Following many years of economic uncertainty, large-scale layoffs, civil unrest, and mental health concerns, worker expectations for how they are treated at work and how companies respond to societal issues are higher than ever. Couple this with the fact that 89% of knowledge workers have experienced work-related burnout within the last year, and it’s no surprise that many are reevaluating their role in the workforce and seeking different opportunities.
But when did this workplace shift happen? What do employees value most and want to see reflected by their employer? What changes can you make to retain good workers and attract solid talent? Great questions – and Blue Beyond Consulting is here to help. In this article, we’re sharing the values today’s workers are prioritizing above all when choosing where they want to work. Let’s take a closer look at how leaders can shape their organizations to meet – and even exceed – employee expectations.
Before we dive into the values today’s employees appreciate the most, we should consider why, exactly, employers should align the values of their organizations with those of their people.
In our survey of over 750 business leaders, HR leaders, and knowledge workers, 80% of employees who responded answered that working for a company with values that align with their own was very important. Even more notable, just over half of knowledge worker respondents said they would quit their job if company values did not match their own values.
It’s estimated that every time a worker quits, you lose up to 60% of their annual salary in replacement costs. Let’s break that down more tangibly – as an example, this means that if a graphic designer who is making $65,000/year quits, your company could spend up to $39,000 trying to replace them.
In other words, organizations that meet the expectations of today’s workforce are also best positioned to retain current talent and attract future team members. For organizations looking to find ways to engage your workers and make them feel heard and appreciated, even through trying times, it’s important to look at your internal culture and evaluate opportunities for growth and alignment.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen Millennials and Gen-Z enter the workforce and demand shifts that had not previously been as prioritized. From equal pay and inclusive workplaces to employee well-being and flexibility, this shift in mindset is hugely important for companies that want to optimize their talent management efforts.
Although knowledge workers remain relatively consistent in their top values, the values that business leaders prioritize are slightly different. This gap — between what employees and employers value — suggests that leaders should rethink the values that matter most and take action embed these expectations within their organizations.
Curious to hear what workers value most? Let’s take a closer look.
Mental, physical, and social well-being have always been important for employees; however, supporting employee wellness has become a top-priority for the post-COVID workforce. In fact, our survey found that employee well-being and mental health is considered important to 9 out of 10 knowledge workers. Not only that, but employee well-being and mental health were the single most important employee experience factor, according to respondents.
Cultivating a culture of well-being often helps organizations curb employee churn, but organizations that prioritize well-being often realize benefits that far exceed retention alone. Employees who feel supported in their physical and mental wellness often report higher levels of productivity, creativity, and innovation, as well as reduced absenteeism and burnout.
In our survey, 86% of knowledge workers cited pay equity as “very important” to them – and just 72% of leaders followed suit. With this gap in mind, it’s important to note that workers simply want to be fairly compensated for the work they do, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, and more. If they’re not being fairly paid, they will seek out a new opportunity where they are.
Ensure your company is communicating about pay transparently when offering positions or encouraging employees to grow in their current role.
According to Fractl,88% of job seekers note a comprehensive benefits package as the deciding factor between a higher paying job and a lower paying one. This means, no matter what the pay is, the majority of your applicant pool sees the immense value and benefits in choosing a position with good health and dental, wellness, paid time off, and financial security benefits. In more recent years, employers have also been offering complementary counseling services to employees who want to improve mental health and well-being.
As you consider what to offer in your benefits package (e.g., counseling services, gym packages, home office setup reimbursement, etc.), ask yourself if you’re providing services that best fit the needs of today’s workforce. Improving your benefits package could be the key differentiator for making them stay.
When a company undergoes change, it has lasting effects on its people and links more closely to job satisfaction than most might expect. While we know that external factors may lead to economic uncertainty and unpredictable internal changes, the more you can provide stability, transparency, and empathy during times of rapid change and momentum, the greater the likelihood that you’ll retain them.
For example, Eden Alvarez-Backus, formerly a vice president of Global Talent Management at Danaher, shared that, “When the pandemic hit and despite not knowing what it really all meant so early, we were very quick to go out to our associates and say we don’t really know what’s happening but what matters most is your safety. What that generates in people’s minds is ‘you’re putting me above the business stuff’—and that conveys we care about you and you can trust us.” A simple communication made Danaher employees feel valued, heard, and validated during a time that was confusing and challenging – this goes a long way.
In a recent survey, Gallup found that 58% of workers prioritize choosing roles that enable them to use their honed skills and strengths in order to contribute positively to their organization. When your HR team is working to find best-fit employees, it may help to consider how the job description aligns with the actual day-to-day work this person will be doing. Will this candidate feel fulfilled in this role? Will the candidate actually get to do the work I’m describing on paper? By ensuring the candidate’s skills closely align with what your team actually needs, you’ll have a greater chance of retaining them longer term and boosting organizational satisfaction.
According to our survey, knowledge workers (78%) specify flexible work as a very important part of their employment – including both where they work and when. While the pandemic showed that workers can be trusted to be productive on their own time at home, many employers are shifting back to working in person in order to boost productivity. If your company decides to return to the office, by allowing employees to have flexible schedules they actually become more productive. Flexibility leads to:
In short, workers want to do good work for you – they just need time and space to do it. As long as they’re getting their work done well and on time, by providing flexibility to let employees balance their work and personal lives, you’ll gain a workforce that has your back and wants to help you achieve your business goals.
In the workplace, it’s important for every single person to feel valued and included, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, ability, etc. The good news is that workers today see the immense value of having diverse viewpoints, lived experiences, and backgrounds as a part of their workforce makeup.
In fact, more than 4 in 5 knowledge workers (81%) say prioritizing DEIB within the workplace is important, however, just 65% of leaders say the same. This clear disconnect is causing internal struggles that ladder up to one key question: does my employer value a diverse and inclusive workforce like I do?
As you work to embed DEIB in your business – both internally and externally – consider these eight key DEIB strategies we encourage business leaders to consider for thoughtful programming and policies.
Last, but certainly not least – and related to #6 above – we have “using business as a force for good.” When interviewing leaders and knowledge workers on their expectations of their employer doing good, employees echoed that “We want, and expect, business to be a force for good,” no matter what. In fact, over 75% of survey respondents (e.g., more than 3 in 4) said their employer (76%) and business in general (77%) have an obligation to be a force for good in society.
Building trust with your employees is only possible when you’re meeting on an even playing field, addressing their fundamental needs, and are willing to go back to the drawing board if something isn’t right. Want to dive deeper into this topic? Download our free ebook: Good for Me, Good for Us, and Good for the World: A New Agenda for Business Leaders.
If you need support in meeting the expectations of your employees, get in touch with the Blue Beyond team.