Canadian Underwriter

The importance of employee experience in the post-pandemic world

August 13, 2021   by Jason Contant

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Improving employees’ experience is a top priority for almost all Canadian employers’ post-pandemic success, Willis Towers Watson (WTW) said in a study released Aug. 11.

However, while employers recognize adapting to the new reality will take time and require a hybrid work model, many are not ready to meet the challenges, WTW noted in its 2021 Employee Experience Survey.

The survey found the vast majority of Canadian employers (95%) said enhancing the employee experience will be an important priority at their organization over the next three years. This compared to 61% who said it was important to their organization prior to the pandemic.

“And with good reason,” WTW said in a release Wednesday announcing the survey results. “Most respondents believe a positive employee experience is a key driver of engagement (88%), employee well-being (86%), productivity (86%) and ability to attract and retain talent.”

The global survey polled a total of 1,550 employers around the world, including 65 from Canada. Canadian respondents employ more than 250,000 workers.

France Dufresne, Canada region leader – talent advisory business for WTW, said the pandemic exposed shortfalls in the employee experience at many companies, whether due to employer actions such as pay reductions or layoffs, or because of virtual work and personal hardships for some workers. “Enhancing the employee experience has therefore become an imperative for employers, and it’s one that will take time and present challenges some are not currently prepared to meet.”

More than eight in 10 Canadian employers (83%) recognize the new reality will require a hybrid model for many roles, but many employers aren’t ready to realize that ambition. Only 46% of respondents are flexible about where or when work gets done; 43% are in the process of reimagining careers in response to changes in the way work is accomplished, and only 35% are segmenting “total rewards” to account for a different workforce profile. (Total rewards refers to things like pay, benefits, well-being and career programs). Overall, only 13% are doing all three of these.

When asked to identify other actions needed to improve the employee experience, respondents said they are looking to improve their offering or change aspects of their programs to address the needs in inclusion and diversity (83%), mental health and resilience programs (76%), employee wellbeing (76%) and manager training (67%). Further, three-quarters of employers (76%) identified flexible work arrangements as a priority to boost the employee experience.

“As organizations look ahead to a post-pandemic era, their ability to move the needle on the employee experience will be critical,” Dufresne said. “To succeed, they must develop an [employee experience] strategy that is aligned with their business strategy and is built around a consistent model.

“Then, they must execute on delivering a bold employee experience strategy,” she said. “The first step will be to create or adapt programs and policies to address the needs of flexible work by not only incorporating the new realities of the physical workplace into HR policies, but most importantly, by reimagining careers, and shaping strategies that address talent reskilling and redeployment.”


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