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Employee Experience: Trust & Truth Driving The Return To Work



From whichever angle you look at it, COVID-19 has challenged the very foundations of business. Rethinking and reimagining our workplaces on a scale never seen before presents many compelling opportunities, and many profoundly difficult challenges. Yet, businesses are bouncing back, and they're doing it by placing an almighty emphasis on building trust and truth into the employee experience.


Looking across the Holistic Employee Experience (HEX), there is not one area that isn't being disrupted across our companies. From the way we support the overall human experience (in and out of work) to the way in which we safely return our people back into the workplace. Employees who don't feel safe, supported, and secure are not going to be at their best, and companies are finding to their direct benefit that creating a positive experience in work gets the growth machine back in action.



One aspect of the workplace that COVID-19 has advanced beyond anyone's imagination is remote working. Traditionally under utilized by companies due to a long-lasting perception that employees should be stuck in one building all the time, evidence is now pouring in that shows, for many, performance and productivity has actually improved or exceeded expectations. I've been talking to several leading businesses this week, and their top teams have been pleasantly surprised by unanticipated spikes in productivity. They had the experience and have now learned the lesson. Things won't be returning to normal for them because it's not in their interest to do so. The human experience is about to get a big upgrade with greater choice, flexibility and control over how work gets done.


On the other side of the coin, we have the draconian workplaces that are already forming steady queues to buy in services that track employees and monitor every keystroke. This, for knowledge workers, is going to be the ultimate litmus test within the freedom vs security debate. Will people stick around for the salary and benefits, but tolerate overt monitoring? There's been a few corporate rebellions on this issue already this year. Let's keep an eye on it. The Zoom boom continues and Zoom, the company, is already launching the latest encryption technology and security enhancements. Clearly, trust is a powerful motivating factor for rapid change and they are doing the right thing by doubling down on it.


The point that brings these themes together is trust. Building trust into our companies and relationships is primetime for business leaders, especially human-centred ones. Profit-chasing at all costs may well be the easy path, and companies might find it works in the short-term, but it wont be sustainable over the long-term.


According to a Roy Morgan study, Australia’s most trusted industry is the retail sector, and it's most trusted brand at the peak of COVID-19 was Bunnings, a household and hardware chain. At the other end of the scale was Facebook and AMP. The latter's share price dropped by 70% and 'billions have been withdrawn from investments under management'.


No trust, no business. Most reasonable people understand this concept yet there is a tendency to forget about deep trust building with employees first. This is rightly at the heart of any great employee experience work. The outcome is a sequence of perceptions that drive company growth:


  • Employees trust each other

  • Employees trust leadership

  • Employees trust the company

  • Customers trust employees

  • Customers trust the company

Everyone co-creates an admired, respected, and trusted brand. It's what consumers and employees are willing to tolerate and reward within the economy. It's a very human model of development. We reap what we sow. Being trusted is the ultimate compliment in business. It means you're doing the right things in the right way. You may not even have the best product, but trust could be the glue that keeps a company growing in a strong and connected manner. I think we could all do with a good old-fashioned dose of trust right.


How do you become a trusted brand?


Again, this is really easy to understand: you give people the opportunity to believe in something. This is a crazy world at the best of times. The organization now, and after we have progressed past this outbreak, can offer a new vision for how the economy functions. To build trust, we need to install our brand truth everywhere within the employee experience. The Truth, as I defined it in Employee Experience, is a company's unique purpose, mission, and values. In this sense, the truth affects every experience and interaction we develop with customers and employees.


Companies not only telling their truth but living it through consistent actions. Companies as a positive force for humanity, not just their shareholders.


The rules of the economy were already being reset. It's now time for the truth, and plenty of it.



Ben Whitter is the Chief Experience Officer at HEX Organization and the Founder of the World Employee Experience Institute (WEEI).


Known globally as Mr Employee Experience, he is one of the leading figures in EX and has pioneered and popularized the concept worldwide, reaching 18 million people through his writing, keynotes, strategic advisory services, workshops and coaching. His work inspired the first EX conferences and has been featured in publications including The Times, The Telegraph, Forbes, The Financial Times, The Economist, and People Management. Ben is a sought-after speaker and has delivered talks on EX across +20 countries.


Ben is the best-selling author of Employee Experience. His book was published in 2019 by Kogan Page, and debuted as the #1 new HR book in the USA; it features the Holistic Employee Experience (HEX) model, which is based on his original global research. Through his role with WEEI, Ben and his team support the development and growth of Certified Holistic Employee Experience (HEX) Practitioners worldwide. This flagship online programme is fully focused on building the knowledge, skills, and advanced capabilities that are urgently required for the modern human-centred professional & leader.

For all general enquires, please contact our team at: hello@worldeeinstitute.com or connect with HEX Organization or Ben on LinkedIn.

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