How Brands Can Empower and Engage Employees During COVID-19

This blog has been co-authored by Dr. Ker­stin Schäfer, EMEA Prac­tice Lead Dig­i­tal Per­for­mance Strategy/ Busi­ness Con­sult­ing, and Sarah Paton, Learn­ing Archi­tect, Adobe.

With so much dis­cus­sion and dis­course around the finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty of busi­ness­es dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, the pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment of employ­ees has tak­en a backseat.

Brands are, quite right­ly, focus­ing on the men­tal well­be­ing of peo­ple dur­ing these anom­alous times, but it’s per­haps more impor­tant than ever that they also con­tin­ue to devel­op, chal­lenge, and moti­vate their peo­ple, rather than focus­ing pure­ly on keep­ing the engines turn­ing and ship floating.

Any employ­ee invest­ment made now will invari­ably yield long-term rewards, par­tic­u­lar­ly regard­ing staff engage­ment and reten­tion. Peo­ple are, under­stand­ably, hold­ing their employ­ers account­able dur­ing this peri­od – if brands don’t rise to the chal­lenge, they will suf­fer the con­se­quences when we emerge on the oth­er side.

Equip­ping employ­ees with the right technology

The COVID-19 pan­dem­ic has, undoubt­ed­ly, high­light­ed the cru­cial role that tech­nol­o­gy plays in enabling us to adapt quick­ly and effec­tive­ly, and con­tin­ue deliv­er­ing the expe­ri­ences our cus­tomers expect of us.

And, while it’s no secret that the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence has changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly dur­ing the past few months, expect­ing employ­ees to pos­sess the abil­i­ty to proac­tive­ly react and adapt to these changes is a risky assump­tion for brands to make.

What’s impor­tant to remem­ber is that brands not only have an oblig­a­tion to adapt their cus­tomer expe­ri­ence to cur­rent cli­mate, but also to adapt how they equip their employ­ees with the abil­i­ty to actu­al­ly deliv­er those expe­ri­ences. Yes, the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence has changed, but so has the employ­ee expe­ri­ence. And one can’t exist and be suc­cess­ful with­out the other.

Upskilling for long-term gain

With so much uncer­tain­ty and a sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion in cus­tomer-fac­ing activ­i­ty, many for­ward-think­ing brands are using this iso­lat­ed peri­od to rede­fine how they keep their teams engaged, with the most vision­ary organ­i­sa­tions focus­ing on using tech­nol­o­gy and part­ners to deliv­er robust upskilling programmes.

Adobe Con­sult­ing Ser­vices (ACS) is col­lab­o­rat­ing with sev­er­al brands to cre­ate opti­mised learn­er path­ways that are specif­i­cal­ly designed to suit the cur­rent remote nature of many work­ing lives, so employ­ees can proac­tive­ly access learn­ing tools from wher­ev­er they are in the world.

For exam­ple, ACS is work­ing along­side one insur­ance com­pa­ny to design bespoke learn­ing con­tent for its enter­prise employ­ees, tai­lored to the individual’s matu­ri­ty and posi­tion with­in the organ­i­sa­tion. The con­tent is craft­ed through a nifty blend of Adobe’s Con­sult­ing Ser­vices, Dig­i­tal Learn­ing Ser­vices and its Expe­ri­ence League plat­form, mean­ing lead­ers are empow­ered to bet­ter com­mu­ni­cate and man­age Adobe solu­tions with­in the organisation.

This means the poten­tial of tech­nol­o­gy (in this exam­ple, Adobe solu­tions) is not lim­it­ed to spe­cif­ic tech­ni­cal users. Exper­tise is spread across the com­pa­ny, and more peo­ple can take advan­tage of the ben­e­fits of tech­nol­o­gy to cre­ate a bet­ter cus­tomer experience.

To ensure that employ­ees are engag­ing with the most rel­e­vant learn­ing con­tent, ACS also cre­ates curat­ed learn­ing path­ways that guide peo­ple along a sequen­tial jour­ney, ensur­ing they’re mak­ing the most of the vast con­tent library and learn­ing mate­ri­als avail­able to them.

It’s also impor­tant brands con­tin­ue to engage with fur­loughed staff, who are like­ly feel­ing dis­con­nect­ed and iso­lat­ed from their employ­er. For exam­ple, ACS is cur­rent­ly work­ing with a pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny, using bespoke learn­ing con­tent and expe­ri­ences as a pos­i­tive exer­cise to keep fur­loughed staff engaged, so they can return to work stim­u­lat­ed and refreshed.

Reskilling to cre­ate a flex­i­ble workforce

This is a time that has required high lev­els of adapt­abil­i­ty and an agile mind­set. For some brands, now is the time to focus on shift­ing employ­ee skills so they can lend sup­port to oth­er parts of the busi­ness in need of assistance.

For exam­ple, ACS has teamed up with a retail brand to stan­dard­ise dozens of dif­fer­ent roles across the organ­i­sa­tion into eight dis­tinct cat­e­gories, re-skilling them accord­ing­ly and dis­trib­ut­ing their exper­tise around the busi­ness to teams and cat­e­gories where their assis­tance and new skills are need­ed most.

Much like a foot­baller asked to play out of posi­tion while a team­mate is injured, this re-skilling of employ­ees enables brands to pro­vide imme­di­ate relief to under-pres­sure teams. But unlike in foot­ball, where a foot­baller would return to their orig­i­nal posi­tion, this re-skilling helps to per­ma­nent­ly address any skills gaps with­in an organ­i­sa­tion, mak­ing teams more cohe­sive and efficient.

These long-term ben­e­fits will be keen­ly felt in the years to come. With employ­ees able to react more flex­i­bly to future mar­ket changes and poten­tial increas­es in demand, by spread­ing and re-dis­trib­ut­ing their skillset across a brand’s entire cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, as and when it’s needed.

Align learn­ing to busi­ness objectives

It’s also impor­tant that brands don’t lose sight of their long-term goals and strate­gic objec­tives dur­ing this time. Any learn­ing expe­ri­ences or con­tent should always be aligned to tan­gi­ble busi­ness objectives.

To achieve this, brands should recog­nise that dif­fer­ent peo­ple learn in dif­fer­ent ways. Some react bet­ter to audio-learn­ing, while oth­ers ben­e­fit from a more visu­al style. The key is to adapt learn­ing to the indi­vid­ual, look­ing at the struc­ture of a team, their roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties, and how their posi­tion con­tributes to busi­ness objectives.

The impor­tance of these ini­tia­tives can­not be stressed enough – by keep­ing employ­ees engaged and learn­ing dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, brands are ensur­ing they can hit the ground run­ning, and can con­tin­ue being there for their cus­tomers once restric­tions are lift­ed in their respec­tive mar­kets and we regain a sense of nor­mal­cy fol­low­ing these tur­bu­lent times.