Review of the new employer-employee social contract

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We’ve all heard business leaders say that employees are their organization’s most important asset, but too often the reality doesn’t fully match those sentiments.

While the competition to attract key talent was (and remains) fierce before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers were either slow or reluctant to make the kind of changes needed to truly put their employees first.

The office was where the vast majority of work needed to be completed, while issues such as mental well-being were only discussed when the impact of burnout on staff absence and turnover was felt. Indeed, the contract between employee and employer was unbalanced – employers made the decisions and employees were on the side of the beneficiaries.

Fast forward 18 months and a whole new employer-employee social contract seems to have taken hold.

Telecommuting has evolved from a limited, even reluctant arrangement with strict requirements to the norm. Restrictions and lockdowns presented no option but to co-exist with children and/or spouses, partners and others also working from home. Meanwhile, in-person meetings and events have also moved online, where active participation, productivity and home connectivity have become potential barriers to getting things done.

The evolution of the work-life balance of employees has also created a new dynamic in terms of health and well-being.

In the “new normal”, employees have cut what was often a hard line between work and home. Running errands, doing household chores and taking breaks to exercise during and around performing work tasks – a new sense of productivity and accomplishment has been created.

However, the burnout resulting from this act of juggling domestic work has become a problem. Indeed, what we have discovered is that many employees are wondering if they want to continue doing the work they are doing. And more specifically, if they want to do it with their running employers. Without surprise, many have chosen not to continue in 2021.

Responding to the new social contract

How organizations can respond to these changing dynamics, and thereby maintain a happy and loyal workforce, is at the heart of our recently launched HR Trends 2022 report.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of employees to business continuity. Decisions can no longer be made without considering the voices and needs of employees. In 2022, the new employer-employee contract is one where what employees want matters more than ever – and leaders must listen if they are to succeed.

This is what we can call “big thinking”, a process by which organizations develop plans alongside their employees and make them valued stakeholders.

This is essential for several reasons in addition to the new dynamics already outlined. For example, furloughed employees have often felt abandoned and uncertain about their financial future, while others may have made the decision to move in the belief that working from home would become permanent, only to discover the desire to their employer to return to the office.

As part of the big overhaul, business leaders just need to be aware of these circumstances.

One way is to leverage people analytics, employee experience software, and other HR technologies to help balance business results with employee needs. The data, combined with sentiment surveys, can reveal unique differences in employee perspectives and inform the development of a work environment that values ​​people, fosters trust, and delivers healthy outcomes.

How has employee satisfaction with the overall employee experience changed during the pandemic? How does employee satisfaction vary between employees working from home and those in the workplace? What are the early indicators that employees may be considering a job change? What impact do remote supervisors/managers have on employee engagement? What changes in productivity have occurred since the pandemic and how do they vary by workplace?

All of these questions can and should be answered with data to help organizations prepare their people management strategies next year.

Top tips for managing people in 2022

Indeed, there are several other people management actions employers can take in 2022 to keep people engaged and aligned with strategic business goals:

1. Be explicit and proactive with your post-pandemic workplace strategy

Nearly 70% of organizations communicated their vision for post-pandemic work vaguely or not at all, according to research by McKinsey shows. Uncertainty can cripple employer-employee relationships and create undue anxiety that leads to burnout, and while providing certainty is difficult, transparent and ongoing dialogue from business leaders about their thinking can help. to allay these concerns.

2. Keep employee well-being and mental health top of mind.

Although the experiences of two employees are not the same, there is no doubt that the pandemic period has shed light on the well-being of workers, whether it is their physical and/or mental health. With the increase in reported cases of wellness issues, now is the time for organizations to adopt a data-driven approach to monitoring – this will aid in the early detection of issues and provide important points of comparison between teams and departments of a company.

3. Consider different approaches for different employee demographics.

Many variables will determine one employee’s preferences over another, from how they live at home to whether they are full-time or part-time. Similarly, those with fewer years of service may be more concerned about their job security than their more experienced colleagues. Organizations must take these distinctions into account in how they manage the new employer-employee social contract.

Despite the strains and strains caused by the pandemic, the past 18 months have in many ways revealed a flow of benefits that organizations can build into their future work dynamics.

By giving employees a stakeholder seat at the decision-making table, many companies will begin to benefit from a new social contract that underpins a happy, healthy and motivated workforce.

Daniel Mason, VP EMEA, at Visier

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