Meeting employee expectations in the new normal

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The new normal is here and so are the new employee expectations. Are we ready?

Many organizations have begun asking their employees to return to the office after over 2 years that were filled with new experiences for organizations and employees alike. For organizations, it was all at the beginning about maintaining business continuity and operational effectiveness, whereas employees focused mainly on safety, support, and health.

To support their employees and keep them engaged and motivated, various organizations launched several initiatives. Many organizations amended their existing policies and processes within days to ensure that the overall employee experience remained seamless even when employees were a thousand miles away from offices.

Evolving employee priorities

With the future seeming more optimistic in outlook than before, organizations are expected to be working in a hybrid model in the days to come. But the experiences over the past 2 years have altered employees’ priorities and expectations in a manner that organizations will have to carefully analyze.

In the new normal, the top four employee needs have been rearranged with the work-life balance being assessed by many employees as a priority over compensation and benefits as well as continuous learning opportunities. A study by Citrix found out that 76% of employees would accept a pay cut in return for a job that allows remote working, offers flexibility and promotes better work-life balance.

A safe and inclusive environment with a harassment-free, unbiased and hygienic workplace that embraces diversity and individual opinion continues to remain the top priority.


Rise of life experience

The pandemic brought organizations much closer to employees with increased visibility into their personal lives. To manage the productivity levels of the employees, many organizations started catering to their personal needs alongside professional needs. In doing so, organizations moved from managing employee experience towards managing life experience.

Going forward, employees will continue to expect organizations to manage certain aspects of their lives to allow them to focus on the task at hand. All these changes have created a new set of employee expectations from their organizations.

Mapping employee expectations

Employee expectations can be categorized into four key areas, i.e., Career, Community, Cause, and Care.

Career: Employees want autonomy, roles to use their strengths, continuous learning, and development opportunities to build capability and flexibility in terms of location and time.

  • In the new normal, employees demand to be trained on transferrable skills through the latest learning formats that are customized for their individual needs;
  • Career counselling can help employees better understand their capabilities and create a customized career path within the organization;
  • Cross-functional career movement aided by effortless and robust internal mobility can enable employees to acquire additional marketable skills and build competence. It can provide new challenges and opportunities for employees to progress in their careers;
  • Reinventing people-related processes like performance management, promotion evaluation, and high-potential selection in a hybrid working model by leveraging data should be a key focus area for organizations;
  • Now, employees not only expect flexibility in terms of office timing but also want the freedom to choose the location and the amount of work to maintain a well-balanced work-life.

Community: Employees wish for a sense of connection, belongingness, and to be part of a group of people who respect, care for, and recognize each other’s contribution to the workplace.

  • The remote working and limited face-to-face interactions have made employees feel distant and disconnected from each other. New ways of collaboration and interactions such as virtual coffee, digital collaboration tools, etc. can keep employees connected and the innovation quotient high;
  • Employees want transparency in employee recognition with a well-documented process and clear guidelines;
  • Diversity and inclusion should not only be an HR agenda but also a company-wide culture with strong sponsorship from the leadership. Removing unconscious biases from processes and policies can help in creating an inclusive culture that respects diversity.

Cause: Employees want to believe in a purpose that makes them feel like they are making an impact and doing some good in the world, which can be a source of pride.

  • Employees wish to be part of an organization that thinks beyond financial profitability and towards social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Millennials and Gen Z care about the society and the world at large and want their employers to amend processes, policies, systems, and people towards making it a better place;
  • Employees want transparency about the progress the organization is making in its purpose and to be part of the journey. They expect to see how their work is aligned with the overall organizational purpose.

Care: Employees expect their employers to care about their health (physical and mental), acknowledge financial concerns, and respect their unique family circumstances to be able to support their overall well-being.

  • The lack of physical interactions impacting mental health added to the woes of health risks from the COVID-19 infection. Increased expenditure and reduced income, for some, piled up budgetary crises on top of the physical and mental situations. Employees looked towards their employers for mitigation of such risks and will continue to do so in the future;
  • Employees want a comprehensive healthcare plan that not only takes care of them but also their families;
  • The expectations from employers to empathize with the emotional stress and support employees during tough times to avoid early burn-outs and low productivity have increased;
  • Employees also hope to get support with financial planning (such as investment strategies) that can help in attaining personal goals.

The way forward

Organizations that fail to meet employee needs ultimately will face high employee attrition. High attrition often comes with the administrative cost of separation, severance pay, new hire recruitment, and training expenses that increase the operating cost of an organization. Organizations need to re-think their employee value proposition (EVP) to cater to the unique set of employee needs as well as increase employee performance, boost talent attraction, and retention efforts. A well-crafted EVP can help create a high-performing culture with employee well-being at its center.

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