The lockdown introduced several new work behaviors to an average employee, drastically changing what they expect from the workplace. Now that employees are reevaluating their workplace, several questions emerge:
- What are the changes in the new workplace?
- What are expectations like in the talent market?
- How are employers adapting to these changes?
In this article, we answer these questions by walking you through the several factors impacting the workplace.
2 Pre-pandemic Expectations Gaining Momentum
Many workplace expectations that were widely sought after by employees before the pandemic, are now gaining traction due to flexible work arrangements. These include more leverage for benefits, and other employee expectations such as reverse mentoring. Employers must be aware of these trends to build a supportive workplace and effectively retain talent.
Employers supportive of mental wellness
For many years, employees criticized in hushed tones on toxic work culture, poor work-life balance, and hustle culture. According to a February 2015 study by Workplacetrends.com, 67% of HR professionals reported that their employees have an excellent work-life balance, while only 45% of their employees reported one.
This disconnect continued in the pandemic as well. In April 2021, Mckinsey reported that 65% of employers support mental well-being programs, while only 51% of employees agreed.
This burst the tolerance bubble for many employees. Gen Zers, especially, quit companies at unprecedented rates, fuelling high attrition. Many employees felt that employers failed to empathize and accept that things weren’t all rosy. Many felt they were not given credit for being at their productive best despite sickness, isolation and uncertainty. With so much stress and burnout, employees who felt enough is enough quit and joined employers who valued mental well-being.
Thus, in 2022, mental health has become a high priority in the post-pandemic workplace. Willis Towers Watson’s Wellbeing Diagnostic Survey posited that 86 percent of employers said mental health, stress and burnout were still a priority. Employers are now designing workplaces that focus on the following pillars:
- Emotional well-being
- Physical well-being
- Financial well-being
- Social well-being
Keeping all of this in mind, having a holistic approach to mental health will help employers retain talent.
Reverse mentoring has been around for more than a decade now, in which younger employees mentor senior employees on topics such as diversity, engagement, technology, etc.
Maggie Wooll, a former research lead at Deloitte, explains, “Older colleagues might view millennials as spoiled and entitled. And younger team members may think baby boomers are resistant to change. With Gen Z entering the workforce, additional generational stereotypes are likely to form,”.
Reverse mentoring helps reflect on these stereotypes by assisting employees across ages to discuss and bridge worldviews, technology skills, and institutional knowledge. While older employees benefit from new perspectives, younger employees acquire more transparency and recognition from senior leaders in the company.
Reverse mentoring can solve issues like diversity and inclusion, workplace transformations, and knowledge gaps. Studies have shown Gen Zers are more active in educating themselves about stereotypes and biases. While, statistically, senior employees are less proactive with these issues, they still care about diversity issues and unconscious biases.
Younger employees also want to understand more about top-level management conversations. This makes them feel safer about their jobs and the company’s strategic direction. Reverse mentoring can act as a knowledge transaction program where employees can garner information about the company’s fundamentals. In contrast, senior employees can acquire new approaches to solve problems. Similarly, discussions with business leaders can help younger employees marry technical skills with business decisions.
6 Ways Our Workplace is Changing For Good
In addition to these pre-pandemic employee expectations, there are a few other factors that employers need to stay in tune with to hire and retain talent.
High levels of workplace uncertainty
We live in a time highly characterized by uncertainty. Not that we have seen signs and are bracing ourselves for an armageddon or a zombie apocalypse, but we have much more pressing real-life issues to deal with. Human resource leaders and employees have been heavily troubled over the last few years with changing work-life models, unprecedented attrition, inflation, etc.
Many countries are reeling under a talent crunch. Even though employers know that there is no growth without critical talent, companies have resorted to hiring freezes and layoffs, citing a possible recession. According to layoff.FYI, tech startups worldwide have laid off 73,445 employees.
Recognizing and accommodating the needs of employees still in the workforce is essential as they deal not only with workplace uncertainty but also with personal challenges, often invisible, undefined, and complex.
Changing hiring practices
Increased remote work has presented both challenges and opportunities for recruiters. Remote work and distributed teams‘ more-than-efficient functioning has motivated employers to hire without geographical constraints. Any company with the necessary collaborative and engagement tools will firmly entrench itself in accessing global talent pools.
Despite the ease of hiring, the lack of an in-office environment is challenging for recruiters as they can no longer tout the in-office value propositions they deliberately crafted over the years. Usually, when interviewing and onboarding an employee, companies used to rely on perks such as stocked pantries, foosball tables, and camaraderie to express their culture. Now, employers have to sell themselves harder with virtual tours, flexibility benefits, incentives for office ware, etc.
