Defining the “new normal” and designing the employee experience of the future, today (Host: ON)
The pandemic has shocked the economy and transformed how organizations operate, creating a ‘new normal’ for institutes, economic development agencies, employees and job seekers. With the introduction of social distancing, digitalization has seen tremendous growth; research by Mckinsey & Company reported that 80% of organizations interact with customers digitally, three times more than before the pandemic. Furthermore, several trends have emerged, such as the need for upskilling/reskilling, change in flexibility from location to time in response to remote work, value for employee mental health support, and shift from managing employee work experience to life experience, i.e., the ’employee experience’.
The global 2021 Employee Experience survey conducted by Willis Towers Watson found that 92% of organizations have prioritized employee experience enhancements over the next three years, higher by 52% from before the pandemic; yet 79% of organizations reported that they have not yet arrived at their new workplace reality. From the employee perspective, during the initial phase of the global pandemic, 72% of employees had full confidence in leaders to protect employee health and wellbeing, but that number had fallen to 57% as 52% of employees reported high to moderate anxiety and 66% reported work distractions.
The employee experience matters because it is the individual moments that shape an employee’s perception and dedication to an organization’s purpose, brand and culture. Yet the current uncertain environment creates challenges for organizations to build a supportive employee experience and company culture, and creates hurdles for employees and job seekers to not only excel in the new world of work, but also take advantage of opportunities brought on by technological and market disruptions that create space for entrepreneurship and new job creation.
Introduced by Luke Nixon-Janssen, Director, Marketing & Business Development, Magnet and moderated by Chantal Brine, CEO, EnPoint, the event featured panelists:
Here is our summary of key takeaways from the session:
1. What comes to mind when you think about ‘building future ready communities’?
Panelists shared their perspectives to this question in the form of both complex, system-wide and interconnected challenges and things to be addressed and opportunities to build back better.
The global pandemic has rapidly changed our workplace and society, and we have had to learn how to keep connected (in organizations, at home, in school, etc.) and create a culture and community online.
Building a sense of community and framework to support each other has been challenging at a time when there are a lot of reasons people are divided or seeing differences between each other, community means coming together and working together to address challenges.
The last few years has made apparent the impact of emotional health and safety; which has led to organizations shifting attention to providing mental support to ensure that everyone that is participating in or who wants to participate in the workforce is able to do so in a way that is safe for their mental and physical selves.
Covid 19 has been a learning experience, regardless of sector or geographic location. Economic inequality and social displacement was “hiding” under the covers (for segments of our population); COVID-19 was the trigger to unmask and address the degree of social inequality and exclusion that exists today.
Digital literacy and technology can be the great social leveller in helping us rethink the workplace of the future and deliver a great employee experience to all employees.
As an example, starting their journey 4 years ago, RBC Future Launch had initially relied on in-person delivery of programs to fund 400+ charitable partners across Canada to help empower young people between the ages 15-29 for the future of work. With COVID-19, charitable organizations struggled to keep their doors open, and millions of young professionals were anxious, wondering how to prepare for the future world of work. In response, RBC had to rethink their strategy and doubled down on digital partnerships. This transformation enabled them to overcome geographic and demographic boundaries that existed in an in-person model, and understand the power of digital literacy as a key and a means of intentional inclusion.
In the wake of COVID-19, technology has created an opportunity to build better, and to rethink issues in a fundamental way and rebuild a more inclusive future of work. We need to look at all the programs that we support and participate in, and consider the accountability related to these programs to ensure inclusive access and participation.
The Employee Experience:
Looking at the employee experience, it’s also important to provide opportunities to participants in programs where employees can achieve a clear outcome that will help them progress in their careers.
Key skills that have emerged over the last many years and been highlighted as necessary by the pandemic include: resilience, flexibility, being able to adapt to change, and being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Now more than ever before, it’s critical to create a culture of belonging and inclusiveness. E.g. RBC’s organizational culture has shifted in response to COVID-19; today, 80% of their 57,000 global workforce effectively works remotely in 39 countries around the world, while feeling engaged, motivated and part of a community.
While many organizations faced attrition as a result of COVID-19 and the great resignation, technology enables hiring from difficult to reach communities and preserves the onboarding experience, regardless of location.
Building communities is at the heart of Magnet – of how they work and who they work with. Magnet recognizes the importance of helping employees feel connected to each other and to their work in a virtual environment. They are continuing to explore how to build community and connection within the organization, as well as externally with partners.
