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Article | Beyond Data

HR data is back

Developing policies and employee benefits practices that work

By John Jones and Hatti Johansson | August 10, 2022

The past few years have thrown HR practices and employee benefits design into a tailspin. Now it’s time to move forward.
Compensation Strategy & Design|Total Rewards
Beyond Data

Organizations were confronted with The Great Resignation in 2021 and, while some are starting to see The Great Return, many employers today find themselves mired in The Great Confusion. This is particularly true as it relates to the HR programs and employee benefits practices that attract and retain talent. What do we do now? What’s everyone else doing? What are our employees looking for?

Since 2020, business survival has translated to quick pivots that have responded to a relentless barrage of unexpected crises – and no time to ensure critical HR policies and practices keep pace. But going forward, sustained survival will require a return to a thoughtful strategy for maintaining the foundation of your organization’s employee value proposition.

Understanding both the current work environment and the competitive forces at play has a significant impact on cost implications, resourcing needs and legal requirements. Today’s business challenges are less about reacting to the pandemic and more about expense containment and long-term growth.

The changing role of the employee experience

In the past few years, organizations have needed – but didn’t have time for – benchmarks and standard guidelines. Policies and programs that historically we had thought of as “standard” suddenly became less standard.

Traditionally, organizations have gotten by with only slight tweaks to policies and practices as the business changed, but those days are gone. In a very different employment world, the demands of the workforce and organizations’ desire to develop and deliver an employee experience that attracts and retains talent is paramount.

Employers must go beyond a simple understanding of wellbeing or short-term accommodations. Rather, policies must be set to address talent needs now as well as accommodate the way the business will operate going forward. An entire host of challenges must be addressed:

  • Retention packages
  • Leave policies
  • Working hours
  • Remote work arrangements
  • Perks (e.g., car allowances)

The downfall of blanket global policies

Standard, out-of-the-box policies have become a rarity and minor tweaks and updates are no longer enough. It’s easy to see, then, that blanket HR policies and benefits practices won’t work across geographies, even if it’s to address common problems.

Take, for example, a few practices that have emerged in China, the United Kingdom and United States, all based on data from WTW’s HR Policies and Practices and Benefits Design Practices surveys.

Retention

Sales and marketing jobs in China are seeing greater levels of attrition than most other countries, while the United States is seeing greater challenges in operations and manufacturing. Interestingly, retention bonus arrangements for executives are much higher in the United States and United Kingdom than elsewhere – but retention bonuses for technical and business support are much higher in China. Meanwhile, recruiting needs are greater for nearly all roles in the United States.

Leave policies

UK organizations provide the most paid leave by years of service, reaching a maximum of just under 30 days after about 10 years. The United States, which falls between China and the UK, shows a steady increase in the number of days of paid leave over time. Finally, China has the lowest amount of paid leave among the three countries, topping out at just under 20 days.

Working hours

For more than 90% of office workers, a 40-hour workweek is standard in China and the United States. However, workers in United Kingdom have a shorter 37.5-hour workweek. When it comes to plant workers, China has the longest working hours, with data indicating that some employees work up to 60 hours per week.

  Figure 3. Working hours compared
Figure 3. For office workers 
China 
93% indicated a 40-hour workweek 

UK 
40% indicated a 37.5-hour workweek 
23% indicated a 35-hour workweek 

US 
90% indicated a 40-hour workweek 


For plant workers 

China 
81% indicated a 40-hour workweek 
4% indicated a 60-hour workweek 

UK 
28% indicated 37.5-hour workweek 
25% indicated a 40-hour workweek 

US 
92% indicated a 40-hour workweek 
2% indicated a 48-hour workweek
Remote work arrangements

Computers and laptops are the most common work-from-home costs covered by organizations in all three countries studied. In addition, mobile or fixed phone lines and internet connections are paid by more than half of the organizations in the United Kingdom (61%) but are less likely to be covered in established work-from-home policies in the United States (31.5%) and China (26.8%).

Perks

Length of service awards followed by mobile phone allowances are the perquisites most often provided by organizations in China and the United Kingdom. Conversely, daycare or childcare allowances are the least offered perquisites in most of the organizations in these two countries.

The rise of policies that make sense

Navigating geographical pain points, designing HR programs that award enough (but not too much) and knowing where your competitors are focusing their investments is critical. The best way to achieve this balance cost effectively, efficiently and with the most return on investment is accomplished by weighing reliable market data. Without that data, employers will be challenged to make good, defensible decisions. And without those good, defensible decisions, the employee experience – and by extension employee engagement and business outcomes – will suffer.

Authors

Employee Experience Business Leader, North America

Global Innovation and Product Development Leader, Rewards Data Intelligence

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