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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Foreword: Tatiana Frierson, CEO Inspirus / Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services, USA
- Blending rewards and recognition with people and purpose to create the right team culture
- The reach of employee experience strategies will extend globally
- Embracing the remote worker as a vital part of your operational strategy
- Home office technology and products will level up to mirror business grade
- Diversity and inclusion is taking center stage
- Embracing diversity and inclusion will no longer be enough—it must be woven into the fabric of an organization
- Leading with the heart, not with the head
- With multigenerational and geographic differences, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to workforce communication will vanish
- Rewards are being tailored to a multigenerational workforce
- Gift cards will overtake physical and experiential reward gifts
Training & Education
- Shoring up the gaps in skill training
- Traditional roles will become blended as upskilling occurs
- Using employees as brand ambassadors
- Social media will become the search engine of choice for millennials seeking a company with a strong cultural fit
- Streamlining operations and communications with platform consolidation
- Holistic approach extends to Internet of Things apps
- Automation frees up employees to focus on business-critical tasks
- Fear of personal job loss resulting from automation
Data & Reporting
- Secure employee data collection enhances benefit and reward offerings
- Increasing regulations may limit data collection
- Connecting the physical and digital worlds
- Personalization will strengthen the employee experience
Engagement & Measurement
- Redefining work/life balance to work/life blend
- Wellbeing will become an essential indicator of a positive employee experience
- Offering workplace wellness and mental health support
- Expansion of mental health benefits
Budget & Finance
- Recognizing opportunities to increase efficiency
- Re-appropriating unused budgets to fund new programs
We’re pleased to present the 2021 Inspirus Trends & Forecasts Report, our first edition. Looking ahead into 2021, and despite being in the midst of a global pandemic, we’re seeing steady interest and increasing investment in employee experience and engagement programs. This growth mindset highlights the opportunity for recognition and rewards to create more value, help create positive business outcomes and make more of an impact on the bottom line than ever before. Exciting times!
Using the collective experience and expertise of our team, this report dives into what we see trending now, in 2021, and our vision of how these trends will impact the future of our industry and our clients’ programs.
For example, in the area of strategy, we’re finding that building team culture is top of mind for most all organizations. To elevate employee engagement, companies are ensuring that their programs include all their people, and have purpose. These programs will extend globally in the very near future, as many companies expand. But since many workforces are scattered — some working remotely, some working within offices — companies are now embracing remote workers, and smartly including them as a part of their overall workforce strategy.
We see leadership placing diversity and inclusion front and center within their organizations, in part to recognize and acknowledge their increasingly diverse workforce, but also because they are beginning to attribute positive business outcomes to it. With the emotional highs and lows of 2020 behind us, we now see leaders speaking from the heart, tapping into real situations when communicating with their workforce. This is resonating soundly with employees, deepening their loyalty.
These are just a few of our findings, read on for more insight and perspective. The entire Inspirus team along with hundreds of client partners over the years have contributed to our deep knowledge bank, helping to generate this 2021 Trends & Forecasts Report. I hope you find it holds value for you and your organization.
Chief Executive Officer
Inspirus / Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services, USA
Blending rewards and recognition with people and purpose to create the right team culture
In recent years, it has become evident that creating a company culture that encourages employee engagement does more than simply keep your workers content. According to Gallup, a highly engaged business unit is 21% more profitable than your average company, and receives 10% more approval in customer ratings. It follows then that engagement will not only be a major focal point in 2021, but it will assume a deeper meaning, a way for organizations to attract and retain the best talent.
Leading companies are stepping up their focus on culture to stay ahead of the curve. This means finding a way to make all members of the workforce feel included, respected, and recognized — from baby boomers to millennials to Gen Z, whether they’re in the office or remote, on salary or freelance.
Techniques for Employee Rewards and Recognition to Consider
If you really want to create engagement, it’s not enough to dole out positive feedback whenever you see fit. You need to employ carefully considered strategies that recognize and reward your employees. Consider some of the following techniques and try those that fit best within your organization.
Be Detailed and Specific
When you acknowledge a specific accomplishment and provide precise details about what has impressed you, your employees know that you’re paying attention, not simply handing out compliments to keep them working hard. Most people have a good sense of when they’re being flattered. Not only that, but you are being clear in your approval and reinforcement of positive behavior.
Encourage Recognition Among Peers
You can only offer so much praise yourself. Creating a culture of recognition requires you to outsource your encouragement to your entire workforce. Whether this means creating an online space where employees are allowed to recognize each other’s accomplishments or an in-office recognition program that’s more personable is up to you, but the fact is that peer-to-peer recognition is shown to carry more weight than top-down recognition. It should be a key point of focus for your company in 2021.
It’s Not Just About Accomplishments
Feeling respected and acknowledged by your company shouldn’t always be tied to what you’ve done for them and how well you’ve done it. Celebrating the employees themselves can go a long way towards creating a culture of engagement. This can mean hosting birthday parties, publicly congratulating them for personal milestones, like having a child or getting engaged, or even celebrating their company anniversary. These things don’t need to be lavish; they need to be enough to let your employees know that they matter to the company.
