Some of your best people are taking calls from recruiters while you struggle to close skill gaps. This is no time to retreat. As we think about the risks emerging from new work models, your strongest response on the talent front comes in the form of the employee experience that you deliver — and communicate.
Employee experience is how you create opportunities for employees to learn new skills, find the flexibility they want, grow their careers and earn competitive rewards. And it is how you define a common culture and shared expectations.
The right employee experience will help you attract and keep talent in this new work-risk environment. Not getting it right means persistent skill gaps.
A changing dynamic
Much is said about how the COVID-19 pandemic introduced a new flexibility that’s radically altering workers’ expectations of where and when they work and live, how automation should lead to productivity gains (but is still in its testing and learning phase) and how open talent pools are a wild card that can upend the workforce equation.
Employers cannot wait for these dynamics to settle because they are influencing employees’ outlooks and actions right now. Through a risk lens this translates into issues for talent, productivity and financial results, technology and information security and competitive differentiation. A responsive employee experience addresses many of these risks. Here are some considerations:
- Give workers more choice. Employees are looking for greater autonomy and flexibility to do meaningful work and chart their own professional growth. Leading organizations incorporate flexibility through hybrid work arrangements and flexible hours. And they are gaining a competitive edge over employers who are mandating a full-time “return to office.”
- Help employees navigate uncertainty. Flexible work models and alternative talent sources require your employees to rely on people with whom they’ve not previously worked. Automation and digitalization require workers to learn new technologies and processes. For some, new work models make their current jobs obsolete or take them out of their comfort zone. These factors can create stress that adversely affects the physical/mental health and engagement of employees. If these go unchecked, the result will be reduced output and increased healthcare costs.
- Drive equity through consistent policies. Availing flexible work options isn’t just about personal choice. The time and cost of commute can have a significant impact on living wages of many, particularly in urban locations. Childcare and eldercare responsibilities which often fall on women and older workers also makes flexible work arrangements more attractive. Whether real or perceived, remote workers may fear discrimination when it comes to their pay increases and career options, leading to financial stress and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) risks.
- Update compliance and information security guidelines. Institutionalize the rules and expectations of employees’ use and safeguarding of data, software and intellectual property no matter where they work. In parallel, ensure all aspects of enterprise technology are reinforced for a dispersed and remote/hybrid workforce.
The way forward
Work transformation presents many opportunities to elevate the employee experience. WTW research shows that high-performing businesses benefit from a work environment where not only are employees’ voices heard and understood but also have an impact in shaping success. Doing so requires:
- Understanding how work transformation affects employee segments in terms of their jobs, rewards and benefits, as well as physical, emotional, social and financial wellbeing. Also consider jobs, age, gender, tenure and geography cohorts.
- Implementing an ongoing employee listening strategy to understand and keep pace with your employees’ views and preferences, sources of stress and needed support and how each may change over time.
- Building a new organizational culture that promotes collaboration, wellbeing, diversity, equity and inclusion through flexibility (work, scheduling and leave policies), programs (pay, benefits, careers and wellbeing programs) and clear, transparent communication that create engagement for change.
- Providing training and expanding manager capabilities to understand and empathize with employees as they adopt new ways of working. Make sure managers have the tools and messages to be ambassadors of change and champions of wellbeing, and to address real and perceived biases in performance evaluation and pay and career progression of all employees.
- Communicating often and transparently to ensure leaders, managers and employees understand the work transformation vision, goals, rationale and actions. Make sure employees know what you are doing to support and help them through the transition (e.g., companies are investing in technology, programs to bring people together, improving manager capabilities, implementing re/upskilling programs).
As organizations manage through business change, those that understand the expectations and needs of workers will have clarity on the best way to capture value. With special attention on the employee experience, organizations stand out for gaining, developing and leading talent through future work risks.