Meeting Employee Expectations: What to Prioritize in 2023
Understand three of the top employee expectations in 2023 with strategic solutions to prioritize them at your workplace.
The workplace is continuously evolving, but the events of the past few years accelerated change across many industries. As workplaces adapted to meet the needs of their customers and staff, employees reflected on what they truly needed — and wanted — from their employers and their careers.
During the pandemic, employees experienced a drastic shift, not only in how, where, and when they worked, but also in their philosophies and attitudes about work. If employers fail to recognize the changes caused by this disruption, their hiring and retention tactics won’t meet the needs of today’s workforce. Today’s job applicants have different priorities, and attracting, hiring, and retaining ideal candidates requires companies to consider how they’ll adapt to meet these priorities more successfully.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss strategies that innovative and inclusive companies can use to develop mutual goals and principles, offer flexibility, and encourage employee wellbeing to create a culture where everyone can succeed.
Priority No. 1: Mutual goals and values
For a long time, a steady paycheck was enough to satisfy employee needs. But the past few decades have seen new generations of workers seeking more fulfillment from their careers. For Gen Z in particular, it matters that their personal values align with company values.
The youngest generation in the US workforce isn’t alone in seeking this employment attribute: 54% of US employees would take a pay cut if they could instead work for a company with better values. Further, Gartner research found that “when organizations act – reallocating resources, changing suppliers, giving employees time off to volunteer – the number of highly engaged employees increases significantly” — a 20% increase, to be exact.
People are engaged in their work when they can see how their contributions support team goals. Aligning goals across teams also improves employee empathy and engagement. Illustrating how each team member or department contributes to shared business outcomes promotes transparency, open communication, and teamwork across the organization.
Research shows that 94% of executives feel workplace culture is important to business success, yet half of employees surveyed cannot readily recall their company’s core values. Organizations need to clearly communicate company goals and values and integrate them into employee culture to promote a shared commitment to these values.
The sooner a job candidate knows a company’s goals and values, the better. Job descriptions should include the company’s mission statement as well as a few concrete examples of how the organization strives to meet this mission in their work.
Within the organization, corporate volunteer programs offer employees an opportunity to volunteer for causes they care about. These shared experiences can help teams build camaraderie within the company, especially if they’re able to connect in a shared company space, such as a message board or dedicated Slack channel.
Inviting guest speakers to present on causes relevant to your company’s values and employees’ interests is another way to demonstrate a commitment to company values. Department leaders can brainstorm a list of potential speakers with their teams so that the greatest number of people derive value from the presentation.
In general, gathering input from employees is a great way to promote engagement and support employees. Providing opportunities where everyone has equal say creates an environment where everyone can unite around shared goals and helps team members feel valued. Another key way that today’s organizations can support what their employees value is by offering more flexibility.
Priority No. 2: Flexibility
Flexibility at work used to apply primarily to when someone worked, but this concept has expanded to include where team members work. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations scrambled to find ways for employees to work remotely, but since then, companies of all sizes have developed sustainable and effective remote- and hybrid-work arrangements. This trend is likely to continue, considering that 48% of the US workforce are working from home and 57% would leave their job if it didn’t offer options for remote work.
Whether it’s because of their lifestyle, family responsibilities, health issues, or other personal factors, employees who can choose when and where they work appreciate the freedom to balance work with their personal lives in a way that works for them. Individual employee needs are particularly unique in the modern workplace, as five different generations currently make up the US workforce. A Baby Boomer has different needs and expectations than a member of Gen Z, and employers can address the needs of different generations by offering flexibility to as many employees as possible, regardless of age or personal circumstances.
Furthermore, flexibility is a hallmark of a truly inclusive organization because it makes work more accessible to people with a broad range of abilities. People whose disabilities make leaving their residence difficult can be just as productive, if not more productive in some cases, in a remote work arrangement as their co-workers who go to the office. Flexible work not only empowers employees to do their best work in an environment that suits them, it also creates more employment opportunities for a broader selection of job applicants.
