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Building a resilient workforce to help shape a ‘new better’

To mark Talent Summit 2021, Aon reveals how a culture of resilience is helping businesses and their employees navigate an uncertain world

As a leading professional services firm providing talent assessment, health and benefits and human capital solutions, Aon has been enabling Irish employers in developing a more resilient workforce, providing end-to-end support across the entire employee experience, from onboarding, to retirement.

Its people-focused solutions help engage employees, ensuring they feel valued and rewarded for the work they do.

The pandemic has accelerated the need for this. “Covid-19 has shown all of us the importance of creating workforces that are prepared to withstand future disruptions and stresses,” explains Laura Phelan, director, human capital solutions at Aon, who was one of the leading guest speakers at the recent Talent Summit.

Employee experience

The implications that today’s remote workforce will have on any organisation’s future HR strategy are likely to be far reaching. Covid-19 has already resulted in a significant shift to a more “human-centred” employee experience, and the impact this will have on talent is significant.

“It will mean adapting talent management models to acknowledge the diverse ways in which employees work. It will also change the future of recruitment, specifically the need to integrate assessment, remote hiring and onboarding into an organisation’s talent acquisition framework,” she points out.

“Moreover, if workforces are to be agile enough to deal with the changes ahead, attracting and retaining a diverse workforce with an inclusive culture will be vital.”

Yet while Covid-19 has accelerated many initiatives, leaders are struggling to juggle priorities, she points out. An ability to align a business strategy, while in a state of flux, with an effective people strategy that prioritises resource allocation, is now key.

Accelerate into the future

Navigating and making informed decisions at speed is more important than ever. Intelligent use of data can help.

Aon’s Accelerate Model provides a framework for making better workforce decisions with agility and speed, aligned to business strategy, where progress can be measured and recalibrated as conditions change.

Right now, workforce change needs to be balanced and evaluated across three areas: managing people risk, optimising people spend and investment, and empowering workforce agility and resilience.

“To effectively manage these three priorities, organisations must upgrade the integrity and rigour of their people data analysis, to enable better informed decision making,” says Phelan.

“It’s about making robust decisions that stand up against future headwinds.”

A valid and robust framework allows companies to analyse data against specific criteria, saving time and providing an objective basis for decisions.

“From health concerns related to Covid-19, to the need for greater diversity and inclusion, to technology disruption and climate change - all these issues impact human capital management and organisations need a framework for prioritising how to address them,” she explains.

Looking past the pandemic

As organisations focus on longer-term recovery, their human capital decisions will have a huge impact on future performance.

Organisations taking the time to understand what works for each role, and person, will be better placed to maximise on an individual's productivity

It’s not about reaching the ‘new normal’, it’s about the ‘new better’, says Phelan. For employers, “a key differentiator will be the impact and speed of realisation of the new better”.

While some people will flourish by physically working alongside co-workers again, others may want to remain in their home office, distanced and focused. Others still may want a mix of the two, she points out.

“Those organisations taking the time to understand what works for each role, and person, will be better placed to maximise on an individual’s productivity,” she says.

It’s why HX, or ‘human experience’, has moved centre stage. “Employees working both virtually and in-person need to be shown the possibilities and encouraged to explore their own career paths and be supported by well-considered remuneration packages,” she says.

“Those organisations that are focused on increasing workforce agility and internal mobility will lead from the front, developing a stronger employee value proposition, and attracting new talent ready to drive their own careers and organisations forward.”

But building a resilient workforce to help shape a new better requires more than agility and internal mobility. It requires a consistent employee experience that has the buy-in of leaders and which places the physical and emotional wellbeing of its people at the very centre of heart of the organisation and its culture.

Getting personal about benefits

Today's multigenerational workforce underlines the need to diversify the range of benefits and health and wellbeing supports on offer. "To build more resilient workforces, employers will need to begin bridging the growing divide between traditional employee benefits, the changing nature of work, the evolving needs of employees and the growing demands for a personalised approach to benefits," explains Ian Thornton, managing director health and benefits at Aon.

“HR teams are currently working with five generations of employees at the same time, all of which are at different stages of life, career and family situation, and all of which have different needs,” he says.

The new challenge is that, on top of that, we are facing a fundamental shift in where, how and when work gets done.

“It will be agile, resilient businesses that will be better at managing change, and will deliver higher productivity compared to their industry peers. At the same time, flexible working arrangements are challenging employers to rethink how they attract and retain the best talent,” he says.

People at different stages of their careers have differing needs

Covid-19 has placed even more focus on employee wellbeing, but wellbeing is often a misunderstood concept, and one which is often difficult to connect to tangible business value.

"Despite almost all employers offering something to support employee physical and emotional wellbeing, only 30 per cent of employees feel resilient. In many ways, wellbeing has not worked enough for businesses to feel its value," he explains.

With a large number of the workforce continuing to work from home, while also balancing family and work life, an effective resilience strategy is now an intrinsic part of the solution to the challenges that all businesses face. “It is a key enabler that delivers resilience,” says Thornton.

A personalised approach to benefits can play a key role in strengthening the resilience of the Irish workforce into the future.

“People at different stages of their careers have differing needs and they increasingly wish to pick and choose the benefits that work for employees and their families,” he says.

Aon’s research shows nearly two-thirds of the Irish workforce stresses that the ability to customise benefits is important to them, but with only 29 per cent of employees currently able to personalise their benefits package, “businesses in Ireland still have a way to go,” he says.

Leverage the power of digital technology

Aon has developed a unique employee benefits platform designed to support businesses in creating more resilient workforces. Its Smart Benefits digital solution incorporates health, wellbeing and benefits.

“We can provide businesses in Ireland with the ability to offer their people a unique and highly personalised experience where employees can tailor benefits, access high quality voluntary benefits, engage with their health and wellbeing and see the extent of their total rewards,” explains Thornton.

“From pension and life assurance to health and dental insurance and fitness programmes, employees can choose the benefits that fit their needs and lifestyle. Smart Benefits is one of the many ways in which the Aon in Ireland team places employee health and wellbeing at the centre of the future workforce.”

Find out how Aon can help your organisation build a resilient workforce