats with teammates. Corporate culture is a communication letter, weekly team meetings, the relationship with the manager, or any comments in a Slack or Microsoft Teams channel. Everything counts, and in this game, formal Zoom meetings are just the tip of the iceberg. Fortunately, Zoom calls are NOT the only vehicle for building a great culture.
A better approach is to maximize the different communication modes to avoid fatigue and get to know the person better with other lenses. As a manager, you also want to adapt to the team member’s communication style and the meeting purpose.
It gives freedom to try new things with professionalism as a core value: to be proficient in the new virtual world is to respect the other person’s time and personal environment. And as for in person-meetings, being polite and preparing for meetings also score reputation points.
Virtual work etiquette has yet to be written, but like anything new, the company’s core values should drive the new behaviors to better embody and distill the culture.
Step 2: Focus on getting to know your teammates but without being intrusive
How to get to know a new teammate while respecting individual freedom to work from home?
Over time, you know who the video-favorite people are or which ones prefer a phone call instead of ten Slack messages. Not me for the phone call, but it’s still very personal. I’m neither introvert nor extrovert, but right in the middle (it’s called an ambivert), and I bet there are many of us, too. Of course, there's a question of efficiency but respecting others’ time in a virtual environment is always highly valued. However, you don’t want to get into a difficult conversation without taking the time to connect to preserve the relationship.
DOs: As a Manager, ask how you can help if there’s info missing to get the job done.
You can also do a learning/coaching session on doing the job or making internal intros with stakeholders offering another job perspective. It gives meaning and helps to understand the work impact. It’s also the best source of motivation. Your work in the virtual world may be invisible, so it’s imperative to find some work meaning with people who appreciate the end result.
DON’T: Don’t ask about your co-worker’s personal life if he doesn’t invite you to do so. There’s a critical barrier between connecting with your co-worker and being intrusive. For example, don’t ask your co-workers if they have children or if they’re married even if the topic comes up in small talks, just DON’T. We can interpret it as judgmental and it won’t create that safety feeling so critical in building trust.
Step 3: Find out how you can grow your team members and find some cool stretch projects.
Across the board, the top issue that negatively affects the company employee experience is the failure to grow within the organization. From this perspective, providing continuous feedback or coaching sessions, mentoring, sponsoring success, or offering stretching project opportunities will always increase talent retention.
One of my best managers called a stretching project a puzzle to solve (or a “bone to chew on,” which is much less fancy but sets a clear idea). The logic behind this is to enable job crafting based on what people are naturally good at and like. It’s essential at the beginning of a career.
Young hires rarely occupy a role or a job they love except if they’ve been very lucky or talented at detecting their passions through small experiences. But all the same, it’s still exceptional, and stretching projects can help orient people better.
Enabling job crafting is the ultimate secret weapon of managers to build trust, self-motivation, talent, and performance. It often requires creativity and generosity from managers to figure out what they can delegate or to ask their peers to stretch the team members.
But it’s worth all the efforts in terms of individual growth and retention. In the virtual world, too, high-performance requires cross-collaboration. It’s therefore essential to multiply internal networking events to help new hires connect across teams.
Geraldine Woloch-Addamine is the Founder & CEO of Good4work, Team Engagement Software for remote teams. She is French and lived in Paris before moving to San Francisco in 2014 with her family. She provides thought leadership to help managers and leaders build their new virtual leadership style. She draws her inspiration and expertise from a variety of stories she’s experienced while navigating 15 years in the corporate world in France and the US as a Manager, HR Business Partner, and Director in large, mid-sized, and small businesses of the industrial and high-tech sector. Geraldine holds a Masters in HR from Sciences-Po Paris and an HR certificate from UC Berkeley extension.