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Article | EX Insights

Hybrid working and the employee experience

10 key reflections

Talent|Total Rewards|Wellbeing|Employee Engagement
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By Stephanie Rudbeck and Frances Fisher | July 16, 2021

Ten takeaways from our recent "hybrid working" session with senior HR professionals. Is employee experience high on your agenda?

Willis Towers Watson brought together a senior group of HR professionals from a range of industries to discuss the hottest topic on the HR agenda right now; hybrid working. The discussion was lively, the challenges diverse and the solutions not straightforward. With multiple stakeholder expectations to manage and unique organisational situations to consider, there is no silver bullet. However, as you work on which direction of travel will work best for you, here are 10 key reflections from the session and our recent breakthrough employee experience research which might be useful to consider.

  1. 01

    Principles not policy

    Organisations should look to communicate guiding principles rather than set policies. This allows room for more flexibility once guidelines are communicated, with a transparent agreement they may evolve to best serve the organisation and employees. Guidelines also help maintain employee trust; allowing them to embark on the organisations journey, as opposed to setting policies they must follow.

  2. 02

    Be flexible about being flexible

    88% of session participants agreed they would tailor their approach based on a balance of organisation and employee needs. However, in order to achieve this, they will need to be flexible first. The same approach wouldn’t be suitable for office-based, factory or laboratory-based roles. Flexibility gives employees the opportunity to have individual circumstances considered which could be crucial for their wellbeing.

  3. 03

    Listening is key

    Employee engagement, employee choice, trust, wellbeing and fairness were some of the top delegate considerations for formulating their hybrid working strategy. To effectively capture these key areas, organisations need to understand what their employees are feeling rather than second guessing. Implementing a listening strategy is crucial and provides meaningful data to shape and support recommendations.

  4. 04

    The four C’s of the office – connect, communicate, collaborate, create

    Prior to the pandemic, office space was premium real estate, with many organisations operating flexible working, desk-booking, and other guidelines. Whilst there will be nuances for certain roles, purpose should be a key consideration as part of the return. For many, this will be a space to effectively connect, communicate, collaborate and to create a more holistic environment rather than organisational. There may also be individual purpose, such as individuals not having a suitable home working environment.

  5. 05

    Strike the balance of risk & opportunity for I&D

    Increased flexibility should create more freedom to support employee needs. It is critical that for every opportunity identified, organisations also consider the potential risk to that person or group. Organisations have a responsibility to ensure increased flexibility doesn’t become increased invisibility and that equal opportunities for pay, progression and development are not compromised by the hybrid strategy.

  6. 06

    Align to employee experience

    The breakthrough employee experience research illustrated the key factors for delivering a high-performance employee experience (EX) and analysed the impact on each for remote versus location working. The results showed the top three priority EX areas were effective virtual collaboration; creating opportunities to have employee input and voice and; new ways for employees to leverage growth opportunities.

  7. 07

    Have a lens on attraction and retention

    Recruitment companies Robert Walters, Hays and Michael Page have all commented on improving market conditions and anticipating a rise in global hiring. Competition for talent will be fierce, particularly with a new wave of talent available. As organisations shape their hybrid working strategy, they should consider potential employees. How will the solution they implement influence their attractiveness as an employer and what potential role could it play in their war for talent?

  8. 08

    Be conscious of physical vs virtual

    Results from the research illustrates the percentage of employees working in a remote/hybrid model is set to rocket to 56%, from just 9% three years ago. Organisations need a lens on how to bridge the gaps between the virtual and the physical world. What measures can be put in place to make sure equal opportunities are presented across both environments whether it is participation in meetings, development initiatives or group workshops.

  9. 09

    Be global, think local

    For global organisations approaching a new hybrid working strategy, it is important to maintain a local mindset. Prior to the pandemic, a one-size-fits-all approach wouldn’t have worked and it certainly won't after. Different regions will be approaching or emerging from different phases of the pandemic. Their regional infrastructures and economies will also shape how to effectively approach the hybrid working strategy.

  10. 10

    Engage leaders and empower managers

    Whilst a lot of HR focus is directed towards the employees, leaders and managers will be two key stakeholders for delivering an effective hybrid working strategy. Leaders may have a pre-determined notion of what they believe the approach should be and HR should engage them early to get buy-in. It is also critical to engage with managers, so they understand how to communicate, manage expectations and opportunities for flexibility within their teams. Engaging them in the process can help ensure successful execution.

Thank you for reading this article. We hope you have found it useful and thought-provoking. If you would like to discuss any of the themes in more detail, please contact your Willis Towers Watson consultant or one of the contacts listed below.

Contacts

Stephanie Rudbeck
Senior Director – Talent and Rewards


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