It’s been over a year since the pandemic began, and millions of Americans have lived through lockdowns, work from home (WFH) and job losses. They have ordered takeout and done school projects over Zoom. Some may have taken up a new hobby and many have probably reduced their commute time from one hour to one minute.
The workplace itself, however, has changed fundamentally over the last year and employers are scrambling to adapt to the new reality. Employee expectations have shifted, and the right combination of compensation and benefits now yields to the inclusion of a virtual workstation – as one client noted, I’m not working from home, I’m living at work. That’s a strong indicator that employers are going to need a strong total rewards package to keep employees motivated and happy.
Employers need to rethink how they frame and deliver compensation and benefits — the two largest and most tangible elements in a total rewards strategy. Such a strategy must also include what most employers have defined as a ‘hybrid’ work model. All three are critical components in the attraction and retention of employees. And in today’s climate, it’s a good idea to rethink that strategy in a way that focuses on individuals, rather than broad categories.
Changing nature of work – and the workforce
Last summer, after several months of successful work from home, 82% of company leaders were already feeling so comfortable with work from home (WFH) policies that they expected their employees to continue to work from home after the pandemic. By the end of the year, nearly 42% of the U.S. workforce was still working completely remotely.
The best part is, employees are happy with the change; 96% would like to have the flexibility to work from home at least some of the time after the pandemic is over.
While this is good news overall, things necessarily change when you shift to a workforce without walls. Employees can live anywhere, not necessarily near a central location. They may be looking for different support mechanisms from their employer. In fact, a remote workforce may completely change workers’ expectations on pay, benefits and even their corporate culture, as well as eliminating a commute, with its associated stresses like time, aggravation and cost.
But, the employer can take advantage of a WWW environment. And broadening its impact – when employees can live anywhere and still get their jobs done, the pool of available talent will increase, as will competition for the role. Employers can begin to consider their Total Rewards platform through a different lens, rethinking their unique positioning in the marketplace and what will best meet the needs of their workforce. But with five generations in the workforce, any lens must have multiple apertures that position the employer to understand, respond to and anticipate individual needs and expectations; fostering the need for an increasingly critical level of insight.
Enter Persona Analysis: Visioning for the future
The one-size-fits-all approach is officially at its end. No longer does a “standard” benefits package and business culture satisfy most employees. Employers will have to work harder to understand their employees and their needs – especially as a workplace expectation is replaced by a WWW paradigm shift – and employees and employers alike look outside the traditional workplace walls.
Achieving this kind of deep understanding will require a persona analysis: a strategic way of getting to know the employees and potential employees in your business to ensure you create an appropriate Total Rewards package. By segmenting employee populations beyond a standard generational cliché, you can account for a variety of nuanced variations.
Census data can be a great starting point, because it includes geographic details, demographics, title or function, tenure, pay and benefit choices. More generously, this type of analysis will work with an employee base of just about any size. Analyzing that data can give employers a clearer picture of employees’ goals, motivations and pain points. A deep analysis can help employers look beyond traditional considerations associated with an average employee, helping identify the needs of different new hires to tenured executives and principals within the organization.
For example, when looking at two broad categories of newly hired employees, consider these:
- Up to 75% of “fresh face” hires — no older than 25 — still rely on their parents’ health plan. Through the WWW lens, we can look beyond the traditional challenge of comp and benefits adequacy to determine if they’re a good corporate fit or whether they are growing professionally. They are likely more interested in mentoring opportunities and student loan debt relief, rather than healthcare and retirement benefits. Employers require that insight.
- “Middle-stage” hires represent the 26-34 year-olds who are on their second or third job. They may be considering marriage or children – or they may already be on that path – and that may factor into their benefits requirements. They may also be looking for the right kind of work-life effectiveness, and the WWW context may be particularly important in how they feel about and how they leverage wellness initiatives or employee assistance programs.
Don’t forget that not every “fresh face” or “middle stage” employee wants the same thing. It’s important to drill down into the data to create more specific personas. Then build a Total Rewards package for each persona that motivates higher employee engagement, attracts and retains talent, and makes your organization an employer of choice for a workforce without walls.
About the authors
Joe Torella serves as President of the Employee Benefits Division at HUB International Northeast, a leading insurance brokerage firm, and part of HUB International Limited. A 23-year industry veteran, he is responsible for the overall management of the Employee Benefits operations throughout HUB Northeast’s regional offices in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
He is Immediate Past-President of the Central Jersey Association of Health Underwriters and a Past-president of the NJ Association of Health Underwriters – the NJ statewide organization. (He is also a Past-president of the Northern New Jersey Chapter.) He is a long-standing member of the American Marketing Association and the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, Inc.
Ashley Thomalla is a Senior HR Consultant for global employee benefits leader Hub International where she is responsible for developing client programs to attract, compensate and reward employees (total rewards). She was with SilverStone Group, now a HUB International company.
Ashley is a member of SilverStone Group’s Wellness Activities Group (WAG), the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology (SIOP), the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA), the Wellness Council of the Midlands (WELLCOM) and World at Work. Ashley has received WELCOA’s Seven Benchmarks Advanced Level Certification through her work with WAG, a volunteer-led group that focuses on providing employees with information and resources for improved health and well-being. Ashley’s work as a member of WAG helped SilverStone Group attain WELCOA’s esteemed Platinum Award for 2017-2019.