How to become a top-100 employer in the post-coronavirus world

Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage, considers the management behaviours needed to stand out as a good employer post COVID-19:

For the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For®, 85% of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full potential at an organisation. Coronavirus has already, and will continue to, change the world of work, so it’s inevitable that companies will need to adapt the way they work and how they help staff accomplish goals and reach their potential.

Here are three things to consider when working to become a post-pandemic employer of choice:

Flexibility is no longer a nice to have, but a must-have

Since mid-March, many of the typically office-bound workforce have found themselves working from home. It’s been the biggest experiment for remote working we’ve ever seen on a global scale. For some, this was a completely new experience, and whilst doing so five days a week might seem like too much right now, the majority have probably felt the benefits.

Whilst some feel a bit less motivated without the buzz of the office, it’s also true that fewer office distractions and cutting out the commute has seen an improvement in work-life balance. Research has found that three out of five people would like to work from home more often than they did before the lockdown. As such, the forced move to remote working could supercharge the case for flexible working. Now many companies who previously avoided flexible working are running out of counterarguments as they have seen it does work and be done effectively. Plus, they’ve now got the infrastructure in place, so there’s not a huge amount to lose.

Adoption of flexible working can come in many guises, such as remote working, a four-day work week, or flexible hours on a case-by-case basis. Regardless of how it’s done, companies should be offering this choice to employees. Offering such benefits can help open your talent pool, too. With remote working options in place, more disabled and neurodivergent candidates can find roles that suit their needs.

Evolving employee benefits

Furloughed staff should also be front of mind. In the last few months, 6.3 million employees have been furloughed according to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). With this time and space away from work, many furloughed employees have been given breathing room to reassess their relationship with work. With this space, furloughed employees can turn more critical, which could trigger a loss in staff retention.

According to Glassdoor’s Informed Candidate survey, salary and compensation were the biggest influences on whether a candidate joined an organisation. While you may not be in a position to boost their salary, using benefits, especially financial ones like cashback cards, can be a great way to both attract and retain employees and mark yourself as a top employer. Additionally, the in-office perks of breakaway spaces and plenty of plants have quickly lost their lustre while other benefits, like season ticket loans, will quickly become less popular. The coronavirus has shifted employees’ priorities and as such the employee benefits you offer will need to meet these new demands.

So, instead of offering season ticket loans, you should help employees find alternatives to the crowded train carriages through initiatives like cycle to work schemes or creating more parking spaces. Benefits and incentives should be rethought for the growing remote workforce. This could include offering vouchers and cashback to help employees kit out their home office. Organisations that want to become an employer of choice must listen to what their workforce actually want from their employee benefits and adapt accordingly.

More mental health support

A large impact of the lockdown has been a renewed focus on mental health and work. The strain of trying to continue working during a pandemic and the worry about job security has brought a new level of importance to mental health. A survey from CIPD found more than two-fifths of UK workers are anxious about returning to the workplace, showing how vital it is that employers keep it front of mind when bringing staff back to work.

Successful leaders in the post-pandemic workplace need to be empathetic to employees who might be struggling. This means listening carefully and acting quickly on any arising issues. One in five employees who experienced a mental health condition while working have felt under pressure to resign, so it’s vital to understand your staff, and create a more open and accepting culture to build trust and loyalty.

In addition to this, strong mental health benefits should be provided to better support employees and build a supportive company culture. This can include providing an employee assistance program, alongside those benefits that create a healthier lifestyle, which can help mental wellbeing. This can range from promoting physical exercise to providing financial education, to help those feeling a strain from their finances.

Regardless of working in an office, or from home, all employees in the post-pandemic world will expect businesses to adapt and offer support that truly addresses their needs. The new normal will reward those organisations that pivot and build truly supportive cultures that are focused on helping employees reach their potential.