4 things employees want from work (and it’s not free pizza)

2 October 2020 - Reading time: 3 Minutes

HR

HR departments are starting to welcome employees back into work post Covid-19. Aside from making sure every employee is coming back to a safe environment, HR teams will also be wondering how they can increase employee engagement and create a great workplace for their people to thrive in. Organisations should be asking themselves ‘what do employees want?’ and if they’re not, they should be.

Yet, employee engagement is much more than offering employees free pizza on a Friday. In my experience, here are a few things employees want from their organisation that contributes to good employee engagement:

1. Flexibility

Working from home has become the norm for many of us and at least some element of this will most likely continue in the long term. Research from IWG shows that 83% of people would choose a job which offered flexible working over a job that didn’t. Almost a third (28%) of people value being able to choose their work location over an increase in holiday allowance.

Not every industry has the luxury of being able to continue to work from home but if homeworking isn’t desirable or practical, there are other options that offer flexibility such as, job sharing, part-time working, term-time only working, irregular shift patterns, remote or mobile working and splitting time across different locations. Simply allowing employees to adjust their start and finish times to work around rush hour or childcare can make a big difference to employees.

2. Development opportunities

A common reason for leaving an organisation is a lack of development opportunities or career progression. While it’s impossible to be able to promote every person working in the organisation, and indeed, not everyone wants promotion, it’s important that there’s clear criteria for career progression and development opportunities to avoid any perceived favouritism. Favouritism or processes that are perceived as unfair can have a significant negative impact on employee engagement. Therefore, HR departments have a key role to play in developing robust processes to ensure a fair process is adopted.

A common misconception is that professional development is too expensive. I recently saw a quote on LinkedIn which said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!”

Development is not all about formal classroom training, in fact, as we develop technology there is less need for classroom training, something that I anticipate will be accelerated due to the current pandemic. There are many cost-effective ways to offer development such as peer shadowing, mentoring, project work and job rotation.

3. To have their say

If you’re struggling to understand what your employees really want from your organisation, then why not ask them? By setting up a quarterly or monthly engagement listening groups, you can get direct insights into how your employees are feeling, what they are struggling with and how you can improve the workplace for their needs. Putting the insights into action and making changes to the workplace based on employee feedback will demonstrate that you are listening and encourage your employees to be more honest.

4. Good technology

A survey by PWC identified that nearly half (46%) of supervisors feel overwhelmed by technology at work and 61% of supervisors felt they spent more time getting technology to work.

When it comes to tech, people have high standards. They won’t settle for a slow or outdated system, let alone something that looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 90’s. However, it’s not all about looks; employees are looking for intuitive, user focused systems that make their lives easier. If you can provide them with tech that is simple and efficient, then you’ll be on your way to a highly engaged workforce. If you are reading this and doubt the impact of tech on engagement, ask yourself how engaged you were with the organisation the last time you had to work with slow, out of date tech!

You can empower your employees by giving them the technology to self-serve. Admin tasks like booking holiday, viewing calendar requests, accessing their payslips and confidential documents could easily be transitioned with a self-serve HR or Payroll tool. Not only does this empower employees, it frees up valuable time for your payroll and HR teams.

Every organisation is different

When it comes to employee engagement, there isn’t a one size fits all. Every employee is different, some initiatives will work well, and others won’t. I’m curious to find out what my fellow HR professionals think employees want? Join the conversation in my LinkedIn post here

Fiona McKee
HR Director at SD Worx UK and Ireland

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