« December 2020 | Main

4 posts from February 2021

23 February 2021

Beware opinion volatility when it comes to your ‘back to the office' plans

by Victoria Robinson Partner

Email +44 (0) 20 7804 1771

A key element of planning your ‘back to the office’ strategy is surveying your teams to understand what they want, how their thinking has been shaped by lockdown and what activities they expect to return for, and which they will keep doing from home.

But we also need to understand the limitations of surveys and what we can do about them.

One of the most interesting insights I have seen, working with clients on their surveys, has been the extent to which people’s desire to get back to the office has been shaped by lockdowns. Generally speaking, the longer people have been away, the more they have longed to get back.

There are two reasons for this which organisations must factor into their planning.

The first we can take at face value. The longer people have been away the more they have recognised the value the office adds: as a place to collaborate; socialise; learn; find opportunities; and belong. Those things will all be true when people return and will be important parts of the office’s appeal that organisations should accentuate.

The second reason is more complex.

During the first lockdown, a lot of people forced to work remotely took to it pretty well, initially. The weather was nice and there were opportunities to create a better work-life balance - even if ‘life’ was tempered by the restrictions of lockdown. By lockdown two, opinions were shifting and now, in lockdown three, when it’s cold and wet outside and people with kids are dealing with homeschooling yet again - and it’s coming up to a year since many of us enjoyed the benefits of being with colleagues in person - they are shifting again towards a preference for returning more days per week.

This raises an issue of ‘opinion volatility’.

Any organisation starting to make plans for people returning four days per week, for example, based on their latest survey, needs to question the likelihood that those preferences will change again, once people reacquaint themselves with their commute, the kids are back in school, the weather’s picking up and people have topped up on human interaction.

For this reason, as well as trying to write surveys in such a way that mitigates this issue as much as possible, organisations should undertake a complementary analysis, looking at the personas among their team: their personalities; the roles they have; the tasks they do; and the factors likely to motivate them to come into the office, or stay at home.

Overlaying that assessment onto the preferences people express, will likely reveal a clearer picture not only of how often people say they want to come back, but the extent to which their workloads, the organisation’s needs and the factors that motivate their decisions will align with their preference.

All organisations should approach their ‘back to the office’ plans with flexibility in mind, but it is important also to gain as clear an idea as possible as to likely occupancy levels of the office and what will shape them.

Doing so will enable organisations to model different scenarios and to also consider how they may need to rethink issues from office design and property needs to the role of technology, such as data analytics, to ensure they can assess the effectiveness of changes made to the office and initiatives to give employees the experiences they need. These considerations should also help inform decisions that put purpose at the heart of their plans, from how they support wellbeing to how they deliver on sustainability goals.

To discuss the themes raised in this blog, from surveying your own teams to creating workplace personas and planning your ‘return to the office’ strategy, get in touch.

by Victoria Robinson Partner

Email +44 (0) 20 7804 1771


It’s time to create a reward system fit for hybrid working

by Alastair Woods Partner

Email +44 (0) 78 3425 0359

I have worked in reward for the past 20 years and in all that time relatively little has changed to the broad reward elements. Most organisations still take a ‘one size fits all’ approach with some flexibility in benefits.

But a confluence of factors, including the increased focus on diversity and inclusion, digital disruption, changing employee lifestyles and priorities, and the socio-economic realities of ageing populations mean a ‘one size fits all’ approach is no longer relevant.

And then there’s COVID-19. The pandemic has shaken up the world of work and ensured change that was long overdue in reward is now inescapable.

Here are five areas employers should consider as they plan a reward roadmap. While responses will be driven by many things - costs, business transformation, talent and skills challenges - these should be high on any to do list.

1. Update your approach to performance and recognition

In our consumer lives, instant feedback is the norm, on everything from the service we receive at the doctors to the coffee we buy on our morning walk. Yet many employers still run a process of annual reviews, generating a narrow performance rating, which defines pay and bonuses. Instead, employers should consider a suite of incentive schemes that can keep up with the pace of change in many roles and provide recognition for different needs - from greater use of team bonuses and project success awards to peer-to-peer tools that are becoming part of the reward fabric.

2. Be ready for hybrid working

As our relationship with the office changes, so must the links between the office and reward. It will be led by working styles and there should be a reward response to the different groups that emerge. Employers should be reviewing what additional financial support they need to provide home workers to cover costs of the home office. With many people planning to move away from the commuter belt, in line with plans to be in the office less, many organisations must also review the relevance of regional pay models such as London weighting. This will be one of the hardest changes because of contractual and fairness dimensions. Pay is fairly inelastic - even if locations are not.

3. Customise your reward deal

More organisations are starting to look at how they give employees greater choice. And there are connections into other areas of HR. For example, individuals could transfer their bonus into a learning budget, or trade benefits on a real-time basis - just as we do with points on our supermarket loyalty cards. A ‘reward passport’ which gives individuals a draw-down account for areas such as wellbeing spend, training and travel to the office will give employees greater autonomy to ensure their reward matches their needs.

4. Prioritise fairness and broader societal impacts

Fairness is an increasingly high-profile topic which strikes at the heart of an organisation’s culture and reputation. Reward and remuneration committees are playing an ever greater role reacting to investor and regulatory pressure to address pay as part of a commitment to diversity and inclusion. Reporting of pay gaps will continue, and organisations need to take a more proactive role in addressing imbalances in both representation and pay.

