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Nearly all UK employers make enhancing the employee experience a top priority for post-pandemic success

Health and Benefits|Talent|Total Rewards
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June 23, 2021

Willis Towers Watson survey finds employers taking steps to meet the challenges and work models of the “new reality”

LONDON, June 23, 2021 — As companies transition to new ways of work, the number of UK organisations making improvement of the employee experience a top priority has surged, according to a new survey by Willis Towers Watson, a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company. However, while employers recognise adapting to the new reality will take time and require a hybrid work model, many are not ready to meet the challenges.

The 2021 Employee Experience Survey found that nearly all UK employers surveyed (98%) said enhancing the employee experience will be an important priority at their organisation over the next three years compared with just 52% 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%), employee wellbeing (86%), engagement (84%) and productivity (82%).

Many respondents believe it will take time to adapt fully to a post-pandemic world. Only one-in-eight (12%) 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%) or in 2022 or beyond (32%). Additionally, while employers expect the proportion of their employees working primarily remotely will drop from 67% now to 26% in three years, they expect one in three workers (33%) will be working in a mix between onsite and remotely in three years, four-times the current number (8%).

“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 become an imperative for employers.”

Amanda Scott | GB Head of Talent and Rewards

“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%) 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%) of UK respondents are planning to adjust careers in response to changes in the way work is accomplished and a third (34%) are breaking down Total Rewards to account for a different workforce profile. A higher proportion of UK employers (63%) are flexible about where or when work gets done, but overall, only 11% 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%) 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%); flexible work arrangements (67%); manager training (65%); leadership competencies (63%); and learning and development (60%).

“As organisations look ahead to a post-pandemic era, their ability to move the needle on the employee experience will be critical. 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,” said Scott.

About the survey

A total of 1,550 employers around the world, including 60 from the UK, participated in the 2021 Employee Experience Survey. The survey was conducted between March 29 and April 23, 2021. UK respondents employ more than 420,000 workers.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.

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