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HR powering business performance

Four key takeaways from Willis Towers Watson’s Accelerate 2019 conference

Global Benefits Management|Health and Benefits|Talent|Total Rewards

By Jacki Bassani | August 8, 2019

In this post, we reveal four of the top takeaways from our Accelerate 2019 conference, so you too can create a compelling value proposition.

Empowering your people to accelerate your business performance takes revolutionary ideas, a commitment to innovation and true grit from your HR teams. That’s why each year we bring 100 of the industry’s top HR leaders together to discuss the latest trends on building better work experiences and share how leading organizations are employing new HR technologies to better serve their employees.

This year’s Accelerate 2019 conference featured a stellar line up of more than 25 HR trailblazers employing new technologies to power their workforce and drive business performance. We also learned about best practices for listening to employee needs and meeting employees where they are to overcome some of the biggest challenges HR professionals face today.

In this post, we reveal four of the top takeaways from the conference, so you too can create a compelling value proposition that effectively recruits, rewards and retains the best talent in a competitive labor market with high employee expectations.

Four key takeaways

1. Ensure technology simplifies rather than complicates the employee experience

In 2014, Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management and automation, began communicating with employees to keep them up to date on their global rewards program. But as the company quickly grew, its needs and technology changed, bringing with it a flood of content, vendors and data. The employee experience became increasingly complex and overwhelming, rife with multiple platforms and passwords, and was especially daunting for new hires.

We learned from Galileo that employees love simplification…”

William Swanson
VP of HR Shared Services at Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric’s Galileo project, developed in collaboration with Willis Towers Watson, used a personalized approach through technology to simplify the employee experience around one platform with one password, helping Schneider Electric employees navigate the HR and Total Rewards universe. Everything the employee needed to view — paid time off, cash and compensation, medical, dental, employee stock purchase plans and more — was now in one central place.

“We created this portal with Willis Towers Watson on their upgraded platform and it was basically our Total Rewards portal on steroids,” says William Swanson, VP of HR Shared Services at Schneider Electric. “We learned from Galileo that employees love simplification and that having a single sign on enhanced the site traffic by six times.”

Simplifying processes for Schneider Electric wasn’t easy, but it was important because it placed the emphasis on the employee experience resulting in better use of employee time.

2. To achieve pay equity, you need to build on a solid foundation

To help close a wide gender pay gap in the U.K., new legislation requires statutory disclosures of executive pay for large British companies starting in 2020.

Pay equity is all about equal pay for equal work.”

Chris Pinc
Managing Director of Product Management at Willis Towers Watson

As a result of the new regulation, a global pharmaceutical firm headquartered in the U.K., and Willis Towers Watson client decided to conduct a thorough pay equity analysis in order to take a deeper look at its possible gender pay gap. Ultimately, leadership was inspired to carry out the analysis in other countries as well, learning not only how to provide more transparency about both what employees earn but also the company’s approach to determining employee pay across the entire organization.

The organization worked with Willis Towers Watson to put a job leveling approach in place that made them aware of what kinds of people were doing equal work, and this became the foundation of their pay equity analysis.

“Pay equity is all about equal pay for equal work. To get at this accurately and effectively it’s key to have a solid, up-to-date job levelling system in place to clearly understand the work your employees are doing across the entire organization,” says Chris Pinc, Managing Director of Product Management at Willis Towers Watson.

Pay fairness is a movement that has increased employee expectations about transparency and the logic behind decisions about pay. Today’s HR leaders are creating an authentic narrative around pay and fairness that leaders can embrace.

3. During transitions, give employees tools with which to speak frankly and anonymously; and use that information wisely

Corteva Agriscience was born from the merger between Dow and DuPont. When the business was created last spring, HR leaders set out to use new techniques in employee listening to help attract, retain and engage talent in the wake of the pending spin-off. But listening to the needs of tens of thousands of employees around the world at a new $14 billion company would not be without challenges.

For instance, would Corteva employees in France want the same things as Corteva employees in America? (In short: No.)

The first step in the journey was using Willis Towers Watson’s moderated real time virtual focus groups to hear from nearly 1,600 employees in six countries. The virtual focus groups asked employees:

  • Why did you join Corteva?
  • Why did you stay?
  • Why might you choose to leave?

They delved into employee thoughts on the adequacy of time off programs, the company’s support and encouragement for their health and wellbeing, as well as their confidence in retirement readiness, among other things.

The insights Corteva cultivated from these focus groups, in which employees could respond anonymously and see how others were responding instantly, helped it use analytical approaches to global survey data to cultivate rich insights from its workforce which are helping to inform program changes and shape a new global Total Rewards strategy.

4. Streamlined corporations with vertical advancement challenges can help employees explore career opportunities in new ways

Opportunities for career advancement is the number two reason employees join or leave an organization. But while most employers provide traditional career paths with on-the-job training and vertical advancement, the world of work is changing and traditional career paths aren’t necessarily what it takes to retain the best talent anymore.

To be successful we will need talent that is rich in diverse experiences.”

Kim Harley
Human Resources Director at The Coca-Cola Company

What defines a successful career in a changing world? And who owns career growth, individuals or managers? The Coca-Cola Company sought the answers to these and other questions with an employee survey in 2018. They found that with streamlined departments and fewer opportunities for vertical advancement at Coca-Cola, employees were interested in looking more deeply at their possible career paths within the company.

Coca-Cola Human Resources Director Kim Harley and Danielle Rasey, senior director of Talent & Rewards at Willis Towers Watson set out to design a career enablement solution which could include lateral or dual career paths, beyond-the-job training, and employee self-service tools to enable and empower individuals as they would chart their own career journeys, gathering career experiences versus job titles. What they came up with enabled employees to dream big, get creative, and bet on their own potential rather than banking on their experience. And Coca-Cola would benefit too.

“We may not know what tomorrow’s jobs will look like,” says Harley, “but we do know that to be successful we will need talent that is rich in diverse experiences.”

Final thoughts

While not every organization faces the same challenges illustrated above, the four top takeaways from the conference are noteworthy as they center around employee experience and have a similar result of improving productivity. If you seek to meet your employees where they are, you can create a compelling value proposition that effectively recruits, rewards and retains the best talent in a competitive labor market.

For more information about Accelerate 2019 or to register to attend Accelerate 2020, drop us a line.

Find out what you missed at Accelerate 2019

Hear what Willis Towers Watson consultants and clients discussed at Accelerate 2019 in New Orleans.


Jacki Bassani
Head of Talent and Rewards, North America , Willis Towers Watson

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