It’s still too early to tell how great the “Great Resignation” will be. Or if it even lives up to that description. True, lots of employees are considering changing jobs, but there’s a world of difference between thinking about quitting and actively hunting for a new opportunity. There’s no doubt, though, that employees want more out of their work life. And they’re willing to fight for what they want or leave if they don’t get it.
What more do these unsatisfied employees want? That depends. Really, the best way to learn what your employees want is simply to ask them. We cannot stress this enough. Check-ins with managers are an ideal time for this if both managers and their direct reports are comfortable having such conversations. Anonymous surveys are another option. If nothing else, conduct exit interviews.
But while individual desires vary, they tend right now to fall into a few general themes: greater freedom and flexibility, a bigger say in the workplace, better compensation, and increased safety and security. Employers that can meet these demands have an advantage in today’s job market. Let’s look at each in turn.
Greater Freedom and Flexibility
Most employees who have experienced the benefits of working from home want remote work to remain an option, at least part of the time. Some appreciate being able to pick up kids from school, take a midday exercise break, or use the bathroom without anyone tracking how much time they’re spending away from their workstations.
Others feel relieved to have escaped a workplace marked by harassment or microaggressions. Meanwhile, others enjoy using their commute time for something personally rewarding or for getting work done. All in all, they like the freedom and flexibility remote work provides.
But remote work isn’t the only way that employees desire greater freedom and flexibility. They also want the liberty to decide their own work schedule or at least receive their schedule in advance, the option to take time off when they need it and without worrying about a smaller paycheck, and ample opportunities to advance their career.
Workers who feel constrained or stalled at work are less likely to stick around. And if they do stay, they’re likely to feel frustrated, perhaps even resentful. Neither attitude inclines one to do their best work.
Top Tip: Talk with employees to determine what decisions about their work and their development they can be free to make for themselves.
A Bigger Say in the Workplace
When employees at Google announced the creation of a minority union early this year, a lot of people were taken by surprise. After all, tech employees aren’t exactly known for unionizing, and Google is known for being a great place to work.
Some of the union’s goals are what you’d expect—fairer wages and more protection from harassment and retaliation. But the union also seeks to influence how the company conducts business—and with whom. Its members want a say in how their labor is used. Alan Morales, a Google engineer who is now a member of the union, shared,
As a tech employee, it’s a reasonable ask to ensure that this labor is being used for something positive that makes the world a better place.
Employees at other tech companies feel similar. Two employees at Amazon resigned in protest recently after hundreds of employees unsuccessfully petitioned the company to stop selling a book that they said framed transgender identity as a mental illness.
Simply put, what these employees want is a cultural fit. They want their work and their workplace to align with their beliefs and values. They’re willing to quit if the culture doesn’t suit them, but they also believe the culture isn’t only their employer’s to define.
As they see it, the culture belongs to them, too. And many of them are willing to organize protests, perform walkouts, and engage in other forms of concerted activity if they don’t approve of how their employer conducts business.
Top Tip: Consider whose values take priority in your workplace. Does culture come from the top down or is it a collaborative effort? If employees don’t feel comfortable expressing their opinions about what the culture is and what it should be, what could you do to reassure them and encourage fruitful discussions?
The desire for higher pay, additional benefits, on-the-job training, and financial relief are by no means new. But right now, in certain industries, employees have the leverage to demand better compensation. In response, employers in these industries are advertising signing bonuses, $15 an hour minimum pay, and other attractive forms of compensation.
Top Tip: Develop a compensation strategy that’s responsive to today’s fluctuating costs of labor. If higher pay isn’t possible for your business, explore creative benefit options to make your company’s compensation package more attractive to current and future employees.
Increased Safety and Security
The COVID pandemic has shone a painfully bright light on workplace health and safety practices—or lack thereof. COVID-related risks and violations abound. According to a study from the University of California, San Francisco, five professions saw an increase in mortality rate higher than 50 percent: agricultural workers, bakers, construction laborers, line cooks, and line workers in warehouses.
With health and safety on most people’s minds, there’s a big demand for work that’s physically and mentally healthy. Most employees don’t want a job that puts them in danger of getting a serious illness or causes them psychological harm. Workers want to feel safe, and they’re leaving jobs where they don’t.
Top Tip: Following all recommended safety precautions is a lot to keep track of, but it’s also just the bare minimum. Make sure your employees also feel safe—physically and psychologically. Listen to any concerns they have and do what you can to address them.
What do you think?
How have you been handling hiring and employee retention struggles over the past year? Has your business altered its benefits and compensation strategy to be more competitive? Let us know how you’ve adapted in the comments below.
If you’d like some help refining your company culture and attracting talent, then let’s talk! Our HR Services team would love to learn more about your business and how we can help. Finally, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for even more business tips and news.