In fact, organizations hoping for a broader pool of job candidates likely need to offer some sort of flexibility accommodation. A recent Gartner study found that 59% of respondents would only consider positions that allowed them to work from anywhere, and nearly 65% of respondents were more inclined to consider roles with flexible hours than roles with no flexibility. Considering that 43% said the flexibility increased their productivity, it’s worth considering how your organization can address this employee expectation.
Buffer, a social media scheduling company, provides an example of how an organization can test the waters with new flexibility initiatives. They first implemented a four-day workweek for one month in 2020, then extended the initiative through the end of the year. Along the way, they gathered employee feedback and measured the team’s satisfaction and productivity. Now, they have been successfully operating on a four-day workweek for over two years.
Consider implementing a trial run to determine how well your flexible work arrangement is received by your current team before launching it on a larger scale. This doesn’t have to be limited to the length of the work week; you could allow employees to piece together a benefits package that meets their specific needs, or see how adopting a hybrid work schedule affects those who traditionally work on-site. Gather employee feedback via surveys and scorecards so you can use these insights to determine the best way to offer flexibility to your team.
Responding to the need for flexible work is one of the many ways an organization can address an important and overarching employee expectation: wellbeing.
Priority No. 3: Employee wellbeing
Access to on-site gyms, healthy snacks in the break room, mental health days, medical insurance — these are some of the traditional benefits that formerly defined “employee wellbeing.” Although these benefits still have value, the societal shift toward prioritizing mental health at work requires employers to reconsider how they can have a more significant impact on employee wellbeing.
In its 2021 Work and Well-being Survey, the American Psychological Association revealed that US workers are more stressed than ever:
- 79% of respondents reported feeling work-related stress in the month prior to the survey;
- Almost 3 in 5 employees reported feeling negative impacts due to workplace stress;
- Of these negative impacts, 44% reported feeling physical fatigue; 36% reported cognitive weariness; and 32% reported emotional exhaustion.
Work-related stress and burnout are driving today’s job candidates to seek employment with companies that prioritize wellness and demonstrate a commitment to promoting wellbeing. Case in point: almost half of all workers would accept a pay cut if it meant they had better work-life balance.
People perform their best when they feel supported and secure in their work. While flexibility initiatives can do a lot in terms of offering support, employee wellbeing encompasses more than that. Mental and physical health are part of a well-rounded approach to employee wellness.
A comprehensive approach to employee wellbeing includes solutions and benefits that help individual workers address their own health on their own time, as well as strategies built into workplace culture that help to reduce burnout and promote wellbeing.
Characteristics of a workplace that prioritizes employee wellbeing include:
- Employees feel comfortable sharing ideas and valued for their contributions;
- Employees can access physical and mental health resources and are encouraged to take advantage of their options;
- Employees feel like part of a team and engaged in their work;
- Open communication is encouraged;
- Employees have access to personal and professional development opportunities.
Stipends for gym memberships and other health/wellness programs are still excellent benefits, but companies are finding other creative solutions to address employee wellbeing needs. When possible, companies might consider optimizing their wellness programs with company-wide mental health days vacation weeks, child care assistance, and optional retreats.
Because work stress can significantly affect employees’ mental health, it’s important to create a healthy workplace and set the right tone around performance. Exhibiting transparency in hiring practices and performance reviews, supplying mental health resources and/or stipends, and providing skills training combine to create a workplace culture where mental health, personal growth, and professional growth are embraced and encouraged.
What it takes to lead a modern workplace
In the post-pandemic workforce, employees want to work toward shared goals with leaders they trust and a business they believe in. Addressing the individual needs of every person in your organization may not be realistic, but understanding their top priorities and taking action to address them through appropriate planning and thoughtful strategies, is not only achievable — but absolutely essential.
In today’s competitive labor market, employers who innovate and refine processes will have the most success at attracting and retaining talented employees. By prioritizing employees’ needs through mutual goals and values, flexible work arrangements, and wellness solutions, you can adapt to the needs of today’s workforce and show your employees their value within your organization.