Article · 4 minute read

Hybrid Working & The Employee Experience

By James Hollingsworth – 16th July 2021

10 Key Reflections

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 organizational situations to consider, there is no silver bullet. However, as you assess which direction of travel will work best for you, here are 10 key reflections from the session which might be useful to consider:

1. Principles not Policy

Organizations should look to communicate guiding principles rather than set policy. This creates more freedom to flex once guidelines are communicated, with a transparent agreement they may evolve to best serve the organization and employees. Guidelines also help maintain employee trust; bring them on this new journey with the organization, as opposed to setting policies they must follow.

2. Be Flexible About Being Flexible

88% of delegates said they would tailor their approach based on a balance of organizational and employee needs. To do this, they will need to be flexible first. The same approach wouldn’t be suitable for office-based roles and factory or laboratory-based roles. Flexibility gives employees the opportunity to have individual circumstances considered which could be crucial for wellbeing.  

3. 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 those, organizations 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. The 4 Cs of the Office - Connect, Communicate, Collaborate, Create

Prior to the pandemic, office space was premium real estate, with many organizations 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 for a space to effectively connect, communicate, collaborate and ensure a holistic rather than organizational perspective. There may also be individual purpose, such as individuals not having a suitable home working environment.

5. Strike the Balance of Risk & Opportunity for DE&I

Increased flexibility should create more freedom to support employee needs. It is critical that for every opportunity identified, organizations also consider the potential risk to that person or group. Organizations 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. Alignment to EX

Breakthrough research from Willis Towers Watson illustrated the key factors for delivering a high-performance employee experience and analyzed the impact on each for remote versus location working. The top three priority EX areas are effective virtual collaboration, creating opportunities to have employee input and voice, and new ways for employees to leverage growth opportunities.

7. Have a Lens on Attraction & Retention

Recruitment companies Robert Walters, Hays and Michael Page have all commented on improving market conditions and are anticipating a rise in global hiring. Competition for talent will be fierce, particularly with a new wave of talent available. As organizations 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. Be Conscious of Physical Vs Virtual

Willis Towers Watson research illustrates the percentage of employees working in a remote/hybrid model is set to rocket to 56%, from just 9% three years ago. Organizations need a lens on how to bridge the gaps between the virtual and the physical. 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. Be Global, Think Local

For global organizations 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. Engage Leaders & Managers

Whilst a lot of HR focus is directed towards the employees, leaders and managers will be two key stakeholder groups 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 gain buy-in. It is also critical to engage with managers, so they understand how to communicate, manage expectations and opportunities for flex within their teams. Engaging them in the process can help ensure successful execution.

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