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Co-authored by Martha Cook, EY EMEIA PAS Total Rewards Centre of Excellence Leader, and Fabio Ronga, CEO of beqom

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the world of work, disrupting business operations in an unprecedented manner and accelerating several future of work trends overnight. HR and total reward professionals have found themselves at the front lines of their organizations’ COVID-19 response, having to quickly incorporate emerging trends into their people strategies, including:

    • Customer, employee, and societal behaviors and expectations have shifted
    • Transformation is now about revolution, not evolution
    • Work, as both a place and an activity, has changed
    • Leadership has never been more needed, or so remote
    • HR’s role is now broader, more important, and more digital

These trends illustrate a reset of the workforce and the workplace experience. As businesses use this crisis as an opportunity to reimagine the future of their workforces, we are witnessing a seamless shift between two gears. Gear 1 represents a safe transition back to the physical workplace, while gear 2 addresses longer-term adaptation and transformation to a different working world.

Coping with the “new normal”

To understand how organizations are coping with their “new normal,” EY commissioned the Physical Return and Work Reimagined (PRWR) global survey hosted on the MillionYou interactive crowdsourcing platform in June and July 2020. This unique survey polled responses across both employers (708 responses) and employees (3,682 responses). Participants represented truly global insights, with a large proportion of respondents from the United Kingdom, United States, and Germany.

Throughout 2020, many organizations with historically onsite operations have quickly adapted to embrace the remote work requirements mandated by COVID-19. The wide-scale success of this transition has enabled many organizations to consider new hybrid approaches to working that can support their people today and in the future. It is no surprise that one of the six major “reset” categories identified by both employers and employees within our PRWR research findings was “flexibility, well-being, and total reward programs.” 

  • 78% of employers indicate that they are planning moderate to extensive changes to remote work strategies and associated reward and wellbeing programs.
  • 79% of employees suggest that either extensive (42%) or moderate (37%) levels of total reward program changes should take place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, key total reward actions sought by employees included:

  • Update healthcare plans to provide more pandemic protections (42%)
  • Review time-off policies for illness and caregiving responsibilities (41%)
  • Improve technology for employees (40%)
  • Provide enhanced options for flexible work hours (39%)
  • Update pay/bonus plans to reflect enhanced work efforts (38%)
  • Provide more choice in remuneration and benefit plans (35%)

Implications for HR and total reward professionals     

It is time for legacy total reward approaches to be redefined. Savvy HR professionals recognize the need to demonstrate agility in making real-time, business-critical decisions to safeguard and engage their workforces, while embracing cost-efficient and digital solutions to monitor and track program enhancements and to support long-term value creation. To achieve these objectives, availability and access to HR and reward data has become critical.

Fragmented total reward datawhich is typically spread across disparate and bespoke systemshas long frustrated attempts to promote seamless, integrated, and digital access throughout the performance year. However, forced thinking around the re-imagination of work is accelerating interest in digital reward management solutions that can connect directly into a company’s HR suite, integrating ad-hoc and legacy manual processes while digitally documenting appropriate levels of review and authorization. 

This need for real-time access to reliable HR data includes total reward insights:

  • The demand for customized and personalized total reward programs that can support remote, office and hybrid workers are increasing
  • Cost reduction and administrative optimization have become major driving forces in potential total reward redesign for certain industries adversely impacted by COVID-19
  • An ever-increasing focus on diversity and inclusivity, both financial and non-financial data is required to ensure total reward adjustments do not adversely impact particular groups of employees

Using cloud-based total reward management platforms, such as beqom, can enhance the efficiency of total reward program administration. These systems combine all HR data sources into one platform and remove time consuming and duplicative manual processes, giving HR and reward professionals one-point access to the relevant data to make real-time decisions with confidence. In addition to  HR and total reward professionals, business leaders can use cloud-based total reward management platforms to accurately view and manage their team’s performance, while employees gain digital access to total reward statements and pertinent plan details.

While the role of HR professionals has expanded as a result of COVID-19, the removal of time-consuming, and typically manual, data collection processes can relieve some of these time pressures.

The requirement to provide customized total reward experiences that keep pace with evolving employee needs will require organizations to implement flexible digital total reward solutions. These solutions can enable HR and total reward teams to nimbly navigate their HR suite of technology to provide real-time data insights, while delivering time and cost savings and mitigating security and legal risks. The value proposition for a total reward digital solution that serves as a companion to an organization’s existing HR suite has never been greater.


The views reflected in this article are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.


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