Breaking the usual structure to allow for a little individual recognition can help strengthen your connection with your employees. For instance, you can reward them with time off after they’ve put in some extra hours. This shows that you’re not rigid, that you value their sacrifice, and that you recognize them as a person first, not only as an employee. It’s a small sacrifice for you, but it can mean a lot to them.
Forecast: The reach of employee experience strategies will extend globally
In 2020, much of the working world went remote. In 2021, you can expect more of the same. In fact, it is anticipated that remote work will become much more of an accepted norm — regardless of the pandemic.
While a workplace that relies on remote employees can have its drawbacks, the ability to locate top talent across the country, and also around the world, can be seen as a major advantage. It does, however, present some challenges for maintaining employee engagement.
With your workforce spread out, you will need to find a way to deliver the same employee experience and with consideration to a host of international cultures. It may sound daunting, but your best bet is to use everything that has worked for you in the office as the foundation of your digital experience, and then go from there. This means that your system of initiatives, rewards, incentives, and benefits will need to be uniform for everyone.
Perfecting the model at your headquarters will set the template for a successful global roll-out, and offering the same experience to employees worldwide will give global companies a leg up.
Tips for Creating a Strong Digital Employee Experience
Sticking to what works for you in the office is a great strategy, but it will require some adaptation when applying those strategies to the digital employee experience. Below are some tips on how to go about doing that.
Digital Employee Recognition
There’s a perk to recognizing an employee digitally: You can easily ensure that their accomplishment is acknowledged by the whole team by doing it over a group meeting. Take time out to recognize employee achievements before or after meetings and it will pay in dividends.
Keeping up with digital employees requires strategic timing. You can’t just tap them on the shoulder in the office and catch up. You must plan specific times to touch base.
Let Them Establish Boundaries
Working from home means you’re almost always in the office, but it shouldn’t mean you’re always on the clock. Allow your digital employees to set boundaries for when they can and can’t get behind the computer, or their work-life balance will soon be in disarray.
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Embracing the remote worker as a vital part of your operational strategy
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust remote work upon many of us, and the outlook for the post-pandemic world shows no signs of work-from-home attrition. A recent McKinsey study found that up to 25% of the workforces in advanced economies could continue working from home anywhere from three to five days a week, long after COVID-19 is gone. That tells us that remote work is slowly evolving from a necessary trend into a definitive new standard.
Many organizations have found that remote work is not only a viable alternative to working in an office, but that it also has some significant advantages. A two year study by Stanford University found that working from home can actually boost productivity. Whether it’s due to the more relaxed atmosphere, the flexible schedule, or the ability to work in your PJs, remote workers are finding it easier to remain productive on the job, and for that reason it’s going to be important to continue to support it well past the pandemic.
What to Look Out for as Remote Work Continues to Grow
With your necessary transition to a more work-from-home-friendly model, you’re going to need to make adjustments. To get a better idea of how to do that, keep an eye on the following challenges that are inherent to remote work.
Your daily operations were already heavily dependent on technology, but adding remote workers into the mix takes that dependence to another level. While you may be able to provide your office with top level equipment to ensure that everything runs smoothly, you can’t expect all of your remote workers to do that for themselves.
With remote work, an entire workday might be derailed due to issues with Internet connection. In some cases, an employee may simply not be able to work for your company because they do not have the bandwidth to do so. This means that ensuring a potential hire is equipped to perform the job is critical before they sign on the dotted line, as is taking a more flexible approach to how and when a job gets done in the event of technical difficulties.
A Need for Boundaries
Remote workers have the potential to feel as if they’re on call at all times of the day. After all, their cubicle is right inside their home. In order to ensure that they aren’t put in a position where they’re giving an unhealthy amount of time to the company, you need to allow them to set boundaries for the hours they are willing to work, as well as when they’ll be able to respond to emails, text messages, and other forms of communication.
It’s easy for remote workers to feel isolated and excluded from the rest of the team. Considering the fact that they’re spending majority of their time at home, it’s easy for them to feel isolated from the world in general. To remedy this, it’s a great idea to make some room for purely social digital work events. Virtual water coolers, for example, allow for remote workers to lighten their day with some much-needed social interaction and build relationships with co-workers.
One of the best ways to combat this feeling of isolation is to allow them to foster stronger connections with the rest of the team by using collaborative technology, such as Teams and Mural. These programs provide a self-contained platform where remote workers can interact with one another using a number of different tools, including video conferencing, instant messaging, and file sharing.
Forecast: Home office technology and products will level up to mirror business grade
The technology that remote workers are using in their home office is most likely the technology they had well before the pandemic thrust this new norm upon us. That means it isn’t built to handle the same high traffic and usage demand of business-grade technology. As previously stated, this can lead to a host of different issues for your company, including the potential of losing out on top talent simply because they don’t have the equipment needed for the job. This tells us that the trend of remote work being fully embraced in 2021 is going to lead to more strategizing on how to integrate higher levels of technology, including browser-based technology, into our remote locations.
