With organizations worldwide transitioning to new work arrangements, most understand that improving the “employee experience” should be a top priority in the post-pandemic world.

Ninety-four percent of employers believe that enhancing the employee experience — the environment created by a business to help foster a positive workplace experience and long-term worker success — is imperative within the next three years, according to a Willis Tower Watson survey. That’s up from 54 percent prior to the pandemic.

To be sure, the return on investment is enormous, employers say. According to the study, a large majority of organizations see a positive employee experience as key to increased engagement (82 percent), employee welfare (79 percent), attracting and retaining talent (80 percent) and productivity (79 percent).

“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 start with a bold employee experience strategy that supports their business strategy and is based on a consistent model,” Suzanne McAndrew, global head of data for Willis Towers Watson, said in the study.

Resistance to hybrid-work model

Still, while 63 percent of employers said flexible work arrangements have the ability to boost their employee experience, many companies are wary of prematurely adapting to a post-pandemic world. Only 13 percent of employers said the pandemic had slowed to the point that pandemic-related workplace policies can end, the poll found.

While businesses anticipate their remote workforces will drop from 53 percent today to 20 percent by 2024, one in four employees (25 percent) are expected to work in a hybrid arrangement in three years, three times the current figure (8 percent), it added.

About 80 percent of employers recognize that the current labor market requires a hybrid model for the majority of work, according to the survey. Yet only half (52 percent) of those polled said they are flexible in where and when work gets done, and less than half (49 percent) are redesigning careers tailored to the new workforce realities.

“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,” Andy Walker, managing director of Willis Towers Watson, said in the report. “Enhancing the employee experience has therefore become an imperative for employers, and it’s one that will take time and present challenges many are not currently prepared to meet.”

Lack of flexibility could lead some employees to seek new jobs

Organizations that fail to meet those challenges and bolster the employee experience, especially when it comes to where work will be performed in the post-pandemic world, do so at their own peril, research suggests.

Thirty percent of respondents in a McKinsey survey said they would look for employment elsewhere if forced to return to the office full time and more than half of employees want to continue with some form of remote/hybrid work post-pandemic.

McAndrew at Willis Towers Watson agrees.

Businesses must “turn to execution — adapting programs and policies reflective of flexible work, paying employees fairly, enhancing benefit delivery and well-being programs” and supporting workers with a more agile and flexible workspace to meet the needs of a diverse workforce, she said.

Willis Towers Watson, a London-based insurance brokerage and advisory company, surveyed 1,550 employers globally between March 29 and April 23, 2021.

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