Enhancing the employee experience

Survey finds vast majority of employers will address experience as top priority.

A new survey by Willis Towers Watson has found that as companies transition to new ways of work, the number of UK organisations making improvements to the employee experience has surged. At the same time, however, while employers recognise adapting to the new reality will take time and require a hybrid work model, many do not seem ready to meet the challenge.

The 2021 Employee Experience Survey found that nearly all UK employers surveyed (98 per cent) said enhancing the employee experience will be an important priority at their organisation over the next three years compared with just 52 per cent that indicated it was important to their organisation prior to the pandemic – and with good reason. Most UK respondents believe a positive employee experience is a key driver of attracting and retaining talent (88 per cent), employee wellbeing (86 per cent), engagement (84 per cent) and productivity (82 per cent).

Many respondents believe it will take time to adapt fully to a post-pandemic world. Only one-in-eight (12 per cent) say the pandemic has receded enough to end temporary pandemic-related policies and programs. The rest indicate they will be ready to do so during the second half of this year (56 per cent) or in 2022 or beyond (32 per cent). Additionally, while employers expect the proportion of their employees working primarily remotely will drop from 67 per cent now to 26 per cent in three years, they expect one in three workers (33 per cent) will be working in a mix between onsite and remotely in three years, four-times the current number (8 per cent).

“Whether due to employer actions such as pay reductions and layoffs or because of virtual work and personal hardships for some workers, the pandemic exposed shortfalls in the employee experience at many organisations,” said Amanda Scott, GB head of talent and rewards business, Willis Towers Watson. “Enhancing the employee experience has therefore become an imperative for employers, and it’s one that will take time and present challenges many are not currently prepared to meet.”

Indeed, nine in 10 employers (89 per cent) recognise that the new realities of the labour markets will require a hybrid model for many roles; however, many employers aren’t ready to realise that ambition. Only half (50 per cent) of UK respondents are planning to adjust careers in response to changes in the way work is accomplished and a third (34 per cent) are breaking down Total Rewards to account for a different workforce profile. A higher proportion of UK employers (63 per cent) are flexible about where or when work gets done, but overall, only 11 per cent are doing all three of these.

Using digitalisation to transform the employee experience fundamentally over the next three years was highlighted as a major focus area for a large proportion (67 per cent) of firms surveyed in the UK. And areas in which firms said they are keen to improve their employee experience, by improving their offering or changing aspects of their programs to address the needs, include: inclusion and diversity (79 per cent); flexible work arrangements (67 per cent); manager training (65 per cent); leadership competencies (63 per cent); and learning and development (60 per cent).

“As organisations look ahead to a post-pandemic era, their ability to move the needle on the employee experience will be critical,” said Scott. “To succeed, they must start with a bold employee experience strategy that supports their business strategy and is based on a consistent model. Then, they can turn to execution – adapting programs and policies reflective of flexible work, paying employees fairly, enhancing benefit delivery and wellbeing programs, supporting workers in a more agile and flexible workspace, and aligning Total Rewards programs to meet the needs of a diverse workforce.”

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