In order to know exactly what level of technology is going to get the job done for your remote workers, you’re going to need to determine your bandwidth needs. With this information you can more easily assess if a potential hire has the technological capabilities to keep up with the job. Some companies are even assuring that they can acquire and retain talent by providing them with home office technology that mirrors the business-grade equipment they use in the office.
The transition to remote work is here to stay. In fact, the World Economic Forum predicts that work-from-home jobs will double in 2021. Adapting to this change is paramount to success for many companies moving forward, and a big part of that adaptation is going to be technological. Whether it’s ensuring that your workers have adequate hardware to perform the tasks at hand, or appropriate software or user-friendly platforms to streamline those tasks and connect them with their co-workers, it’s vital that you stay ahead of the curve on this trend.
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Diversity and inclusion is taking center stage
Calls for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and everywhere else for that matter, are nothing new to 2021, but they do seem to grow louder every year. The summer of 2020 was marked by large-scale protests in major cities across the globe demanding social justice, and that has forced our leaders (both of organizations and in government) to examine and react to the ways in which our decisions, behaviors, and actions impact others, particularly those in marginalized groups.
In 2021, organizations will endeavor more than ever to create a more balanced workforce, providing greater opportunities for growth and a safer work environment for people across all spectrums. This will obviously be of great benefit to any group who has suffered at the hands of exclusionary business practices, but it is also bound to be financially beneficial for the organizations as well.
There are countless studies that show a close connection between diverse leadership and financial success. According to one study by McKinsey, the most diverse companies are now more likely to outperform less diverse peers on profitability. Not only that, but those same diverse companies are also more likely to attract and retain the top talent in the business. In other words, prioritizing diversity and inclusion is just as great of a financial decision as it is a moral and ethical one.
The Connection Between Diversity, Inclusion, and Financial Success
The studies on this trending topic are numerous, and the evidence is overwhelming: The more diverse your workforce is, the more creative, innovative, and financially successful it is likely to be.
Diverse Leadership and Innovation
A study by Boston Consulting Group shows that companies with above-average diversity scores enjoy 19% higher revenues thanks to a higher level of innovation.
Better Business Decisions with Inclusivity
It stands to reason that a broad range of perspectives can help an organization make smarter decisions, and this 2017 study by Cloverpop proves it. It found that inclusivity in the decision-making process yielded better results 87% of the time.
Gender Diversity and Profitability
Another McKinsey study highlights the connection between gender-diverse executive teams and higher profitability. It shows that gender diversity in strategic and operational decision-making has been seen to consistently lead to greater financial success.
Forecast: Embracing Diversity and Inclusion Will No Longer Be Enough — It Must Be Woven Into the Fabric of an Organization
It’s clear now that diversity and inclusion in the workplace is going to become a more important aspect of employee engagement as time goes on, and that means the magnifying glass is going to be held closer to organizations who preach diversity and inclusion, but cannot provide associated results. In 2021, you’ll see that the most successfully diverse and inclusive organizations will be the ones who take a holistic approach and build it directly into their culture.
One way companies are doing this is by “social listening” or following the conversations being had about them on social media in order to get a perspective that isn’t necessarily evident in the results of an employee survey. The idea of taking in a broad range of perspectives as a means of correction and self-reflection is a basic tenet of diversity and inclusion. Although social media chatter is subjective, it is a great way to step outside your organization and look inward.
Tips for Creating a Culture of Diversity and Inclusion
Building a diverse and inclusive workplace is not accomplished in the hiring process alone. It is a concept that must be built into the foundation of an organization. Here are some ways you can start changing your company culture.
Provide Training Centered Around Diversity and Inclusion
Everyone has room to learn and grow, and everyone deserves an opportunity to do so. By providing your workforce with training aimed at raising sensitivity to the subjects of diversity and inclusion you not only provide them with invaluable knowledge about those that are different from them, but you also establish inclusion as a pillar of your organization.
Create a Diverse Hiring Team
Seeking out diverse hires can help you build a more representative workforce. Be certain that there is equal representation throughout all parts of your organization. You will not only create the diverse workforce you’re looking for, but you’ll also be more likely to make better hires that bring new innovative ideas with them.
Bring in an Expert
Diversity is so important in the modern working world that there are entire positions dedicated to that purpose. Hiring a chief diversity officer can help you accurately analyze where your organization is succeeding and where it needs work in terms of creating a culture of diversity and inclusion.
Establish Anti-Discrimination Policies
Let’s be honest: Sometimes real life consequences, or at least the possibility of them, are necessary to make people reflect on personal blind spots and shortcomings. Applying firm anti-discrimination policies can send the message home that the culture change is real.
Acknowledge Different Religious and Cultural Holidays
It is important to allow employees time off to observe holidays that are specific to their religion or culture. Alternatively, you might find a way to make these days significant in the office. Either way, it sends an important message that diversity is embraced within your workplace and that you value the differences and contributions of each employee.
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