Ask any human resource (HR) manager and they will despairingly moan how difficult it is to retain employees these days, especially the sought-after ones, and how they cant seem to understand what do employees want! Given the increased demand for talent in a highly cut-throat market, keeping an employee productive and content is no easy feat. Even monetary incentives don’t cut the bill anymore and cannot guarantee a happily ever after.
Kegs in the kitchen, ping pong tables, rock climbing walls, mindfulness exercises; you name it. In a bid to nurture a more productive and healthier workforce, employers were expected to spend an average of $3.6 million on wellness programs in 2019. Think nursing hotlines, meditation rooms, standing desks, onsite gyms, daycares, nap desks, and what not.
Companies are outdoing each other to offer the most exciting perks to their employees. If you were to recruit, retain, and engage crème-de-la-creme talent based on what you see in the media, you will be hard-pressed to think those perks are exactly what employees want most from work. Yet sadly, Gallup says over two-thirds of employees are still disengaged at work, leading to a significant drop in productivity, morale, performance, and even profits.
We can’t help but wonder: is any of it paying off? Probably not! So that again leaves us to the question of “what do employees want from their workplace?”. Rather than pulling our hair out in exasperation trying to get to the roots of this century-old mystery, we did our own research and the results are so simple, you will be sitting here with your jaws dropping open by the time you have reached the end!
1. Back to The Basics
If you don’t really know what do employees want, you might be investing thousands of dollars in high-end perks for your employees but neglecting the basics that actually matter. The office environment for instant. A survey found that most employees demand three things from their office environment: the ability to personalize their work space, access to natural light, and most importantly; better air quality.
Half the employees in the study reported that poor air quality makes them sleepier during the day, while over a third blamed air quality for at least an hour lost in productivity every day. The employees in the survey cited light and air quality as the greatest influencers of their wellbeing, happiness, and performance!
Did you know that a high-quality workplace — one with comfortable temperatures, good ventilation, and plenty of natural light can reduce absenteeism up to four days a year? With unscheduled absenteeism costing companies around $3,600 annually per hourly worker, don’t you think it’s high time you start improving these environmental factors!
2. More Meaningful Work
A survey of 2001 0ffice workers at 500-plus employee organizations was recently conducted by the American cloud computing company, ServiceNow, Inc. It says that about 60% workers prefer more “meaningful work” over a raise in salary. According to those workers, about 40% of their time is depleted on “routine, mundane tasks” that have no real impact on core job goals.
Employees describe “meaningful work” as work that makes you feel like you’re contributing towards a larger goal, such as that of the company or your own career goals, while mundane or menial work translated into chores that were less important, dull, or required no brain power. Today’s employees wish to realize their full potential at work.
If you want your employees to be their best, companies can create digital workflows to make day-to-day chores faster, simpler, and easier, to allow employees to focus on the more fulfilling, essential, and challenging aspects of their jobs. Great experiences unlock productivity and create value for both employees and their organizations.
3. Empathy Matters
A study conducted by the tech company Businessolver revealed an eyeopener: 60 per cent of workers would gladly work for an empathetic company even if it meant a pay reduction. 96 per cent of respondents cite empathy as a winning trait for an employer, while chief executive officers link empathy with their company’s financial performance. Be it about boosting productivity and business performance, fueling profit, or inspiring innovation from highly engaged and motivated employees, empathy can positively affect all facets of our workplaces. Employees are more loyal to employers who understand and care about their needs and wants.
4. Personalization, As Much As Possible
Don’t we all love to personalize even the tiniest details of our outside-of-work lives? From the shows we binge on to our playlists, our dinner menus, who we hang out with, the temperature of our houses, to adjusting how much lighting we want in our rooms; we customize our lives to our unique levels of satisfaction.
When we talk about what do employees want, they are beginning to expect these same privileges in the workplace as well. In a survey, 42% of employees interviewed said that they would happily trade a paid vacation for the chance to personalize their work environment. Of those employees, almost one-third wanted to “soundscape” their workspace, one-third wanted more control over the natural light streaming in, as well as their desk and overhead lighting, while nearly half the employees asked for an app that would let them customize the temperature in their workspace.
While previously, these perks were isolated to the personal offices of higher-ups, companies like Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters are now helping employees control the noise levels even in an open floor plan. In order to combat distractions at work, their building was designed in a way as to manage ambient sound. Similarly, employees at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals can use a cell phone app to control the amount of natural light streaming in through the glass of their office windows.
However, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to manage the acoustic or light levels. For instance, cisco’s floor plan has no assigned seating, but rather neighborhoods of workspaces for those who choose to work alone, remotely, or in collaboration with others. Similarly, employees who want more light and a higher temperature can seat themselves around the edge of the floor plan, while those who prefer a quieter and cooler ambiance can shift towards the center.
5. What Do Employees Want? More Recognition
Are you sure that your employees feel “valued” and “important” at work? It’s not their fault, it’s actually deeply ingrained in us: we all want to be recognized for doing a good job. Don’t we clap when our kids put their shoes the right way on, or applaud when they clean their rooms?
Similarly, be it people from the upper management or an entry-level call center employee, people become more engaged and feel inclined to work harder when their employer recognizes them and values their contributions. If people work for you not because they have to, but because they actually want to, the entire work dynamics shifts. When employees feel valued, people are more engaged, collaborations take place, and workers becomes one team that is invested in the product.
However, make sure that this concept is applied across all levels of management. People don’t usually leave their jobs because they are discontent with the leadership style of the CEO, but because they have an unhealthy relationship with their immediate supervisor. You need a system to ensure recognition throughout the company for this to have positive effects.
6. Permanent Flexibility
A nine-to-five workday is history, and if you are still sticking to it, you can kiss the chances of attracting or retaining top talent goodbye. So what do employees want? 51% of employees expressed a desire that their company offered more flexible work options, while a whopping 84% of working parents said that work flexibility is the number one most important factor in a job, followed closely by work-life balance at 80%.
Regardless of the industry or the nature of job, flexibility is becoming the defining line for employees across the world. If you wondering what do employees want that employers don’t just know yet: it is more flexibility in how and when, and where they work from.
Companies that allow flexibility in the form of unlimited paid time off, flexible schedules, remote working, and telecommuting help employees maintain a positive work-life balance. Flexibility at workplaces is known to boost productivity, improve mental well-being, increase willingness and commitment to work, and alleviate workplace stress.
For workplace flexibility to become a permanent solution, employers need to work on developing a culture of trust, as well as provide employees with the technology and tools they would need when working remotely. Employers are trying to reinvent their flexibility policies and solve the challenges surrounding flexible working.
If you still don’t understand what do employees want from you, we suggest you go and ask them!