Business leaders and employees disagree mainly on the future of work

Alex Bennett, Global Senior Vice President, GTM Solutions at NTT Ltd

NTT Ltd. released the 2021 edition of the Global Workplace Report, providing vital insight into the future of work as businesses around the world prepare for a post-pandemic reality.

The report finds that business leaders are more satisfied with how they have adjusted to new working norms than their employees and points to the need for clearer company insight into how employees have reevaluated what they need from their workplace.

Shared awareness, divergent outlooks

Conducting 1,146 interviews in 23 countries, NTT found near-universal agreement that remote working has introduced difficulties, with 86% of ANZ respondents saying that it has been challenging for both organizational performance and employees.

67% of CHROs say that employee well-being deteriorated in the pandemic. Broad awareness of the issue is not always translating into a realistic assessment of company capability.

Compared to operations staff, globally Chief Executive Officers are 20% more likely to believe that their organization is very effective at managing working hours.

28% are likely to believe that they are effective at preventing burnout and points more likely to be very satisfied with their organization’s employee experience (EX) capabilities.

This shows a lack of employee confidence with 38% saying that their employer fully values their health and well being and 23% say they are very happy working for their employer.

The great work-life reassessment

Underlying the satisfaction gap between employers and employees, the research found diversity in employee attitudes towards their own future working preferences.

Voice of the Employee (VoE) data shows that, when offered a choice of at-home, hybrid, or in-office working arrangements, they are split at 30%, 30%, and 39% respectively.

This finding contradicts the belief, shared by 79% of organizations, that employees prefer office working as VoE data finds that just 39% of employees desire full-time office working.

“The narrative is about remote working but the reality of employees’ needs is complicated, and any failure to accurately assess and respond to that fact presents a serious risk to companies,” said Alex Bennett, Global Senior Vice President, GTM Solutions at NTT Ltd.

“These are not mild preferences: we found that work-life balance and commute times are now the two biggest factors people look at when deciding where to work, and so performing well on workforce and workplace strategy will be a real competitive advantage.”

The need to Lead by Example

Acting on the basis of a clear view of employees’ outlooks is being made more difficult by a lack of thorough data and insight collection. In terms of data priorities, 40% of ANZ businesses report VoE being a top focus, second only to workplace analytics at (38%).

In spite of this, however, just 29% of organizations have structured VoE programs, and 35% employ real-time sentiment analysis, compared to 51% utilizing employee surveys.

The application of these kinds of data for improving an organization’s EX needs to go much further than day-to-day quality-of-life improvements; at 40% globally, a company’s purpose and values is now the third most important factor for choosing where to work.

Employees and business leaders are in sync in ANZ, with 92% agreeing that environment, social and governance (ESG) objectives are at the heart of the organization’s agenda.

“This is a call to shift our thinking from being about actions to bringing about outcomes.”

“What’s important is not improving the workplace, but how it benefits the workforce and a company can’t know that without an approach to measure employee sentiment.”

“Employees globally are not equipped with tools to work from home and just 65% of ANZ organizations say they are strongly satisfied that office spaces are ready for hybrid working.”

“Nonetheless, 87% of ANZ organizations are engaged in reshaping their office space over the next 12 months to foster an environment of innovation and social connection.”

“Clearly, there’s an awareness on some level that immature workforce strategies will lead to employee discontent, and that work should be led by what people actually need.”