More Gen Zers entering the workforce
So why is knowing about Gen Z important? With millennials and baby boomers being promoted to more senior roles, employers entrust Gen Zers with many entry and mid-level positions. US’s census department reports that baby boomers are retiring at a rate of 10000 per day. Generation Z currently makes up 30 percent of the world’s population and, in the USA alone, will constitute 27% of the workforce by 2025.
Experts suggest that the Gen Z workforce has high digital fluency and financial sensitivity and is risk-averse. This is one generation that grew up around a slew of technological advancements, a recession, and graduated during a pandemic. Both technologically and economically, this generation dealt with many uncertainties. Thus they strive to find balance and meaning in what they do.
They show radical differences in the way they approach technology and diversity too. These individuals are hyper-driven, continuously informed, and do not accept subpar working environments that are technologically unequipped. Moreover, they strongly feel about diversity and inclusion as one of the most diverse generations.
Employees wanting more autonomy
Even before the pandemic, employees wanted to work at places with less micro-management and more autonomy. In 2017, researchers at the University of Birmingham reported positive effects on their overall well-being and higher levels of job satisfaction with increased autonomy.
However, over the last couple of years, Mckinsey reported a rise in a cohort of employees aged between 25 and 45, who rose to the quick changes imposed by lockdowns and isolation. However, the work-related stress, isolation, and toxic management made these cohorts desire more control over their work lives.
This led to a craving for autonomy, which fuelled trends like the great resignation, the gig economy, entrepreneurship, etc.
Employees are willing to work in an environment that encourages autonomy or are equally ready to take the highway. And with a looming talent crunch, the highway seems reasonable for these employees.
It is amid such macroeconomic conditions and evolving employee needs that businesses need meet.
Quiet quitting means doing your job as specified – and maintaining firm boundaries otherwise. As a result, overtime is not prioritized while bare minimum work requirements are. Simply put, people want to “Act the. wage.”
For some, quiet quitting means a search for joy and recognition with work. For some, it’s a way of stripping off the belief that your job is your identity. When employees do not get credit for going beyond what’s required, they begin to feel that there’s much more to life than their jobs. It’s a little surprising that Gen Zers are leading this trend as Yahoo Finance reports that over 53% want their work to have meaning and 72% believe they’d quit if a clash in values occurred with their employer.
Quiet quitting has been around for decades. It’s just that researchers have studied it with different names, such as disengagement, neglect, and withdrawal. However, what has recently brought the trend to distress managers, is the collective resentment and pushback from employees. Despite numerous studies showing employers that employee well-being is directly related to productivity levels, the virality of quiet quitting shows how out-of-touch employers are with employee expectations.
Employers must understand that in this new reality, they must tap the employee’s intrinsic motivations to get the most out of them. In practice, this translates to employees knowing that their families, contributions, and passions are cared for and recognized.
It’s not that employees are unwilling to work. Even amid high attrition rates, BLS reported that close to 528,000 jobs were added in July—bringing unemployment to a half-a-decade low. Putting these trends together, moving forward, they’d want to carefully choose for whom they want to go the extra mile.
CNBC reported that 1.7 million employees who retired a year earlier have returned to work, accounting for slightly more than 3% of all retirees. Apart from inflation, retired workers are returning to the workforce, taking advantage of the hot labor market and flexible work models.
Retirees also cite loneliness and boredom as reasons for returning to work. The pandemic has successfully isolated employees from each other, breaking workplace ties and camaraderie. For many, their jobs were a source of meaning and identity. Now that work can happen anywhere, retirees find it easy to return to work.
Thus, the new reality is one where retirees are also ready to work. Employers should note that these are seasoned employees with high institutional, business, and technical knowledge levels. Thus, they can be onboarded more easily and quickly. However, employers should also ensure they receive relevant benefits, more social security, etc. Therefore, you might consider offering them better health packages or mental health support instead of meal vouchers.
Conclusion: Employees’ Needs Have to be Prioritized
Going by overall workplace attitudes and expectations of Gen Zers, employers must balance company values and societal responsibilities while ensuring that their business remains profitable. However, taking your hiring plan global is an effective way to expand your workforce. In the new reality, borders are no barriers to onboard stalwart talent. Moreover, this will bring its slew of challenges as well.
Globally, employee needs are pretty varied. What works in a country with a pro-hustle culture, like Japan, may not work in several European countries. Using an Employer of Record or similar global employment solutions could be the way to hire foreign talent and provide benefits that effectively retain them.
To sum up, employers should not assume that an employee-centric market would be short-lived. We must recognize that post-pandemic, there has been a collective shift in the mindset of employees. Employers must empathize with employee expectations and work towards their well-being to retain talent in this new reality.