Last updated: The future of work after COVID: Employees spur Great Resignation

The future of work after COVID: Employees spur Great Resignation


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As employers begin to insist that workers return to the office, they’re facing severe backlash from employees, which has been coined “The Great Resignation,” making the future of work after COVID a potentially bumpy ride for businesses.

Turns out that people realized they could be efficient and productive from home, and also save time and money not dealing with a commute. Now they’re severing ties with employers who don’t appear to walk the talk of caring about the employee experience, and it’s likely to affect the future of work for years to come.

How drastic of a change is happening? In April of 2021, over 4 million people quit their jobs – the highest number seen yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employee experience is a relatively new term for some people, but it’s always been at the core of HR and, if we’re honest, at the center of worker longevity.

“As employers rethink their workplaces in 2021, they have lessons to learn from 2020. Most importantly, leaders need to recognize the influence of employee wellbeing and employee engagement on workforce resilience.”
– Gallup, State of the Global Workplace 2021

Human experience management (HCM) supports the ways in which your company manages, monitors, and improves employee experience. Why has it been such a fight in some industries to address staff satisfaction outside of predetermined boundaries? Maybe internal perspective has not kept pace with the changes in how we live and value things.

What is employee experience?

Employee experience is the entirety of what an individual, or individuals, face and witness during their time with a company. The employee experience is directly related to performance and retention.

To gauge employee experience there are specific areas of focus:

  1. Engagement—Do you have clock watchers, or are employees actively engaged? Gallup published a report that companies that focused on employee engagement realized a 17% higher rate of productivity
  2. Purpose—Knowing your work has meaning; feeling of contributing to something that matters  is a big one for employees too, as part of purpose
  3. Belonging—A sense of inclusion in plans and strategy creates belonging
  4. Optimism—Happiness and engagement are tied to optimism
  5. Productivity—Having functional processes isn’t just about job completion, it can feed an individual’s need to feel worth
  6. Meaning—Understanding and aligning with the mission promotes commitment
  7. Connections—The belief that coworkers and managers will be supportive increases the positivity of employee experience

If a pandemic can change consumers, it stands to reason it can change employees too.
The future of work after COVID-19 looks different.
Are you ready to adapt?

“One size does not fit all’ was another principle we set at the beginning of the pandemic in recognition that the varying impacts of the disease around the world would require a flexible response.”  – Jane Fraser, Chief Executive Officer, Citi

The reality of the changes many businesses are enduring right now is that they were inevitable. Remote work has been knocking on the office door with increasing intensity since laptops, cell phones, and cloud-based systems made people and data available anywhere and anytime.

What is human capital management?

HCM is the next phase of HR. HCM represents a shift from focusing exclusively on company goals to what the employees need to be and do their best. It expands the view to include the impact of employee experience on the company. It provides ways to improve employee experience, which in turn creates benefits for the company both internally and externally.

Human capital management is focused on the individuals who move a company forward.

SAP SuccessFactors HCM suite is a set of cloud-based solutions for core HR and payroll, talent management, employee experience management, and people analytics that help digitalize HR processes and create meaningful and dynamic employee experiences to attract, develop, and retain the best people.

How can HCM help with employee experience, wellbeing, and engagement?

HCM provides a resource to stay invested and actively participate in a 360° approach to an engaged workforce. This helps align traditional HR with corporate strategy in a way that makes the employee integral to growth.

We’ve seen brands face reckonings with consumers if they don’t align to customer values. Businesses will face the same with employees – after all, employees are consumers, and have seen the power of unified voices when it comes to driving change.

Their experiences need to be designed around how they behave, how they work, and what they need to feel connected and be productive. Some HCM benefits include:

  • The ability to listen to your employees and take action on feedback
  • Engage candidates in new ways to attract and hire the best talent faster
  • Reimagining learning and development so it’s personalized to an individual’s growth and career plans
  • The ability to celebrate your people when, where, and how they want.

All of this leads to greater productivity, satisfaction, and retention – because your employees will feel confident your organization understands who they are, recognizes where they are coming from, values their time, and is invested in their future.

HCM solutions help to create individualized, engaging experiences whether it’s for candidates, new hires, employees, managers or HR leaders.

The heart of business is the human element

The debate about what matters and what’s fair in the workplace will never end, because work is always evolving. People are always evolving as well; change will keep happening.

And we need the right tools and technology to be able to adapt with us. The thing we can end is ignoring the involvement of employee experience in business growth. No one is proposing a free-for-all with employees calling the shots.

It’s a simple equation:

  1. Productivity
  2. Sustainability
  3. Satisfaction
  4. Goals

You need to have the first three to achieve the fourth.

This is the moment for employers to move forward with energy + creativity as remote, work from home, and hybrid location models have proven to be viable work solutions.

How do you impact employee experience when things are out of your control?

COVID-19 caused massive disruption, and continues to be a part of life. It’s definitely forming the future of work after COVID, but has it permanently changed how we work?

The saying ‘the only way out is through’ was pretty accurate for the companies and employees who were forced into remote work scenarios in 2020 after a lifetime of saying, and hearing, no to WFH. It may have begun as a medical and legal necessity to send workers home, but for some, it became a thing of convenience and preference for workers.

The employee experience shifted when accommodations were made. According to Digital, thirty percent of employers allowed all employees to work from home full time.

“When we began WFH during the shut down we had an expectation that staff would log the same hours. Insert chagrined shrug as I admit 9 to 5 has never been a promise of productivity. And so we adapted, incorporating methods of communication that worked, but also easing back on literal interpretations of work and attendance. No doubt, it’s a leap of faith, but when you’re standing on a cliff…”

— Amanda Magee, Partner Trampoline Design. (The company is in their 16 month of remote work after having said no to remote work since their incorporation in 2003.)

Time will tell if perspectives shift on the need for in-office work, or if the future will be written instead, based on mutually agreeable scenarios.

As restrictions are lifted, the decision to return to the office or stay remote is something that companies can make for themselves. The route they take will have consequences.

The Great Resignation: Is the future of work after COVID-19 remote?

The future of work is whatever companies and employees choose to make it.

Digital reports that 39% of employers in a recent survey said that they are willing to fire employees who refuse to return to the workplace full time.

On the other hand, 30% of workers in a survey by USA Today said they would quit if given the ultimatum to return to the office.

The future of engagement at work, which demonstrably drives revenue, growth, and retention rates will absolutely hinge on finding a middle ground. The next six months could be transformational depending on how companies address the re-entry to a workplace that has been changed with individuals who’ve also changed.

Companies can support the employee experience by taking steps to improve the remote work scenario, thereby boosting productivity and encouraging wellness:

  1. Define a workspace—Shifting to a work-from-home model doesn’t mean a laptop on the couch. People should be able to create a space dedicated to work—perhaps it’s taking a chair from the office, a stipend to purchase a standing desk adapter or some other gesture that creates a permanence to the home office.
  2. Schedule—For the uninitiated, working from home can bring hurdles of knowing when to stop. Establish a lunch hour, times to get up and stretch. It’s also helpful not to check email every ten minutes.
  3. Organization for home—When a workspace exists in the home, it can create blurred lines. The employee experience is not intended to be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We all need time that isn’t work. The workspace may not have a door that can be closed. Creating containers where loose files or notes can be stored out of sight, can offer breaks from work during non-work hours.

The world will continue to change and people will always have hopes, fears, gifts, and challenges.

It’s up to each of us to decide how to react—we can be agile or static, empowered or defensive. But no matter what, the future of work is collaborative, and HR plays a huge role in it.

HR, better.
Employees, happier.
Businesses, healthier.
It’s time to modernize the employee experience.

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