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New ways of working and driving a high performance employee experience

Part of our Transform to Perform series.

Future of Work|Talent|Integrated Wellbeing
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By Leesa Mills | November 11, 2020

The divide between work and home has blended and blurred in 2020.

We’ve carved out new working routines and juggled the curve balls this year has thrown our way. In establishing new ways of working, many organisations are adopting agile approaches to manage their people and develop or refine business strategies for the future, while more employees are adopting flexible working arrangements than ever before.

To maximise success, there is much we can learn from High Performance Employee Experience (HPEX). It’s important for employers to define what workplace flexibility looks like for their organisation, what can be offered to employees, and how to deliver it in a way that drives a HPEX.

Workplace Flexibility

Settings that move beyond the construct of a single, designated workspace and work time for each employee. Common action to connect wellbeing with the Employee Value Proposition (EVP).

Telework
Compressed Week
Job Sharing
Flexible Work Hours
Hoteling

COVID-19 Impact

The pandemic has required companies to quickly re-evaluate workplace flexibility to support business and people needs.

Workplace Mandate
Physical & Psychological Safety
Child & Elder Care Needs
Financial Wellbeing
Inclusion & Diversity

A recent Willis Towers Watson study explored the pre-pandemic employee experience for employees working remotely while most of their teams and colleagues were still based at physical work locations. There were some interesting differences in experiences for the work from home employees and implications which organisations can apply today – providing a helpful guide to managing a more flexible work environment as we reimagine work for the future.

Work-from-home populations study

Willis Towers Watson’s Employee Experience for work-from-home populations study (Pre-pandemic 2017-2019)
WFH EX challenge The reopening work experience The new opportunity
Collaboration : Lack of face-time versus workers at company locations
  • Callers to meetings no longer have the same visibility once some/most staff are in offices
  • Remote workers rarely see managers face-to-face
  • Use conference rooms infrequently, maintaining individual call-ins to online video meetings
  • Schedule regular site visit days for WFH staff
Growth : Missed opportunities to grow, not top-of-mind for managers
  • Stretch assignments or quick-hit development tasks go to local staff who are physically near in-person managers
  • Use an online resource to inform all staff of new assignments
  • Track opportunities pursued for WFH staff versus other workers
Voice : Input not heard
  • WFH staff views are not solicited or able to get through during mostly in-person meetings
  • Design “alarm-bell” moments to solicit meeting input from all participants
  • Schedule most significant meetings when WFH staff have in-office days
Supports : Lack of enablement or ability to sustain work efforts
  • Online tools may work poorly for WFH staff, impacting efficiency and involvement or attendance at meetings
  • At-home distractions can sap energy and focus on work
  • Invest more in WFH technology solutions, now that a smaller, targeted number of staff are WFH
  • Schedule key meetings during most productive windows for WFH staff

Embracing the positives

Many organisations had to pivot extremely quickly to facilitate working from home and other flexible working options, giving rise to new ways of working not available to some employee cohorts before. These were rolled out on a much faster timetable than previously thought possible, showing what can be achieved with a true spirit of cooperation and very clear priorities.

Awareness of each other’s wellbeing and mental health has come to the fore. Managers and senior leaders have led with empathy and, in return employees have shown more trust in their leaders, well beyond pre-pandemic levels. It has been gratifying to see organisations take note of their employees’ individual and unique circumstances.

Organisations can continue to leverage the trust built during the pandemic, by ensuring their employees maintain access to the flexible working options proven to work well in 2020. It is a great opportunity to ensure that all employees feel valued and can contribute fully.

We have a greater appreciation of the person behind the colleague, leader or client. WFH has given us a window into other homes and lives, working from their dining tables, looking after children’s remote learning, battling interruptions from pets. For those organisations where all employees have been WFH, we have seen more instances of an inclusive forum, with everyone joining meetings from video calls, utilising collaborative tools and software to connect.

Maintaining the benefits

As we progress to hybrid working it is important to consider how we continue to integrate the experience of those physically attending in a work meeting room and those WFH – ensuring everyone has the same voice and is enabled to collaborate well, regardless of their physical work location, mode of employment or other individual differences.

New ways of working have even expanded talent pools as we realise that a person can contribute and participate remotely from other locations. This has implications for how best to deliver recruitment, onboarding, learning and growth experiences, and continue to create those invaluable organic coaching and team building moments.

Organisations also need to weave in their culture and values to ensure these are fully lived and continue to guide employees’ work in this new landscape. Just as importantly, organisations should build flexible and resilient managers, who are supported to guide their teams as new ways of working continue to emerge, are trialled and implemented.

As we move forward, it will be essential for organisations to put themselves in the best position to support a successful flexibility program and understand where they fall on the work flexibility maturity curve. See some of our pointers on how to achieve that below.

Manager training critical to a successful employee experience

  1. 01

    Policy and programs

    • What programs are available?
    • Is there a comprehensive policy?
    • Have they been updated since COVID-19?
    • How do they support I&D and caregiving needs?
  2. 02

    Leadership mindset/culture

    • What has been communicated since COVID-19?
    • Is leadership supportive of flexibility?
    • Is flexibility part of organisational culture?
  3. 03

    Work processes

    • Are roles and task flexible?
    • Can work be done at different times of day?
  4. 04

    Enabling technology/infrastructure

    • Does technology support flexible arrangements?
    • Is sufficient security in place?
    • Are the right resources in place?
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