` Five ways to meet employee expectations in a globally connected world | Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA)
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25 Aug 2021
by Ana Mazo

Five ways to meet employee expectations in a globally connected world

Even before 2020, virtual tools were already breaking down boundaries and creating a global stage for employee benefits to be shared and compared. Enter the pandemic, and with have seen a rapidly accelerating blur between home and work, personal and professional, local and worldwide. Employees are more open about their lives, what they do, and how they work, and it is not uncommon to see posts from both new joiners and veteran employees, expressing all range of emotions, from delight and gratitude, to disillusion and disappointment with their organisation.

 

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At the height of the pandemic, I joined the HR team of a rapidly-growing international organisation hiring at multiple levels and locations. This experience has given me insight into how employers can meet the expectations of employees in this increasingly “connected” context, and differentiate ourselves as accountable, values-driven corporate citizens.

1. Provide choice

Covid-19 has brought employee benefits into sharp focus. The global nature of the pandemic, and the ongoing unpredictability of events has rattled the foundations of what we consider to be must-haves. Employers are now taking a closer look at their existing offering against what is available on the market in terms of possible events or catastrophes that may be on the horizon.

Employees, for their part, are re-valuing benefits that once were considered important, but now may be less so after having lived and worked through a pandemic in their particular country. In my experience, an employee canteen, office gym and even a company car and parking do not hold the same weight as they used to.

Health benefits are being increasingly scrutinized, as the Covid-19 response has contributed to delays and backlogs in healthcare across the globe. What do these benefits cover and are they sufficient to fill the gaps created by the pandemic? How are they accessed? And, crucially, do they provide choice? No matter the benefit, giving your employees choice and control over the essentials at a time when there is so much that is out of our control offers high tangible and emotional value.

2. Reflect cultural changes

The pandemic has also brought the curtain down on two major aspects of employee working culture: the viability of remote working and the importance of mental health. Although already visible pre-2020, they have since gained prominence and acceptance in many organisations and regions around the world.

Having gone mainstream, the home office has opened up new concepts of flexibility, connection and access. Employees now expect their benefits to do the same: highly accessible, digitally-backed and location-agnostic.

Mental health has also shed its taboos, with increased and highly visible respect for employers that offer more than just lip service. However, the seemingly limitless offering of tools and 24/7 digital connection has also brought a sense of mental saturation and fatigue for many. This means that when considering a benefit, employers should consider how employees will interact with it. Is it easy to use? Does it integrate with other benefits? Is there anything human about it or is it just another app and password that will ultimately take away from employee wellbeing?

3. Instil a sense of purpose

Climate change, inequalities in race, identity and income, and the sharp focus given by the pandemic to “what really matters”, all mean that an organisation’s purpose and values are expected to be more than just words. Mission, vision and values must be backed by benefits that align with the issues your employees care about. As a responsible corporate citizen, an employer should be part of the solution.

In multinational contexts, these same messages and benefits need to be consistent across all locations and countries if they are to be truly believed and experienced.

I was fortunate to join an organisation where it is very easy to identify with our mission and where it is clear that employees are passionate about what we do and new joiners are keen to play an active part. Ensuring employees and future employees are aligned with your mission is not always an easy task, but it is well worth working on.

4. Work from the inside out

With such a wide, glittering offer out there, it can be easy to forget that employee benefits should be exactly that: beneficial. Employers need to understand the local landscape: what is needed? What makes a difference? What makes employees feel appreciated and valued as active voices and as human beings not only in your organisation but in their own lives and communities?

Employees are increasingly vocal on social media about the benefits that resonate and make them feel cared about. Moreover, employers should take every opportunity (from in-person meetings to virtual tools) to seek feedback at every stage of the employee journey to understand what drives your team and what is important to them. We have gained some invaluable insights into what our employees value from such sources as our enterprise social network. These insights will guide future decisions that we make on employee engagement.

5. Align from the outside in

Once you have sounded out your employee base and identified benefits that speak to their real concerns, ensure best environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices by making these benefits uniformly received across all your locations and countries.

Both the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as well as local and international diversity, equity and inclusion, and corporate social responsibility benchmarks can help inform and guide your benefits alignment and decision-making. Whatever you decide to offer, it is important to be able to regularly measure success through access to usage and satisfaction data. This will act as a check to ensure the benefits continue to be relevant for your employees and aligned to your ESG strategy.  

The author is Ana Mazo is an HR business partner at the Further Group.

This article is provided by Further Group.

Frank Ahedo, CEO at Further, will be interviewing Alessandro Dordolo, head of HR at Intesa San Paolo, about how they have achieved global alignment and consistency in wellbeing during REBA’s live and in-person Employee Wellbeing Congress on 30 September. Find out more and register to attend.

In partnership with Further

Further is a global company with a mission

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