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Our Virtual Talent Management Roundtable: Designing the Hybrid Workplace

As we come out of the pandemic, many employees are rethinking what they want in their job and the rebounding job market is providing the opportunity to find a new role that best suits them. About 20% of people voluntarily changed employers in 2020, with another 25% planning to switch in 2021 and 20% planning on moving to entirely new occupations.

In our recent virtual roundtable, hosted in partnership with Consero and attended by more than 50 senior HR leaders, members of the Perceptyx research and professional services teams led a discussion on the different challenges organizations will encounter as employees return to the workplace with new expectations.

Employees Want Different Things from their Employers

According to Perceptyx research, about 30% of people want to return to the physical workplace, 14% want to work from home, and 56% want the option to work from home or the office. The ideal workplace model moving forward for both organizations and employees appears to be the hybrid model—a mix of in-office employees, remote employees, and employees who have the flexibility to choose between both options.

Organizations are Struggling with Return to Work Planning

Many organizations are struggling to determine the safest approach for bringing employees back to work. Perceptyx data shows employees feel comfortable returning when masks and social distancing are required and there is frequent cleaning and sanitization of the workplace. Interestingly, only 27.2% of employees believe vaccinations should be required by their employer, with some indicating they would resign if such a policy was adopted.

Looking deeper into the data, essential workers are less likely to get vaccinated because they’ve seen firsthand that existing precautions are effective at keeping them safe at work. That sentiment may be shifting, however, as new CDC guidelines give businesses the options to loosen masks and distancing requirements.

Shesession: Women are Exiting the Workforce

Over 5 million women lost their jobs during the pandemic. Currently, only 57% of women are participating in the workforce, the lowest the employment rate for women has been since 1988.

Remote work policies align with what many women want and help prevent them from exiting the workforce. In a hybrid workplace model, women will likely be in the office one day a week less than their male counterparts.

Unfortunately, not being present in the physical workplace during the pandemic resulted in women and other remote employees experiencing the following disadvantages compared to in-office employees:

  • 40% reported at least one negative impact on development
  • 20% were less likely to have received a raise at least equal to what they received in the past
  • 27% of women are less likely to have received a promotion in the last year compared to their male counterparts

Organizations need to have proactive programs that support women working in the hybrid workplace. For example, give employees the flexibility to choose what days they come in and work the hours that best serve them. Additionally, train managers to be empathic and understand their employees’ unique needs, as strong employee-manager relationships are more beneficial at preventing turnover than any organizational policy.

Pandemic Hires Aren’t Connecting to the Organization

People hired during the pandemic placed greater emphasis on career advancement, flexibility, and company culture than compensation.

However, pandemic hires reported less connection to their team and the organization and a lack of clarity about what to expect on their first day. They did report strong relationships with their manager; however, overall well-being was lower for pandemic hires relative to those hired pre-pandemic.

New hires traditionally experience high engagement during their first year of employment. Pandemic hires aren’t experiencing that “honeymoon” period, putting them at risk for continued disengagement and turnover.

Download our Insights Report “Failure to Attach: The Crisis for Pandemic Hires” to learn more about the onboarding experience for pandemic hires

Client Story: Using Persona-Based Design to Enable the Workforce of the Future

C.H. Robinson partnered with Perceptyx to develop pulse surveys that helped them learn how different employee groups felt about their new hybrid workplace model. Understanding that employees would have different needs and concerns depending on where they work, they created three distinct personas:

  • In-office – Employees who work on-site 80-100% of the time.
  • Hybrid – Employees who work on-site 60-80% of the time and remotely 20-40% of the time depending on their need to interact with peers, teams, and/or customers.
  • Remote – Employees who work on-site 0-10% of the time.

The team at C.H. Robinson then collaborated with Perceptyx to create effective pulse surveys to inform their return to office plan. Before sending surveys, they did the following pre-work:

  • Established come-back criteria – C.H. Robinson learned from an earlier survey that employees would feel comfortable returning to the office when vaccines were widely available, schools had reopened, and government restrictions were lifted. They used that feedback to set the timeline for returning to the office.
  • Mapped all roles to personas – The HR team worked with senior leaders to align every role in the organization to the correct persona and prepared to segment survey results by persona.
  • Develop surveys with stakeholders – C.H. Robinson and Perceptyx focused on culture, technology, and space as the core components of the employee experience. They then had conversations with key stakeholders and cross-functional teams to develop relevant survey questions.

Return to office pulse survey themes

By planning their survey strategy and defining employee personas that aligned with their hybrid workplace model, C.H. Robinson was able to learn how different employees felt about returning to the office and take action in response to their feedback. They identified three key themes based on their survey results.


The pulse survey results showed that the organizational culture had strengthened during the pandemic. However, employees said they were having less fun when working due to the lack of social interactions. In response, C.H. Robinson is planning “block parties” at their different U.S. locations once offices reopen, and social virtual events for their remote employees.


Employees expressed they had the technology and equipment needed to work from home, but stress had increased during the pandemic. C.H. Robinson will be bringing psychologists into the office to help employees manage stress and is introducing emotional intelligence-focused leadership competencies, so managers are aware of the challenges employees are facing.

Return to the office

Lastly, survey feedback indicated that employees had mixed feelings about returning to the office, with some being excited and others feeling anxious. Their biggest concern was safety so C.H. Robinson introduced staggered employee scheduling, social distancing, and frequent cleaning.

Employee Listening is in the DNA of Successful Organizations

Perceptyx research shows that organizations that survey employees, and take action and make decisions based on feedback outperform those that don't across a variety of business outcomes.

No one knows what the future holds post-pandemic, especially as employees return to the workplace with new outlooks and expectations. The one certainty is that employee listening will help keep employees engaged, safe, and comfortable—ensuring organizations retain their best and brightest.

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