Many employees are considering changing jobs, but there’s a difference between thinking about quitting and actively hunting for a new opportunity. There’s no doubt 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. The best way to learn what your employees want is to ask them. We cannot stress this enough. Check-ins with managers are ideal 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 more significant 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. So 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 spend away from their workstations. Others feel relieved to have escaped a workplace marked by harassment or microaggressions. Still, 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 employees desire greater freedom and flexibility. They also want the liberty to decide their 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.
Tip: Talk with your 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, many people were surprised. After all, tech employees aren’t exactly known for unionizing. 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. In addition, its members want a say in how their labor is used. ‘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,” one employee told NPR.
Employees at other tech companies feel similar. For example, 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 cultural fit. They want their work and 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 disapprove of how their employer conducts business.
Tip: Consider whose beliefs and 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 the culture 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 is new. But right now, in specific 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.
Tip: Develop a compensation strategy responsive to today’s fluctuating labor costs.
Increased Safety and Security
The COVID pandemic has shined 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 significant demand for physically and mentally healthy workplaces. Most employees don’t want a job that puts them in danger of getting a severe illness or causes them psychological harm. Workers want to feel safe, and they’re leaving jobs where they don’t.
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 their concerns and do what you can to address them.
Dr. Patrick K. Collard is the Managing Member & Evidence-based HR Consultant for trustHR | GObackgrounds (San Diego, CA and Brookfield, WI). He has over 30 years of experience as a human resources consultant. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society and a Master of Human Resources and Employment Relations with a concentration in Employment and Labor Law from Penn State University. Dr. Collard earned his doctorate from the University of Maryland Global Campus. He defended his dissertation – Recruiting the Untapped Talent Pool of Hiring an Employee with a Criminal Record: A Systematic Review. Schedule a Discovery Call with Dr. Collard at – https://calendly.com/patrickcollard/discovery-call