New, recalibrated expectations have led us to a reset moment when it comes to employee experience. Getting it right will be critical to company success.

If you're in a position to shape the future of work and employee experience at your company, it can be daunting to know where to start during this time of so much uncertainty. But by being open-minded and welcoming experimentation, you can launch a dialogue with employees that will guide the way.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to designing a work experience. Taking time to create a thoughtful plan that fits your company will be well worth the effort, since offering the best employee experience is a great recruitment and retention strategy.

With the right framework in place, you will be on your way to reimagining the employee experience and forging a valuable advantage in the competition for talent.

Empower employees with autonomy, support and purpose

There are plenty of buzzwords going around right now to describe what employees want, like “flexibility” and “hybrid,” which we’ve found 83% of employees say they would like. But what do those ideas mean in practice? An Accenture Research survey of more than 9,000 workers around the globe found that when employees ask for “hybrid,” they are really asking for a work experience that provides autonomy, support and purpose wherever they are.

In seeking purpose, employees want to do work that aligns with what matters to them and nurtures a sense of belonging. While they’re doing that work, they want support to be their best physically and mentally and to reach their full career potential. What will likely be the biggest shift for many employers, though, is the new emphasis on autonomy.

Autonomy requires moving from a hierarchical system to an equitable one for decisions about how employees manage their time. It is important for leaders to allow time-management decisions to happen at the level where it makes sense for getting the work done. This is likely to be at a small-group level rather than coming from a top-down mandate.

Many large companies have struggled with going back and forth on decisions about whether, when, and how to return to physical offices, especially as variables like local health conditions continue to change. Instead, leaders should trust their teams and give them autonomy to decide what work can be done individually, what can be done together virtually, and what collaboration needs to happen in person.

Foster trust and continue an open dialogue

Finding the approach to autonomy, support and purpose that works for your employees requires a willingness to change. Employers need to first acknowledge that they bring biases to the thought process about what the work experience should look like. They need to create room for employees to feel comfortable sharing what works well and what doesn’t. This is a pivotal time for employers to listen, allow for radical ideas and demonstrate an honest willingness to explore those ideas.

This doesn’t mean sending out one survey and continuing with the status quo. Too often, companies stop there. Really listening will require building trust between employers and employees, along with being clear that this is an ongoing dialogue that will value employee input and adapt to their changing needs. Employers will need to ask repeatedly, and in different ways, what employees want. Then, you can gauge how changes to the work experience are making an impact and chart a course for more adjustments as needed.

We are living in unprecedented times. The acknowledgment of that, and the understanding that we're going to have to be dynamic when it comes to the employee experience, is now a critical focal point for all business leaders.

Companies that are most comfortable with this constant evolution — taking feedback, moving with agility, and continuously improving — will be leaders going forward.

See employee experience as part of your talent strategy

Rethinking the employee experience is a key element in crafting a strong talent recruitment and retention strategy. Your brand is being defined when it comes to what it’s like to work at your company — for future and current employees.

Companies that get it right will have a better chance at attracting and retaining the best talent in competitive markets like we have here in Austin, one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country.

Changing the work experience doesn’t need to come with a fear of losing out on what makes a location special, either. Over the past decade, there has been a migration of people toward cities such as Austin because of the great jobs we have. There is something magical about being here, and there is an energy from being able to share in creative, collaborative moments.

Reimagining the employee experience for people working at companies anchored in Austin offers an incredible opportunity to bring in an even broader talent pool to contribute to the amazing work being done here.

It is doable. By harnessing the same innovative spirit that has brought us this far, we can unlock even greater potential with a new approach to employee experience and the future of work.

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