Relatable organisations: a fairer, brighter future 

Companies are redefining how they interact with their workforces to build more relatable organisations.

Investor, employee and consumer attitudes have all been reshaped by the events of the last few years, from Covid-19 and the current cost of living crisis, to longer term trends such as automation and greater focus on fairness in the workplace.

As a result, companies are redefining the ways that they interact with their workforce, the communities in which they operate, the environment and society as a whole.

Creating a more human, relatable, organisation means that simply delivering unrelenting financial growth to shareholders is no longer enough. Running a business sustainably and building long-term organisational resilience are now becoming higher priority for investors, and businesses must work as genuine partners with a wide range of other stakeholders – including employees.

Relatable organisations are underpinned by five key characteristics:

  • Continuously adapt and remain relevant
  • Work in partnership with stakeholders
  • Are committed to employee wellbeing
  • Support long-term employability
  • Tap into the collective energy of employees

Being able to support those characteristics requires a workplace that is fair by design, lives its corporate values and is fully engaged with the wellbeing of its wider workforce.

To build relatability also means being able to tell the story of company purpose in a transparent, consistent way across the organisation, and to the outside world.

The key characteristics of relatable businesses

Adaptable and relevant

Businesses have had to rethink their priorities and purpose to remain relevant in a world where corporate values and fairness affect consumer buying decisions and employees’ choice of workplace.

Relatable organisations:

  • listen carefully to all of their stakeholders to build cultures and practices that are adaptive by design.
  • are able to speak publicly about what they stand for and transparent about upholding those values.
  • meet diverse employee expectations in nuanced and personalised ways.
  • drive engagement and develop a culture that supports personal development, backed up by meaningful reward.

Work in partnership with stakeholders

Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2022 research found that the social contract – the relationship between employee and employers – has changed. People want to work with a company, not for a company, as a recognised and valued shareholder.

Relatable organisations:

  • work towards flexible, flatter and more networked talent models.
  • make sure that everyone is treated fairly.
  • create partnership as a business advantage.
  • build talent models that are equitable by design.
  • uphold the same expectations of fairness in their supply chains.
  • build partnerships with local communities.

Commit to wellbeing

The importance of the whole workforce’s health was laid bare by Covid-19. The pandemic also showed that wellbeing is influenced by individuals’ personal circumstances including additional roles outside the workplace such as parenting, and their socio-economic background.

Relatable organisations:

  • recognise that employee wellbeing strategies have to be as diverse as the individuals within their workforce.
  • provide employees with wellbeing benefits that fit their lifestage, lifestyle and individual needs.
  • actively encouraging healthy, rewarding and sustainable work behaviours.
  • offer personalised support during moments that matter.

Build long-term employability

As organisational objectives change to predict and meet new market needs, the skills required to achieve those goals will change too. Being able to reskill and upskill employees is a core part of creating a sustainable business for the long term.

Relatable organisations:

  • blend together a culture of lifelong learning, inclusive work and career opportunities.
  • create skills-based talent models.
  • ensure the long-term employability of the individuals who work for them.
  • ensure all employees, regardless of background, characteristics and current role, have equal access to learning and development.

Tap into collective energy

The last few years have challenged the energy of workplaces, individuals and wider society. While the pandemic left employees exhausted, Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2022 research showed that they are also optimistic for the future.

Relatable organisations:

  • find ways to reignite energy and optimism for future business success.
  • carry out workforce transformation to focus on human experiences at work.
  • are bold in rethinking work, working and the workplace for a new era.

Take the first steps to build a relatable organisation

The transition to a relatable organisation is not a quick fix or an easy win. It requires long-term change, based around fairness, transparency and sustainability.

Make work fair by design

  • Create a clear DEI strategy that provides equality of experience, opportunity and reward including pay. That should include bias-free talent management processes, pay equity processes, change management and communications.
  • Address pay gaps within the workforce to ensure fairness and inclusivity. Act on the underlying causes of known gender pay gaps and make progress in understanding how to reduce other inequalities, such as ethnicity pay gaps.
  • Explore flexible working models that enable both remote and location-based working as part of energised, productive teams and support managers in leading hybrid working teams.
  • Listen to the organisation – adjust and reflect that in what you do and continuously review, with the aim of embedding DEI into the DNA of your organisation, so that everyone can thrive.

Be transparent and accountable

  • Engage senior leadership and all employees so that they understand and can progress the actions involved in DEI such as awareness and collaboration, line manager prioritisation, the organisational voice.
  • Build accountability, measure results and share the results transparently. Create suitable metrics and goals, build a dashboard and reiterate and review regularly. Regularly look at the wider world of work as well as your own organisation.
  • C-suite commitment is vitally important to creating relatable organisations, but it involves everyone across the organisation including local change leaders, line managers and individuals. Managers need the right models and templates to support change.
  • Consistent communication helps employees understand the values and behaviours that everyone wants within the organisation and defines the culture that everyone is driving towards. Tell a story that everyone can understand and relate to and help colleagues to feel part of a story that helps them thrive at work and in their career.

Make transformation sustainable

  • Transitioning to a relatable organisation means taking a systematic and accountable approach, but also acknowledge gradual progress and set realistic targets.
  • Prioritise action to identify the actions and processes that will make the biggest difference and implement them effectively, rather than taking a piecemeal approach. But be able to adapt as markets, customer and employee needs change.
  • Use both quantitative and quantitative data to understand the current state of play in your organisation and prioritise actions. Mercer works with organisations to understand three key types of data, all of which are vital to understanding the current situation and driving future action.
  • Workforce data – for example, promotion differences and pay equity. These can help identify where action can have the most impact.
  • Employee voice – understand how employees are experiencing the culture and the impact of policies and programmes. Hear from employees directly.
  • Policies and practices – review and revise these to ensure you are meeting employees’ needs.
Kerry Ghize

- Partner, UK Career Leader, Mercer

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