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More than 9 in 10 employers make enhancing the employee experience a top priority for post-pandemic success

Willis Towers Watson survey finds employers taking steps to meet the challenges and work models of the “new reality”

Employee Engagement |Future of Work|Health and Benefits|Inclusion and Diversity|Talent|Total Rewards|Wellbeing
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August 11, 2021

TORONTO, ON, August 11, 2021 — As companies transition to new ways of work, the number of Canadian organizations making the improvement of the employee experience a top priority has surged, according to a new survey by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company. 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.

The 2021 Employee Experience Survey found more than nine in 10 employers (95%) said enhancing the employee experience will be an important priority at their organization over the next three years compared with 61% that indicated it was important to their organization prior to the pandemic. And with good reason. Most respondents believe a positive employee experience is a key driver of engagement (88%), employee wellbeing (86%), productivity (86%), and ability to attract and retain talent (84%).

Only one in ten (9%) respondents say the pandemic has receded enough to end temporary pandemic-related policies and programs. The rest indicate they will be ready to do so during the second half of this year (40%), or in 2022 or beyond (51%). Additionally, while employers expect the proportion of their employees working primarily remotely will drop from 57% now to 19% in three years, they expect one in three workers (36%) will be working in a mix between onsite and remotely in three years, five times the current number (7%).

“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 organizations,” said France Dufresne, Canada Region Leader – Talent Advisory Business, Willis Towers Watson. “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.”

Indeed, more than eight in 10 employers (83%) recognize that the new realities of the labour markets will require a hybrid model for many roles; however, 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. Overall, only 13% are doing all three of these.

Over three-quarters (78%) of organizations intend to focus on digitalization to transform the employee experience fundamentally over the next three years. “Leading organizations are relying on innovative tools and technology to provide employees the ability to personalize their benefits to get the most out of the program.” said Dawn Noordam, leader of Willis Towers Watson’s Benefit Access solution in Canada. “Now, more than ever, enhancing the employee experience will require organizations to rethink benefits and wellbeing initiatives to recognize individual needs and better support workers in an agile and flexible workplace.”

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. To succeed, they must develop an EX 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. 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,” concluded Dufresne.

About the survey

A total of 1,550 employers around the world, including 65 from Canada, participated in the 2021 Employee Experience Survey. The survey was conducted between March 29 and April 30, 2021. Canadian respondents employ more than 250,000 workers.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.

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