How to Create Belonging — Anytime, Anywhere
Employee experience (EX) starts with a simple — but powerful — question. What if companies treated their employees the same way they treat their customers?
Mark Levy has played a significant role in building employee-centric workplaces. From Best Buy to Levi Strauss, Airbnb to Allbirds, he’s transformed the role of HR and blazed the trail many L&D professionals walk today.
In 2020, employee experience took a major hit. The outbreak of COVID-19 shuttered offices and led to record numbers of people working from home. Or “living at work,” to be more accurate.
Now, many companies are telling employees to work remotely as long as they want. Clearly, the remote employee experience will be critically important in 2021 and beyond.
How can you think about employee experience in a remote environment? This was the question Mark posed in his presentation at Forward, a virtual learning experience. We’ll explore some highlights here.
Catch up on the Forward presentations from Mark Levy and other leaders in HR and L&D.
4 ways to create connections in a remote work environment
Employee experience is about creating connections. And in a remote world, it’s critically important to create opportunities to connect. Connections don’t happen automatically — we need to encourage them.
#1: Build bridges between employees and your organization
When people don’t share the same physical workspace, there’s more uncertainty and confusion. Companies need to keep the conversation open and flowing with their employees.
Here are Mark’s suggestions for building bridges between employees and your organization:
- Be comfortable with uncertainty. Forget about perfection. Be honest, truthful, and vulnerable.
- Try holding shorter meetings on a more frequent basis. Set aside time for questions and answers.
- Set up a Slack channel (or something similar) to address frequently asked questions.
- Use employee engagement surveys to ask what people need and what challenges they’re facing.
- Communicate more. Which also means to listen more.
#2: Create the connective tissue between employees
In a shared workspace, chance encounters create a sense of belonging. Casual conversations build relationships between people in different teams and departments. That doesn’t happen so easily in a remote environment.
Mark recommends these ways of creating connections between employees:
- Replicate haphazard encounters across teams with scheduled lunches or coffees.
- Start communities of interest with internal social channels. Parents who are homeschooling can share their tips. Sourdough enthusiasts can wax poetic about starters.
- Create fireside chats or workshops that provide structure to virtual social gatherings.
- Lean on your employee resource groups. Ask them to lead events and share resources.
#3: Help employees become customers’ heroes
The pandemic hasn’t just changed relationships within our companies. We also need to rethink the way we engage with our customers.
Mark sees a few common scenarios:
- Companies with increased demand (think Instacart and Peloton) must rise to meet it. If this is you, it doesn’t mean you can rest easy. Look for new ways to support your customers when they need you most.
- Companies with lower demand (like Airbnb) need to shift their focus. You may need to move more people to the customer success team to handle increased cancellations. Explore ways to pivot. Can you make changes to your existing offering so it’s more suited to the current environment?
No matter which situation your company is in, Mark stresses the importance of focusing on your customer. Anticipate their questions and concerns. Show them they’re still your top priority.
#4: Encourage employees to become valuable members of your community
Most people want to work for more than a paycheck. They want to feel like they’re making a positive contribution to the world around them.
We’re feeling a greater need to connect because so many people are struggling due to the pandemic. Companies can use their resources to make a positive impact.
Consider your own products, services, or offerings. Can you make donations or solve a current challenge?
Mark shared an example from Allbirds. The company had a surplus of shoes, so they donated 500,000 pairs to frontline workers. This built connections between employees, customers, and the community. Employees felt proud because they knew Allbirds was doing something meaningful.
Belonging is an inside job
A sense of belonging won’t come automatically, especially in a remote environment. It takes intentional effort to help remote employees feel clued in and connected.
You can foster belonging when you align everyone around a central mission and vision. Check out Creating Team Vision Mission and Values to get concrete ideas on how to achieve this.
Employees feel a sense of belonging when they can be open about who they are. Learn more in Fostering Psychological Safety and Belonging on Teams.
With a Udemy for Business subscription, you can make sure belonging stays top of mind for everyone. Get in touch to learn more.