2. What is the most memorable “success story” you’ve experienced when you think about how your organization/group has contributed to ‘building future ready communities’?
Creating and leveraging partnerships where there is a shared purpose can build sustainable change for all; “If we bring people together we can do amazing things.”
The Student Work Placement Programhelps students secure work integrated learning opportunities. With lockdown procedures introduced in early 2020, there was a lot of uncertainty in post-secondary institutions and with students in terms of meeting co-op requirements to graduate. However, seeing RBC move their large workforce remotely and still commit to onboarding students, created a “If they can do it, then we can do it” mindset, resulting in Magnet rethinking their models to better support SMEs in continuing to hire through the SWP program. Working with the government, national co-op association, CEWIL Canada, and RBC, who reached out to SMEs in their network, 18,000 student placements successfully received wage subsidies. This cross sectoral partnership is a success story of collaboration.
Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute’s use of evidence of impact to design, develop and scale successful programs aimed at addressing systemic barriers to employment was referenced as an example for others to follow. (Check out their programs page for inspiration and resources below).
Words of advice included canceling the programs that don’t work in service of those that do, e.g. what’s important isn’t that a participant enjoyed a program, but if they got a job as a result of the program.
It was emphasized how important it is that resources need to be used effectively to reduce fragmentation and increase accountability. It is important to take a hardcore look at where investments are made and what returns they produce.
There is much work to be done in the K-12 education space; students who do not complete high school are less likely to see success in pursuing higher education or top positions in an organization. Attacking system issues at earlier ages in terms of education matters a lot in terms of allowing families and children to participate in communities now and in the future world of work.
The Diversity Institute has taken their work integrated learning approach and partnered with the Lifelong Leadership Institute and a number of other organizations that highlight families in need of support to ensure students can get through school. These collaborations have created the Study Buddy program that offers work placements for post-secondary students and free online tutoring for students in K-12. The program has supported 325+ families, 500+ students and 300+ tutors to date.
Ryerson also has programs focused on developing digital skills for youths who do not normally see themselves in digital roles, e.g. Advanced Digital and Professional Training (ADaPT) programs to transition underrepresented students into tech jobs using boot camps and intensive micro credentials to address skill gaps. (If you’re an employer looking to hire technical talent, we suggest reaching out to the AdaPT team and/or a member of our BRFC team and we can direct you appropriately!)
Magnet has seen success using a hybrid workplace model. They have been able to increase the communities they reach and have supported a number of persons with disabilities in securing jobs in remote locations, which were otherwise difficult to access due to transportation limitations.
The hybrid model enables more inclusive events, such as learning from the stories of leaders. For example, when the CEO of RBC did an in-person event but also streamed it online so that people from across the country can watch, be inspired and learn from experiences shared.
There is potential in using a hybrid work model, but it is imperative to be intentional in understanding how the technology can be used and what are the limitations, and to learn how to get the best out of both sides.
RBC views diversity and inclusion from an equity perspective; they have been intentional in reflecting the communities they serve, top to bottom, by looking at the demographic of not only the students they hire, but also of the organization’s senior ranks. By doing so, RBC has seen their organizational culture change for the good with a greater sense of belonging, increased comfort in speaking up about systemic challenges and opportunities, and greater learnings on issues that impact everyday experiences.
3. Any parting words of wisdom, calls to action, or questions for consideration you’d like to pose to our audience?
The difference between people who drive change and those who resist change or sit in the middle, is confidence. A lack of confidence can be at the root of why fewer people contribute their thoughts, ideas, and inspiration; it inhibits action.
Then, look outward: Think about what kind of power, influence or privilege (education, socioeconomic status, skillset, etc.) you have, and consider how you can advance not just your own career but also intentionally the careers of those around you.
“Be willing to say yes when you usually say no; be willing to push yourself to do something that makes you uncomfortable.”
Figure out what is the first small thing you can do: What is one thing that is within your grasp to do or change?
Challenge yourself to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.
Double down on an innovation driven future; embrace an innovative mindset and harness core competencies. We don’t know what we don’t know, but we know enough to be innovative in our approach to create inclusive and accessible spaces, processes and products/services.
We need to work together consistently across sectors, across industries, across all the different stakeholders working together to create impact. When organizations that have a shared common purpose around key issues come together, anything is possible.
