Research reveals that employees are taking a more holistic approach when it comes to their jobs, employers, and lives.
By Felicia Lyon
Lately, The Great Resignation has been a topic of much discussion and concern. But perhaps a better way to describe the attitude of many of today’s workers is a focus on reconsideration.
A recent KPMG American workers survey polled employees across various sectors about their work preferences, work-life balance expectations, job satisfaction, career opportunities, and work preferences. The survey found that workers are reconsidering what they want from their careers, what they want from their employers, and their loyalty to their organizations. Salary is still important, but employees are taking a more holistic approach to their work and personal life. For companies, it’s an opportunity to reconsider their relationships with their employees too, while reviewing past practices, and determining what needs to be done to ensure employees are satisfied, engaged, and committed.
What follows are the main takeaways from the survey about worker attitudes and some steps employers can take to build the best possible employee experience and retain valuable talent.
Remote Doesn’t Work for All
After working from home during the COVID-19 lockdowns, most workers have a favorable view of remote work. Of those surveyed, 55% said they work fully or mostly in the office, while 45% said they work fully or partly remote. However, in terms of actual preferences, opinion is more equally divided, with about a quarter of respondents each saying they prefer to work fully in the office (25%); mostly in the office (25%); mostly remote (25%); and fully remote (25%). At the same time, 56% said they would like to see their organization offer more remote jobs, and only 24% said that not having the option to work at home would make them want to leave their organization.
While remote work is important to some, the survey suggests that not having a work-at-home option isn’t a deal-breaker for most employees.
Organizations should listen to the wants and needs of their employees and create a strategy that accommodates them. In-office time should be for a defined and productive purpose, not just an opportunity for face time. Companies should also be mindful to provide the remote work cohort with the same opportunities for advancement and training as the in-office crowd.
With the rise of remote work and 24-hour connectivity, employees are seeing less of a delineation between work and home life. Organizations need to look for ways to reduce that burden, be it through outsourcing, automation, technology, or just a reevaluation of what’s essential and what isn’t.
The report found that 62% of respondents said they are working harder compared to last year. In addition, only one third said their happiness at work has improved, while roughly the same number said their happiness has somewhat or significantly declined. Likewise, about a third are thinking about moving on from their current position, though slightly more than half are more inclined to stay put.
While there will always be some employees actively considering new opportunities, it’s critical that companies take steps to keep attrition to a minimum, especially with a recessionary environment around the corner, where organizations may need to downsize. Handling any reduction in workforce is of utmost importance as a mishandled reduction could provoke remaining employees to look elsewhere. Top talent always has the power and the options to go where they feel part of something great.
62% of respondents said they are working harder compared to last year.
Balance and Benefits Help
Benefits remain high on the list of reasons an employee decides to stay or go. For job seekers, time off, work-life flexibility, and health benefits are top considerations for potential job opportunities.
In fact, 90% of respondents say that work-life balance is an important factor when looking for a new job. Nearly three quarters of respondents say they can maintain a work-life balance in their current position.
The survey results point to what some call “work in the flow of life,” with people wanting to work when, where, and how it’s optimal for them. In other words, people are taking a more holistic look at their work lives. Likewise, organizations need to see their employees as “whole humans” and not just mere workers. When employers pay greater attention to health, well-being, and work-life benefits, they allow employees to bring the best version of themselves to the workplace.
Does Digital Deliver?
A digital transformation has swept through the workforce, but have new technologies improved productivity? The survey found just 42% say that their personal productivity has improved in the last year.
Organizations spend millions of dollars on technology, but the survey revealed the return on investment (ROI) may be less than expected. Yet, this realization can be an opportunity for companies to ask some important questions about their tech spend. For example: What tools do employees really need? If something can be automated, should it be? Is the new technology aligned to business needs? And are people being enabled to use the technology effectively?
The survey results point to what some call “work in the flow of life,” with people wanting to work when, where, and how it’s optimal for them.
Employees Seek Clear Pathways
Employees want to advance in their careers, and more than half of respondents agree that their organizations provide opportunities to move laterally or upward. Similarly, 58% believe their organizations offer learning opportunities leading to alternative career paths within their organization.
Nevertheless, this still leaves a significant population who may feel frustrated or stifled about pursuing new career opportunities at their companies.
Organizations should seek to learn the reason for this dissatisfaction and find ways to turn it around. Review the available career paths and provide the means to upskill current employees to meet the needs of the business. And ensure new opportunities are visible to everyone.
Focusing on ESG
Respondents showed a high level of awareness for environmental, social, and governance (ESG), with 72% saying that it’s important for their organization to respond to these issues, though only 58% said their organization’s efforts are making an impact on society.
As for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, 48% agree or strongly agree that they personally benefit, though the remainder are neutral, or don’t feel that they are gaining from these initiatives.
Organizations need to see their ESG strategy as more than a compliance issue and understand the positive impact that it could have on society and their employees. Setting clear ESG key performance indicators such as charitable giving, employee volunteer hours, or a carbon footprint dashboard, and sharing the progress, are effective ways to do this.
Given the rapid changes of the past few years, people are rethinking what they want from their employment in a more holistic way. Financial compensation still counts, but employees want more. Organizations have an opportunity to become an employer of choice and deliver a more satisfying employee experience that contributes to sustainable growth.
Felicia Lyon is a principal of human capital advisory for KPMG (U.S.) LLP.