As companies transition to new ways of work, the number of organisations in Asia Pacific (APAC) making 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 recognise 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 almost nine in 10 APAC employers (88%) said enhancing the employee experience will be an important priority at their organisation over the next three years compared with just 52% indicating it as important prior to the pandemic — and with good reason. Most respondents believe a positive employee experience is a key driver of engagement (79%), employee wellbeing (79%), productivity (79%), and the ability to attract and retain talent (79%).
Organisations took rapid actions during the pandemic including moving workers to a remote or hybrid work environment, making job cuts, restructuring or cutting pay or benefits. While these actions were less prevalent in this region than reported globally, they still took a significant toll on people with many reporting anxiety and work distraction, creating a ‘stress test’ on the employee experience for many organisations — almost half (48%) reported a negative impact on the employee experience as a result of the pandemic.
“Whether it’s due to employer actions such as pay reductions and layoffs or because of virtual work and personal hardships for some, the pandemic exposed shortfalls in the employee experience at many organisations. Many employers are not equipped to deal with these challenges,” said Clare Muhiudeen, Head of Human Capital & Benefits, International, Willis Towers Watson.
“Our study reveals that just over a quarter of organisations (28%) have no defined approach to the employee experience, with a further 36% only having a basic approach in place. Enhancing the employee experience has therefore become an imperative for organisations and it’s one that will take time.”
As the coronavirus continues to run its course in the region, the stress on employee experience will not go away anytime soon. Employers recognised that this elongated return will require a clear focus on three areas: a change in work model, prioritising wellbeing and aligning total rewards programmes to diverse employee needs.
Indeed, over eight in 10 employers (81%) recognise that the new realities of the labour markets will require a hybrid model for many roles. While many employers have begun the process of change, only 57% are flexible about where or when work gets done; 59% are in the process of reimagining careers in response to changes in the way work is accomplished; and almost half (47%) are segmenting Total Rewards to account for a different workforce profile – and there will be further challenges ahead.
“As organisations 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. Then, they can turn to execution – adapting programmes and policies reflective of flexible work, paying employees fairly, enhancing benefit delivery and wellbeing programs, supporting workers in a more agile and flexible workspace, and aligning Total Rewards programmes to meet the needs of a diverse workforce,” added Clare.
Other findings from the survey include:
- Using digitalisation to transform the employee experience fundamentally over the next three years was highlighted as a major focus for a large proportion of organisations (63%).
- When asked to identify the areas needed to improve employee experience, employers in APAC are placing higher priority than seen globally to improve their offerings in learning and development (72%) and leadership competencies (71%).
- A significant proportion are also looking to address their employee experience needs with manager training (69%) and a focus on inclusion and diversity (60%). Furthermore, over three-fifths of employers (62%) identified flexible work arrangement as a priority to boost the employee experience.
A total of 1,550 employers around the world, including 440 from the 14 different markets in APAC participated in the 2021 Employee Experience Survey. The survey was conducted in April 2021 and the APAC respondents employ more than 1.4 million workers.
Article originally published by Willis Towers Watson.