5. Link reward to outputs as well as inputs

Innovation, agility and flexibility are more important than ever and reward can play a significant role in enabling or hindering new working models. Flatter pay structures could allow for greater movement in an agile world. And what can we learn from gig worker models? A greater focus on outputs will also further liberate high performing employees from restrictive ‘nine to five’ thinking, putting greater emphasis on what they do, not where or when they do it.

At the heart of these changes, must be a recognition that employees need choices and a reward system that recognises their contribution, reflects a changing world and keeps them motivated.

To discuss any of the topics raised in this post, please get in touch.

by Alastair Woods Partner

Email +44 (0) 78 3425 0359

12 February 2021

Designing the right employee wellbeing strategy

by Karen Toora Director

Email +44 (0)7843 331224

Employee wellbeing has risen rapidly to the top of the corporate agenda. But looking after their people in a world of work shaped by COVID-19 and lockdowns creates challenges for every organisation.

As the first wave of lockdowns hit, the focus was on reacting quickly, ensuring employees were safe and responding by providing reassurance and support. Many companies are now evaluating their position and reimagining what their wellbeing strategy needs to look like long term.

There are many challenges when it comes to implementing a successful wellbeing strategy: employees are increasingly dispersed and physically disconnected; the borders between home and work life are more blurred than ever; and the physical, mental and emotional impacts of long-term working from home are becoming evident.

A robust wellbeing strategy however, can ensure a resilient, happy and healthy workforce which in turn leads to increased productivity and cost reductions linked to lower absenteeism and attrition. In addition, the enhanced company reputation which results can help attract and retain the best talent, a goal shared by 100% of attendees at our recent client employee wellbeing seminar.

Nearly a quarter (22%) of attendees at this seminar said they either had no employee wellbeing strategy before COVID-19, or had only an informal policy which was not revised. More than half (56%) had a known policy and responded reactively to COVID-19 in line with this. Only 22% had a known policy and were able to proactively respond.

As organisations look to the future with a view to designing and implementing a relevant wellbeing strategy, it is crucial to remember there can be no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Organisations will have different priorities and abilities. Within an organisation, different personas will have varying needs (for example, a new graduate intern will face different challenges compared to a working parent). Territories and cultures will respond to corporate interventions in differing ways.

Our top tips to assist in designing the right strategy for your organisation would be:

  • Use a data-led approach to identify employee and business specific needs, to enable evidence based decision-making.
  • Identify what is working and what can be improved.
  • Use data to undertake maturity modelling: where are you now versus where you want to be? Articulate your wellbeing vision and success factors and create a business case for change.
  • Engage wider stakeholders to agree your objectives and use a data-driven methodology to develop your strategy.
  • Continually measure return on investment by using data-driven metrics in order to both demonstrate success and identify areas for further improvement.

Read more about how employee wellbeing plays a crucial part in shifting to hybrid working and the virtual organisation or get in touch.

by Karen Toora Director

Email +44 (0)7843 331224

09 February 2021

Global Mobility in the Tech sector: resilience to the COVID-19 storm

by Raj Mann Senior Manager

Email +44 (0)7483 362032

Working across borders has long been a critical factor for technology companies. While the sector is weathering the COVID-19 storm, the focus is now starting to return to what global mobility will look like for the sector in the coming months, as we start to see the vaccine rollout and potentially a gradual ‘return to normal’.

When we surveyed over 250 people leaders last year about the impact of COVID-19, almost a third of companies told us they were expecting the outbreak to have a fundamental impact on the need for international moves in their organisation and how workforce mobility is viewed. Vaccines will be central to the ‘unlocking mobility’ strategy for organisations and it’s important for companies to stay informed of evolving developments as they consider re-shape their mobility strategy in light of this impact.

Vaccinations and international travel are not a new partnership, the most common being the yellow fever vaccination. Recently Greece has proposed that all EU member states should adopt an EU-wide COVID-19 vaccination certificate, though whether the EU will adopt such an approach has yet to be seen. What is highly likely is that ‘health passports’ will be a tool utilised by airlines and countries alike in order to facilitate travel, with IATA* (which represents over 80% of global air traffic), also confirming its support for such passports. However, there are ethical concerns around personal data security, given third-party access to travellers’ health information. Linking freedom of movement with vaccination will inevitably impact mobility trends, as those who receive the vaccine will potentially be afforded greater travel options.

Organisations with a presence in countries with established travel corridor agreements and access to vaccines will be best positioned to mobilise employees. With the tech sector typically having hubs in these locations - for example, Singapore, India, Dublin - they are likely to benefit. Assessing current locations, distribution of the workforce and requirements for the future should be a priority for tech companies at this stage to ensure they can take advantage of this.

Businesses that will continue to do well during and post pandemic are those that are agile, adapt quickly and thrive on disruption and innovation - traits that define tech companies. Whilst longer-term trends remain difficult to predict, traditional mobility in 2021 is unlikely to return to pre-COVID-19 levels, though we will likely continue to see a rise in newer types of mobility, including global remote workers.

A number of uncertainties remain in the short-term including global access to vaccines; whether countries and airlines will require travellers to be vaccinated, and the approach companies will take to employees who choose not to get vaccinated. What is more certain, is that the tech sector will continue to grow and adapt. Technology companies will want to and hopefully, be able to, take advantage of this faster than most, if they have the right strategy and approach to global mobility in place.

Find out more about how COVID-19 has impacted global mobility and our predictions for the future.

Co-authored by Lee Pearce [email protected] and Rehana Earle [email protected]

 *(the International Air Transport Association) 

**World Health Organisation 


by Raj Mann Senior Manager

Email +44 (0)7483 362032