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Press Release

Employee experience is top priority for post-pandemic success

July 6, 2021

Although employers are taking steps to meet the challenges and work models of the “new reality”, a study conducted by Willis Towers Watson, finds them unprepared.

LONDON, July 6, 2021 — As companies transition to new ways of work, there has been a surge in the number of organisations in Western Europe making it a top priority to improve their employee experience, according to a new survey by Willis Towers Watson. Being the sum of all touchpoints and moments that matter between employees and their employer, this experience is the heart of delivering outstanding customer experiences and superior business performance. 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 connected to the improvement of the employee experience.

Positive experience is key driver

The 2021 Employee Experience Survey found that nearly all employers in Western Europe surveyed (91%) said enhancing the employee experience will be an important priority at their organisation over the next three years, compared with just 40% who said it was important to their organisation prior to the pandemic. And with good reason. Most Western European respondents believe a positive employee experience is a key driver of employee wellbeing (81%), engagement (74%), productivity (68%), and attracting and retaining talent (67%).

Many respondents believe it will take time to adapt fully to a post-pandemic world. Only 9% said the pandemic has receded enough to end temporary pandemic-related policies and programs. The rest indicated they will be ready to do so during the second half of this year (42%) or in 2022 or beyond (49%). Additionally, while employers expect the proportion of their employees working primarily remotely will drop from 51% now to 21% in three years, they expect one in three workers (34%) will be working in a mix between onsite and remotely in three years, double the current number (17%).

Employers are not prepared

“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 Chloe Karam, Director Talent & Rewards, Willis Towers Watson. She added: “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, almost nine in ten employers (87%) 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 four in ten (42%) of the region’s respondents are planning to adjust careers in response to changes in the way work is accomplished and a similar proportion (39%) are breaking down Total Rewards to account for a different workforce profile. Over half of the region’s employers (57%) are flexible about where or when work gets done.

Digitalisation important tool

Using digitalisation to transform the employee experience fundamentally over the next three years was highlighted as a major focus area for a large proportion (75%) of firms surveyed in Western Europe. 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 learning and development (63%); manager training (61%); inclusion and diversity (61%); and flexible work arrangements (59%).

To succeed, they must start with a bold employee experience strategy that supports their business strategy and is based on a consistent model.”

Marijana Cvitkusic,
Associate Director Employee Experience, Switzerland

Marijana Cvitkusic, Associate Director Employee Experience, Willis Towers Watson Switzerland, added: “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.”

About the survey

A total of 1,550 employers around the world, including 173 from Western Europe, participated in the 2021 Employee Experience Survey. The survey was conducted between March 29 and April 23, 2021. Western European respondents employ more than 1.2 million workers.

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