Employers, workers have differing expectations of the future of work
Business leaders are significantly more satisfied with how they have adjusted to new working norms than their employees are, according to a report released by NTT, a global technology and business solutions provider. The 2021 Global Workplace Report provides insights into the future of work as businesses around the world prepare for a post-pandemic reality, and points to the need for clearer organisational insight into how employees have re-evaluated what they need from their workplace.
Conducting 1146 interviews across 23 countries, NTT found near-universal agreement that remote working has introduced difficulties, with 82% of respondents saying that it has challenged organisation performance and 81% saying it has been challenging for employees. The research also revealed that 63% of CHROs say that employee wellbeing has deteriorated over the course of the pandemic. Broad awareness of the issue does not always translate into a realistic assessment of organisational capacity. Compared to operations staff, CEOs are 20 percentage points more likely to believe that their organisation is very effective at managing working hours, 28 points more likely to believe that they are effective at preventing burnout and 41 points more likely to be very satisfied with their organisation’s employee experience (EX) capabilities. This awareness gap mirrors a lack of employee confidence, with 38% saying that their employer fully values their health and wellbeing and 23% saying they are very happy working for their employer.
The research found a significant degree of diversity in employee attitudes towards their own future working preferences. Voice of the Employee (VoE) data shows that, when offered a choice of at-home, hybrid, or in-office working arrangements, employees are relatively evenly split between the three, at 30%, 30% and 39%, respectively. These findings contradict the belief, shared by 79% of organisations, that employees prefer office working, when VoE data finds that only 39% of employees desire full-time office working.
Alex Bennett, Global Senior Vice President, GTM Solutions at NTT, noted that the narrative is currently all about remote working, but the reality of employees’ needs is more complicated. Bennett cautioned that any failure to accurately assess and respond to that fact presents a serious risk to organisations. “These are not mild preferences: we found that work–life balance and commute times are now the two biggest factors people look at when deciding where to work, and so performing well on workforce and workplace strategy will be a real competitive advantage,” Bennett said.
Acting based on a clear view of employees’ outlooks is made more difficult by a lack of thorough data and insight collection. In terms of data priorities, 52% of businesses report VoE being a top focus, second only to workplace analytics at 54%. Despite this, however, only 39% of organisations have structured VoE programs, and 37% employ real-time sentiment analysis, compared to 54% utilising employee surveys.
The research also revealed that the application of these kinds of data to improve an organisation’s EX must go further than day-to-day quality-of-life improvements; at 40%, a company’s purpose and values is now the third most important factor for choosing where to work. In this area, employees and business leaders are in sync, with 89% agreeing that environment, social and governance (ESG) objectives are at the heart of the organisation’s agenda.
Bennett noted that two-thirds of employees said they’re not yet equipped with all the tools they need to work from home, while 55% of organisations said they are strongly satisfied that office spaces are ready for hybrid working. Additionally, 82% of organisations are reshaping their office space over the next 12 months to foster an environment of innovation and social connection. “I would look at this as a call to shift our thinking from being about actions to being about outcomes. What’s important is not what we do to improve the workplace, but how it actually benefits the workforce — and an organisation cannot know that without a mature approach to measuring employees’ sentiment,” Bennett said.
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