- A better employee experience, one that considers the whole person who comes to work every day, is the way employers will beat the competition.
- Pay and benefits are an important combination. In isolation they will always motivate, but together an employer can craft a unique and compelling proposition that brings the best talent into organisations, keeps them and drives optimum performance.
- There are simple, high-value approaches to determine what benefits employees would value most, according to their demographic profile, role and current circumstances.
There is no denying that the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has changed the world of work dramatically, with many now working from home and in hours that suit them better than the standard nine to five. Employers might now find that what staff are expecting in terms of their employee experience is now vastly different to what they were previously.
Employees’ view of their employer
Instances of burnout and fatigue have become commonplace among workforces. As a result, employees increasingly turn to their employer to support and improve their overall wellbeing.
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Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist of workplace management and wellbeing, notes that prior to Coronavirus, the most requested perk or benefit was flexibility. “After experiencing new ways of working, more employees now prefer a fully remote or hybrid job that includes some remote work. When employee work preferences don’t match employer expectations, burnout and intentions to quit and seek a job elsewhere are higher. In fact, where people work has become such an important consideration that geographic relocation is now listed as one of the top reasons for changing jobs,” he says.
The pandemic will have enabled employees to find out whether their employer values are genuine statements of intent or not. Corporate values have the capacity to impact trust, says Matt Frost, director of organisational wellbeing at Gallagher. “What staff expect, however, is that decisions and their outcomes are explained with complete transparency and clarity on what it means to them, today and tomorrow. That way they can decide how they really feel about work and then do something about it,” he states.
Do employees now value the stability and security offered by the jobs and benefits packages more than before the pandemic? Yves Duhaldeborde, senior director at Willis Towers Watson, believes so. “Culture and leadership are the organisational glue that helps organisations successfully navigate challenges and emerge stronger from crises. Equity, fairness and dignity at, in and from work are necessary to create a meaningful and productive employee experience,” he says.
The employee experience of the future
Many employees are attracted to organisations with a purpose, where they can see their future development. Harter is of the opinion that employees want an environment in which they receive ongoing coaching and development from their managers. Getting these fundamentals of management right is especially important amid the increases in fully remote and hybrid teams that exist now. “High-trust employees are less likely to second guess the intentions of their employer and they are more open to using the organisation’s wellbeing resources, as well as having conversations about their work-life situation with their manager,” he states.
A greater focus on total wellbeing can be key to building an employee experience that embraces change and lets employees know that they are fully supported. “A better employee experience, one that considers the whole person who comes to work every day, is the way employers will beat the competition. Organisations need to keep moving toward better with a holistic approach that puts employee experience at the centre of the organisation’s productivity and success,” Frost says.
In the future, staff may want more flexibility in their job, which is being considered by the UK government currently in its consultation on making flexible working the default. Lynn Smith, chief people and operations officer at MyEva, notes that employees are going to want flexibility in terms of working hours and location. “How work is measured will look different in the future as employers move to measuring outcomes rather than outputs; quality over quantity. As more people work remotely, there will be a real shift in success measurement within organisations. Now we’re seeing the economy open back up, it will introduce a whole new spectrum of employees. For example, mums staying at home looking after kids, whose careers might have paused or stopped for this, are able to work in a location and at times that suit them,” she says.
Jeff Fox, head of benefit strategy at Aon, describes the employee experience as being akin to going to a theatre, where staff may be engaged in the performance but the overall experience needs to construct a supportive environment. “Prior to the pandemic, this was typically dependent on a physical location such as the office, but now without doubt the default for many staff is hybrid. The theatre is now more fluid and more flexible, and it will need to evolve to support engagement and meaning in a digital, virtual and inclusive way,” he says.
An engaging work environment may also be at the top of employees’ wishlists. Duhaldeborde thinks that in the future, the office and work environment will be designed in a way that helps staff have quality time with one another. “This includes onsite catering, support services, but also technology that allows teams to collaborate seamlessly with peers who are based remotely or who are working from home a few days per week,” he says.
Adapting benefit strategies
When designing an effective benefits strategy, it should start with the organisation’s cultural end-goal in mind. Harter believes that it is important for managers to include wellbeing conversations as part of this. “Much of what impacts changes in wellbeing is individual and situational. Managers are in the best position to know each person’s work and life situation. They can direct employees to the right resources to help them achieve their personal wellbeing goals,” he says.
Understanding and tailoring benefits offerings to suit individual needs has never been more prevalent. Employers should ask what employees want or need, and use this information to deliver the proposition. “This will help, providing these changes are in tune with the feedback you’ve gathered from employees, because if you fail to address the ‘what’s in it for me?’ factor, your employee value proposition is pretty much meaningless,” says Frost.
Smith believes that businesses will review what their benefits could do for staff from a family perspective, like private medical insurance extended to family members for example. “Businesses should also look at the different age ranges of their staff and think about what would be useful for them at each point in their lives so they can choose what’s relevant to their lifestyle. For instance, electric cars or benefits relating to getting on the property ladder might be of more interest to younger workers,” she says.
Benefits are no longer managed in isolation to the overall employee value proposition. Fox is of the opinion that total reward continues to be how an employer can differentiate its proposition. “Pay and benefits are important. In isolation they will always motivate, but together an employer can craft a unique and compelling proposition that brings the best talent into the organisations, keeps them and drives optimum performance,” he says.
Flexibility, choice, quality and relevance are some of the attributes that employers could keep in mind as they review their benefits strategy to attract, engage and retain staff. Duhaldeborde points out that many organisations have an employee value proposition and benefits programmes that have not been reviewed in a long time. “Some of the benefits offered are sometimes not valued at all or only used by a minority of employees. There are simple, high-value approaches to determine what benefits employees would value most, according to their demographic profile, role and current circumstances. These approaches help build a portfolio of benefits which, if flexible and can be personalised both in terms of design and delivery, can truly motivate talents to join, give their best and stay with the organisation.”