COVID-19: Dealing with the impact
23 July 2020 | Webinar
Partner and Corporate Advisor
Employee Experience Solutions Leader
Head of UK Clients, Investment Solutions
Leadership and Workforce Transformation Consultant
UK Growth Leader Large Corporate
Introducing the last webinar in our COVID-19 dealing with the impact series, Mercer partner Simon Turner brought some of his colleagues together to share their experiences of helping six different companies through the pandemic.
1. Healthcare charity reduces risk
“To start off, I’d like to talk you through a charity I’ve worked with that provides services to the NHS,” said Simon. “We helped them understand people issues, in terms of many of the practical issues resulting after the charity made decisions about who to furlough after parts of the business had to close. For example, if the employee’s pay changes as part of furlough then how does that impact on the benefits the charity provides?”
“We also helped with cash-flow issues, discussing the options to reduce or stop company contributions into the pension scheme, which led to a temporary reduction in cash contributions to the pension scheme.
“There were also some risk issues, as the outbreak lead to volatility in the financial markets and they had a material pension scheme. We supported the charity by looking at the key risks associated with the pension scheme, ranging from operation risks (‘can the administrator still pay the pensioner benefits?’) to financial risks (‘can we help with monitoring the funding position and what does that mean for cash contributions?). We took action quickly to help manage some of the short-term risks and are now working with the client on the ‘return phase’ where facilities will start to re-open and financial markets start to improve.”
2. Global chemical company optimises employee experience
“I’m going to talk about a global chemical company, employing over 30,000 people, situated in multiple countries, each at different stages of COVID-19,” said Katerina Psychopaida, employee experience leader for Mercer. “They were experiencing major disruption and it was almost impossible for them to adhere to an overarching employee experience strategy.
“They needed our help to work out the different needs of employees. They had been doing an employee engagement survey every two years and wanted a holistic programme that was agile enough to respond to the situation. We took data from their previous survey and redesigned to detect real-time feedback by running shorter pulse surveys, supplementing this with digital focus groups to not only gather thoughts and feelings but also ideas for solutions.
“One of the biggest things to emerge was the need for support on working from home to increase flexible working for everyone. As a conservative manufacturing company, they didn’t have a flexible work culture and realised they needed to shift that. They also wanted to look at how to keep close collaboration while working remotely. Our support is enabling them to implement local plans that are aligned globally, and become more agile.”
3. Employee helped to get urgent treatment
“Covid has had a huge impact on healthcare situations in the UK, as the NHS had to commandeer resource to deal with the pandemic,” said Paul Hollingdale, a Mercer leader who works with larger corporates. “So, when one of our clients had an employee who required urgent treatment for an endocrine condition, none of the three specialist consultants in his region were seeing patients.
“Mercer worked with a healthcare provider to identify a specialist, that wasn’t local, and used zoom to deliver consultations via video and remote diagnostics to identify the best treatment plan, all within 48 hours, so they could get a hormone treatment quickly.
“Without this intervention, there would have been a long wait for that employee to access healthcare. The use of technology to avoid delays was a key part of the solution and a global survey we conducted recently shows that employees in the UK are very open to using technology to deliver this type of solution to help them avoid delays.”
4. Travel company entrusts pension to Mercer
“A UK travel client had a number of challenges,” said Helen Hope, head of clients within investment solutions, for Mercer in the UK. “Holidays had to be cancelled and they had customers abroad that had to be brought back. At the same time as these corporate challenges, they had a substantial pension scheme and pensions had to be paid on time despite market volatility during March and April.
“Investment arrangements were delegated to Mercer so they could focus on the corporate challenges and we could manage that volatility on their behalf. We made careful decisions about which investments to focus on to reduce risk and saw there were new opportunities in credit which were performing well, so we tilted into those areas, providing regular information and updates so they knew the pension scheme was in good hands.
“Pensions continued to be paid on time and the client was reassured that, at a time of considerable stress, they didn’t have to worry about the pension scheme. It’s performed very well since March, with double digit returns on some asset classes.”
5. Global training programme redesigned for multinational
“We had to assist a client in transitioning and redesigning a global leadership development programme to be run virtually,” said Alex Aves, a consultant in Mercer’s leadership and transformation team. “The programme was aimed at first-time leaders, with over 2,500 people going through the journey each year, which included a three day face-to-face workshop where participants got to put their learning into practice.
“When the world came to a standstill, we had to cancel workshops for over 1,000 leaders, which we rescheduled to August when they would be run virtually. This left a gap of 3-4 months, so to maintain momentum and keep participants engaged, we brought forward virtual elements of the programme. These included mini challenges to embed behaviour change, such as running innovation experiments and trialling new ways of working with their teams.
“Looking to the longer-term, we redesigned the workshop to be delivered online over four days. As with any face-to-face event, the key to engaging virtual events is in the design and participant experience. So we didn’t just take the face-to-face and try to run it virtually because that wouldn’t work. Instead, we really broke it down into more manageable sessions, of roughly 90 minutes, with high participant engagement and interaction throughout. Following great feedback, it’s now being rolled out to 50 cohorts, enabling leaders to continue to focus on their learning and personal development at such a challenging time.”
6. Financial services firm offers private COVID-19 testing
“A lot of our employers are now deep into the strategy for their return to the workplace phase,” said Paul as he introduced the final case study. “The government has put the onus on employers to take on planning and risk management, so we’re seeing Covid testing playing a large part in employee thinking. We are working with a global financial services firm that wants to not only provide access to testing for the virus, but also an antibody test to support employees overall health and wellbeing during what’s been a very worrying time.
“We looked at emerging testing solutions, as there are a wide variety with differences in price, to find a solution that was clinically accurate, so they could be confident in the test and its validity. It was also important to have no supply chain issues, to ensure delivery wouldn’t be a problem, with additional clinical support and strong wrap-around care, because employees didn’t just want the test, but also to feel supported with the result.
“The provider we were able to recommend, within 48 hours, met all the criteria and didn’t provide tests for under 18s but did provide tests for extended family members. So we were able to move quickly to implementation and are now happy to share our expertise in this area with other clients.”
We hope you found these case studies insightful. If you’d like to watch this webinar in full and see the consultants respond to questions, please click the link below. If you’d like help with any of the issues raised, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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