4. What are some resources, books, Ted Talks, or podcasts, that have been instrumental in shaping your view on the future of work?
When we think about defining the “new normal” and designing the employee experience of the future, today, the recurring theme throughout the conversation was despite not knowing what the future holds and/or not being 100% clear on how to support communities and employees in navigating these changes, that the power in bringing together people with a shared vision and common purpose can create sustainable and meaningful impact.
While the global pandemic has affected the lives of all, some more so than others, it has also opened our eyes to the opportunity of a better future. Now is the time to build better, to learn what works and what doesn’t, and to take accountability for ourselves as well as for the communities we are a part of. When we come together as a community, we can inspire, innovate and create a better, more inclusive, future world of work.
Guiding discussion questions:
What steps have your organization and/or program/initiative(s) taken to create opportunities and ensure that everyone can participate in the future world of work?
What benchmarks, success stories and/or resources discussed by the panelists can you adapt/apply to your organization and/or community?
What is one thing your organization is continuously making iterative improvements on to better adopt or advance your use of technology?
Mark has over 25 years’ experience in financial services, Mark has executive leadership experiences in banking, insurance, risk management and non-profit leadership. Mark leads the strategic execution of RBC’s Social Impact portfolios including RBC Future Launch, RBC Tech for Nature and RBC Emerging Artists. Mark also leads stakeholder relations to cultivate and maintain key relationships across Canada including policy makers, partners and stakeholders to advance RBC’s community investment priorities. Mark holds an MBA in International Business from the University of Bradford and has completed executive programs with Richard Ivey School of Business and holds the Institute of Corporate Directors designation (ICD.D).
Royal Bank of Canada
RBC is a global financial institution with a purpose-driven, principles-led approach to delivering leading performance, and creating value for our clients and communities. For more than 150 years, RBC has gone where their clients have gone – expanding across Canada, the United States, and to select global markets. Today, RBC hold strong market positions in five business segments, with 17 million clients who continue to put their trust in RBC. RBC is on a purpose-driven journey to build the RBC of the future and reimagine the role they play in the lives of their customers. RBC’s purpose inspires them every day to bring their best and use their imagination and insights to build a better future for their clients and communities.
Dr. Wendy Cukier is the Diversity Institute Founder, Academic Director of the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub and Research Lead of the Future Skills Centre. She is the co-author of the bestseller, Innovation Nation: Canadian Leadership from Java to Jurassic Park and former VP of Research and Innovation. The Diversity Institute has 100 research staff, 100 research associates from around the world, 200 industry partners and focuses on dimensions of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, future skills, and entrepreneurship and innovation. Harnessing the power of innovation, it promotes the advancement of underrepresented groups. The Diversity Institute is also a research lead for the $300 million Future Skills Centre and the $8.6 million Women Entrepreneurship Hub.
Wendy has been recognized with the Harry Jerome Diversity Award, the Bob Marley Award, the Canada-Pakistan Business Council’s Female Professional of the Year, the Metropolis Research Award, the CATA Alliance, Sara Kirke Award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and 100 Most Powerful Women by WXN. She has been named a YWCA Woman of Distinction and one of the International Women’s Forum 2020 Women Who Make a Difference, a Woman of Influence and one of the “100 Alumni who shaped the Century” by the University of Toronto. Wendy holds a PhD, an MBA, an MA, and honorary doctorates from Laval and Concordia.
Ryerson University is at the intersection of mind and action. They champion diversity, entrepreneurship and innovation, and are dedicated to creating a culture of action. As Canada’s leader in innovative and career-oriented education, they believe that education and experience go hand-in-hand. What their students learn in the classroom is enhanced by real-world knowledge through internships and co-ops, or amplified through zone learning, specialized minors and graduate programs.
A changemaker pioneering new approaches in career development, inclusive recruitment, and contextualized labour market information to drive social and economic change. For more than a decade, he has focused on providing opportunities for diverse job seekers and addressing the needs of employers. Mark leads Magnet, a technology enabled social innovation project based at Ryerson University. Magnet harnesses intelligent matching technology, data and analytics to effectively connect people, businesses, and organizations to opportunity; with the goal of helping regions and communities collaborate and grow.
Magnet is a not-for-profit, founded by Ryerson University. The Magnet platform aims to accelerate inclusive economic growth for all in Canada, through targeted activities in three key areas: Careers, Business and Community, using Magnet’s data-rich, intelligent matching technology.