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A Balancing Act

Amid a misalignment between business needs and employee expectations, HR leaders must find ways to improve the workplace experience and stave off turnover.

By Maggie Mancini

The most successful HR strategy focuses on balancing the needs of employers and employees, aligning talent with business needs, and enabling progress and innovation throughout all levels of the organization. However, many HR leaders see a widening gap between employer and employee expectations, which can create company-wide tension. The latest HR Leaders Report from isolved finds that 76% of HR leaders don’t believe that employees’ expectations for their workplace experience are out of control, with many saying that employees deserve to have good experiences at work.  

“There seems to be a misalignment between employer wants and employee demands, primarily on remote work that took off during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Amy Mosher, chief people officer at isolved. “Once we entered the post-pandemic era, employers started enforcing return-to-work mandates and employees found back by quitting. Recruiting and retaining talent remains a top stressor for HR leaders, so employee and employers tried to meet in the middle with hybrid work.”  

Mosher adds that this remains a challenge, since hybrid work may not fit all business needs. In the meantime, though, HR leaders are already working on creating an employee experience that matters, she says.  

According to the report, the most significant investment HR can make to create positive employee experiences is providing competitive compensation (17%). This is further exemplified by 59% of organizations surveyed giving cost-of-living increases to employees. Mosher says that salary increases have become critical for the employee experience as inflation continues to rise.  

“In fact, more than 55% of employees admit to living paycheck to paycheck, according to our Voice of the Workforce survey,” Mosher says. “During a time where the economy is putting a strain on many, employers can support employees’ well-being in and out of the workforce. Employers can not only focus on providing a competitive salary but also take the full compensation package into consideration.”  

The report finds that 43% of HR leaders believe there is a skills gap within their organization, explaining that support for professional development opportunities can help fill those gaps—particularly when the organization needs specialized talent. The report finds that the top ways employers are addressing skills gaps include the following:  

  • team trainings; 
  • individual trainings; 
  • mentorship programs;  
  • through hiring; 
  • learning management systems; 
  • career pathing; and 
  • funding for continued education. 

“The best way to win the war on talent is by not losing your talent,” Mosher says. “Many employers are already providing reskilling opportunities to their employees. In fact, the number one way to keep employees engaged at work is through learning opportunities.”  

She adds that HR organizations can leverage learning and development systems to suggest courses and certifications to employees that are tailored to their desired career path. This, she says, not only keeps employees engaged, but is also appealing to prospective employees during the recruitment process.  

Even as most (95%) HR leaders say they’re already delivering an employee experience that matters, the data paints a different picture. The top threat impacting talent retention is increased expectations about workplace experience. After all, employees who have meaningful experiences at work are less likely to look for new opportunities, the study suggests.  

“But as those employee expectations continue to rise, HR leaders will need to continue to grow their offerings,” she says. “Starting with competitive compensation, benefits, and a priority on DEI&B efforts, 88% of employees say it’s important to have a job that’s personally fulfilling and focusing on professional development through continued learning and upskilling.”  

Another important aspect of total compensation that can help support the employee experience is a robust benefits package. The report finds that 90% of HR leaders believe their organization offers competitive benefits. As 45% of employees would look for a new job after a poor benefits enrollment experience, the report explains that HR leaders can provide better experiences with a benefits solution that empowers employees to independently elect benefits, provides real-time cost analysis, and passively rolls over previous elections to streamline the annual enrollment process.  

In addition to compensation and benefits, DEI&B efforts—or lack thereof—have a major impact on workplace experience. The report finds that 90% of HR leaders say that their organization does enough to support diversity and inclusion, and 66% say their organization has increased its focus on DEI&B over the last year. The report also finds that DEI&B is the second top way to keep employees engaged at work, just behind team meetings.  

Existing employees are the best advocates for recruiting new talent, Mosher says, so creating an environment where employees are happy and supported can only widen an organization’s talent pool. Though managing expectations will likely always be a balancing act, HR leaders should be proactive in addressing concerns of their existing workforce, supporting development and compensation needs, and preparing for the future of work.  

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