The New Workforce Reality

26th May 2021

Posted In: The Topic

In EY’s recent CEO Imperatives Study, it revealed that Irish CEOs are ahead of their global peers when it comes to putting people at the centre of their organisation. 87% of Irish CEOs agree that putting people (employees, customers, other stakeholders) at the centre of decision-making will be a core value driver in future, compared to a global average of 80%. How Irish businesses organise work will need to reflect this.

From what EY is hearing from clients, there does appear to be a growing acknowledgement in the market that remote and hybrid working are here to stay. This is not only evident in Ireland but in many other developed economies. Organisations are reshaping their workforces and reward models to meet the new reality. Those leading the charge are already allowing for more flexible work models and have put supporting policies in place.

They have invested heavily in technology and security in the remote setting, and they have created supports for their employees that go beyond the basics.

This means much more than the bare minimum of offering a home or remote working option. A full suite of policies and supports must be in place for all employees including those who chose to work in the office full-time, those who wish to mix it up in a hybrid arrangement, and the others who prefer a fully remote working life.

A genuinely people-centred approach will have to be backed with other more tangible offerings that go beyond the physical work environment in which an employee works.

Build back better

Many forward-thinking organisations are already using the learnings and benefits of the changes experienced in the last year to re-emerge into the market stronger than before.

This requires a culture of innovation, adaptability and resilience.

Many organisations have taken this period as an opportunity to reinvent their operating models and supporting distribution systems. This includes their distribution of people and talent, and it includes reskilling and upskilling to work in a remote and digital way.

Copper-fasten the Employee Value Proposition (EVP): 

Maintaining engagement and motivation in a hybrid environment is vital.

To remain engaged, employees need to feel connected and have a clear view of their opportunities for progression, regardless of where they are physically based.

A strong EVP, focusing on purpose and impact will allow for greater brand loyalty to an organisation.

Employee benefit packages will need to be reconsidered and retooled to reflect not just the changed workforce model but also the shifting priorities of latest generations entering the workplace. A free or subsidised canteen holds little value for a home-based worker. The same goes for gym memberships, cycle to work schemes and other benefits designed with the full-time office worker in mind. A team night out may lose some of its shine when some of the team are based in a different city.

Reimagining employee benefits will require creativity and innovation, and it needs time investment and focus.

With an increased focus on health and wellbeing, employers would be well placed to consider welfare leave provisions that they will make available to employees as part of their standard contract terms.

Relentless focus on culture

However, all of the above being said, culture is the single element that requires the most focus in a hybrid work environment.  Culture is the “how” of the organisation – how we get things done, how we communicate, how we demonstrate our commitment to our values, how we make decisions, how we collaborate. And right now, how we do that is remotely and with a distributed workforce.

“How” we work has fundamentally changed at rapid pace, so how it evolves must be intentional.

Fundamental to this is seeking regular feedback from employees. How are the new working arrangements working for them? What needs to change? Do they feel motivated and connected? It’s all too easy to operate in a vacuum assuming everything is going well, until it’s too late and you end up with an attrition problem. Critical also is that employees can see changes being made where issues have been raised and feedback given.

The war for talent is likely to continue to intensify, and organisations that do right by their employees in the new world and provide a compelling workplace experience are the ones that will win, by both attracting and retaining the best employees.

Author:  Jackie Gilmore (pictured) is People Consulting Partner and Head of Private Sector Consulting at EY Ireland. To read the full EY Ireland CEO Imperative Study 2021, click here.