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Even after Covid, most would prefer flexibility in work: EY Survey

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Talent retention could be a major challenge for companies not able to provide flexible work options during the pandemic and to transition smoothly to the ‘next normal’, a new survey on workplaces by EY showed.

The survey, which covered over 16,000 employees across 16 countries, multiple industries and job roles, including 496 employees from India, showed that more than half (54%) of the employees from around the world would consider leaving their jobs post the Covid-19 pandemic if they are not afforded some form of flexibility in where (WFH, WFA, hybrid) and when (timing/schedule) they work.

In India, 69% employee respondents would choose flexibility in when they work, while 76% want flexibility in where they work, the survey shared exclusively with ET, found. On an average, employees would want to work between two and three days remotely after the pandemic. About 38% employees said they want a shorter working week altogether, while 65% want their employer to provide flexible timing for work.

In India, 85% employee respondents believe their productivity can be accurately measured irrespective of location, according to the latest Work Reimagined Employee Survey.

“The pandemic has shown that flexibility can work for both employees and employers, and flexible working is the new currency for attracting and retaining top talent,” said Anurag Malik, partner, People Advisory Services, EY India. “Employers who want to keep the best people now and in the next normal will need to put flexible working in front and centre of their talent strategy and accordingly redesign their work models to increase flexibility for their employees.”

Millennials represented more than half of all respondents. The survey targeted employees who work for organizations with at least 500 employees.

Top company heads and HR experts ET spoke to said that while the flexibility to move to complete remote working or work from anywhere will depend on the industry and type of jobs, a culture of flexibility in the mindset and the way work is done will be crucial for retaining talent.

“Workplaces have to be geared to how to best use manpower in the new normal. Human capital is the most precious resource for companies now and they have to see how to best use the resource at a time when people also want flexibility. Our experience says the hybrid work model will work a lot going ahead,” said Motilal Oswal, chairman and MD of leading broking firm Motital Oswal Financial Services.

For sectors such as technology and digital, which have a high level of attrition due to the huge demand for talent as companies accelerated their digital drive, will likely see talent calling the shots in terms of the work style, said experts.

“Techies are a different breed altogether because they are in demand. They want to work at their own time and in their own way. Companies have no choice but to offer the flexibility that they want if they have to retain top talent,” said Krishna Kumar, founder and CEO of edtech company Simplilearn.

Yashwant Mahadik, global HR president at Lupin, said that the kind of flexibility will vary from industry to industry. “While a complete WFH or WFA model may work for sectors such as consulting, technology, or some other serviceable white collar jobs that can be done remotely for industries such as manufacturing and healthcare where a significant part of the workforce has to be in the field or in R&D labs, it will not be possible.” However, he said, even then sensitivity to employee needs and flexibility on a case-to-case basis will be very critical. Lupin is currently doing a pilot where 20% of its head office workforce may have an option to work from home even when things open up.

In November, Tata Steel, the country’s largest steelmaker, rolled out a ‘work-from-anywhere’ policy for a large section of its white collar workforce that will allow people to operate from any part of the country or abroad even when the pandemic situation normalises.

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