The vast majority (95 per cent) of Canadian employers said enhancing the employee experience is a top priority, compared to just 61 per cent that said the same prior to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey by Willis Towers Watson.

The survey also found a positive employee experience is a key driver of engagement (88 per cent), followed by employee well-being (86 per cent), productivity (86 per cent) and ability to attract and retain talent (84 per cent). Three-quarters (78 per cent) of employers said they intend to focus on digitalization to transform the employee experience fundamentally over the next three years.

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Only nine per cent of respondents said the pandemic has receded enough to end temporary pandemic-related policies and programs, while 40 per cent said they’ll be ready to do so during the second half of this year and 51 per cent are waiting until 2022 or beyond. And while employers expect the proportion of employees who are primarily working remotely to drop from 57 per cent to 19 per cent in three years, they expect 36 per cent of employees will be in a hybrid working arrangement in 2024, compared to just seven per cent in 2021.

The survey also found 83 per cent of employers said the new realities of labour markets will require a hybrid model for many roles, while only 46 per cent said they’re flexible about where or when work gets done, 43 per cent are in the process of redesigning careers in response to changes in the way work is accomplished and only 35 per cent are segmenting total rewards to account for a different workforce profile. Just 13 per cent of respondents said they’re undertaking all three of these measures.

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When asked to identify other actions required to improve the employee experience, 83 per cent of respondents said they’re looking to improve their offering or change aspects of their programs to address diversity, equity and inclusion needs. This was followed by mental-health and resilience programs (76 per cent), employee well-being (76 per cent), flexible work arrangements (76 per cent) and manager training (67 per cent).