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The Employee Experience Stress Test: Lessons for leaders

Insights from the world's largest database of employee opinions

Employee Engagement |Total Rewards|Talent|Wellbeing|Health and Benefits
COVID 19 Coronavirus

October 2021

Relatively few organizations were equipped to manage the employee experience stress test brought on by the pandemic. Explore these important lessons for leaders based on employee opinions from the global workforce.

Relatively few organizations were equipped to manage the employee experience stress test brought on by the pandemic.

Explore these important lessons for leaders based on employee opinions from the global workforce.

The Employee Experience Stress Test: Lessons for leaders

Enabling collaboration and agility in a reconfigured workplace

Employee wellbeing took a significant turn for the worse in 2020

In response to the pandemic:

  • Half of global employees expressed a moderate to large degree of anxiety, peaking at nearly 60% in August and September
  • By year-end, over a third (36%) maintained moderate to large financial worry, down from a high of 51% in June and July
  • 25% suffered from significant distractions while working from home (particularly driven by caregiving demands). By year-end, those who felt distracted fell 7% as schools reopened or they found long-term solutions

Lesson for leaders: These effects will be felt for a long time to come.

Employee confidence in their leaders’ ability to protect their health and wellbeing wavered during the pandemic

Initial phase of pandemic (March-April 2020)

  • 72% had full confidence in leaders to protect employee health and wellbeing

By end of 2020

  • Confidence in leaders fell to 57%
  • Only 41% were fully confident their work locations were not a health risk
  • 80% worried about their health and safety from commuting
  • 71% preferred to continue working from home

But there’s positive news too!

  • Employee perception of their company’s interest in their wellbeing rose slightly (up 5%)
  • Employees reporting their company benefit offerings met their needs jumped 7%

Lesson for leaders: We have a long way to go before employee concerns return to anything near ‘normal’.

Developing a strong culture of trust matters

In 2020, employees’ felt:

  • Managers were significantly more confident in their decision-making abilities and judgement (up 16%)
  • More confident in their ability to be themselves without worry of how they would be accepted (up 9%)

As organizations reimagined operating models, strong cultures of trust were bolstered as:

  • Silos were broken down leading to increased collaboration across locations and businesses (up 10%)
  • More open and honest communication took place (up 12%)
  • Employers increased focus on actively listening to employee feedback (up 9%)

Lesson for leaders: This sets a challenge for leadership to maintain levels of trust.

Resilience through challenge has been key – but focus on speed and accelerating performance is lagging

  • Employee approval of their company’s ability to manage change fell sharply (14%) to just 43%
  • Employees felt their companies were slower to make key decisions (down 7%)
  • Performance focus declined as reviews were seen as less helpful (down 8%) with less focus on consistent standards for excellence (down 8%)

Lesson for leaders: Shaping the new world of work and reward will not be easy.

Call to action for employers:

  1. Lead the workforce in ways that emphasize compassion, transparency and dignity.
  2. Managing through the pandemic requires empathy and building connection especially with remote workforces. This leadership skill will remain important at least through 2021.

  3. Protect employees and build resilience.
  4. Supporting workers in a world not yet finished with the impacts of the coronavirus is critical to any sustained rebound from the pandemic. If employers hope to mitigate risk to their people and businesses post-pandemic, they will need to be more proactive and supportive than they are today.

  5. Advance governance and human capital oversight
  6. Developing key measures related to people, emphasizing health, workplace safety, psychological safety and corporate sustainability will be critical to the sustained effectiveness of any rebound.

  7. Reimagine work and total rewards.
  8. In many companies, virtual working will remain the norm post pandemic. To do work effectively will mean finding ways to drive agile delivery, reskill talent with needed capabilities and apply automation to streamline existing processes. Equitable rewards will also be critical yet challenging, as budgets remain tight and 2021 business outlook remains uncertain.

Infographic: The Employee Experience Stress Test - Lessons for leaders

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