Getting It Right – What Employees Want Most in 2023 and Beyond

Dr Graeme Wright and Claire Halliday

Today we are living through a fundamental transformation in the way we work, connect and interact. As employers, we’re preparing for the workforce of the future while still dealing with post pandemic disruption, unprecedented risks and an unsatisfied labour market.

We accept that the pace of change continues to accelerate. Competition for top talent is fierce. This means that employers are looking for new ways to attract and retain their employees – who in today’s world, want more than massages, table tennis and free morning tea.

So, what is the next step in the employee experience? What do employees want? And how can organisations attract, retain and motivate the people they need?

In this Whitepaper, we draw on our research which began in 2019 and has over 200,000 data points on workforces. This data base highlights employees’ risk profiles – how they have changed over time and how these changes have impacted on employers to rethink and reshape their employee value proposition. Our data base offers clarity as to the actions employers must take to accommodate these changes and the evolving expectations of employees.

Our experience leads us to speak with some authority. The data we have collected offers an insight into the impact of a well-structured, personalised program. This style of program contained a flexible range of services and education methods to support each person. The objective was to offer some level of flexibility within a well-researched, structured approach. Some of the findings from this approach are presented below.

Over a three-year period employees in our sample offered the following feedback on the programs;

  • 54% indicated their quality of work was better
  • 67% felt better in themselves
  • 68% reported their health and wellbeing was better
  • 58% felt they were displaying a better set of behaviours

They also told us their reaction to their company for offering such a program;

  • 100% supported their company delivering such a program
  • 97% would recommend such a program to their colleagues

So, what do employees value today?

Flexibility became a hot topic filtering through HR departments post pandemic, most notably hybrid and remote work. It’s not hard to see why with the constantly changing work environment, working from home (WFH) and the impact the pandemic had in loading employees with additional domestic responsibilities and stress – burnout was an outcome.

Some employees had a volatile work environment and relentless pressures if they were frontline and/or essential workers. The opportunity to work from home eliminates a stressful commute to work, enables more personal time for family, additional sleep and exercise. However, our research indicates that employees’ perspectives go beyond where and how they work. They are placing significant value on how they are treated at work, how they are feeling and their overall experience.

Beyond remuneration and flexible ways of working, employees value culture and wellbeing.

How people experience their role and organisation, including the culture, diversity, impact of unhealthy co-workers, social and environmental policies are uppermost in the eyes of employees. These elements appear more enduring than flexibility and determine whether an employee views their organisation as an employer of choice.

Culture and wellbeing encapsulate both tangible and intangible benefits of an employee value proposition. They represent in part why someone would choose to work at one organisation over another. Our data indicates that a personalised, structured program offered to employees is supported fully by employees and they also go on to encourage their mates to join such an offering. Staff retention is then automatically nurtured with such an offering.

A 2021 study by Mercer & Marsh Benefits reports that “employees with the most varied wellbeing resources at work, are 35% less likely to move elsewhere”. Our data suggests that an organisation with an employee health and wellbeing program is 2.5 times more likely to be viewed as an employer of choice. On the flip side, employers who do not offer such a program are 4 times more likely to lose their talented employees.

Retain top talent with a wellbeing program – 64% will stay for at least 5 years when a program is in place.

The key to improving and nurturing a better workplace culture is to focus on developing the health and wellbeing of the individuals in the company. Increasing numbers of employees are telling us that they are healthier, their work is of a higher quality, and they are benefiting by being in such an environment that values their wellbeing.

Organisations must continually review efforts to position themselves as an employer of choice, retain loyal staff, and attract top talent. Giving employees access to the most appropriate and comprehensive wellbeing offering and driving access to a variety of evidence-based support services, will accelerate their post pandemic recovery and growth. It will also present a massive opportunity for those willing organisations to transform their employee value proposition around what employees want.

Among those employees who have access to a health and wellbeing program, 60% say they are inspired by their company culture to make healthy choices (USA). Australian data indicates that 57% of employees are inspired to make healthy choices.

Developing an evidence-based action plan for your organisation

There is a growing realisation that many companies and employers are all well intentioned to help their employees embrace, engage with and improve total worker health. But they struggle with implementing an action plan. Taking action would offer employees an opportunity to enhance themselves and the company. Embracing all things new or different does require courage on behalf of the employers. However, one hopes that different approaches and programs are implemented where choice is still an option, rather than leaving it too long and then forced choices are the only choices to remedy the risk profiles presented by employees.

Optimum’s mode of operation highlights that prevention is better (and more cost effective!) than cure. We have the data from across several industries to prove it.

We acknowledge that there are many more challenges in the marketplace now than when we first started collecting our data. The integration or weaving of mental health and wellbeing into your workplace is certainly different today. Our data suggests that the issues surrounding many aspects of mental health and how best to help employees with the challenges is now becoming an expected offering in the workplace.

It could be argued that we are at a point where modernised benefits need to be on offer to employees when in the workplace. The combination of the digital age and people offers a leverage point that has not been available in years gone by. Providing a collection of highly focused personal and professional care profiles and subsequent interventions, position new age employers as an employer of choice.

To accommodate the new and emerging wants of employees we know that it is an opportunity to partner with a specialist provider – employee populations are varied, complex and becoming more diverse. A flexible strategy to sharpen delivery of the support needed and tailoring access to a unique set of resources – all makes for a great offering to employees. It also helps in building the level of connection required in today’s workplace.

This is even more important given we spend an inordinate amount of time at work. In fact, most of our awake hours are spent at or doing work. It is estimated that over one third of our life is at work. Given the impact the work environment can have on us, and that “work” generally helps define us in some way as it can be linked to our self-worth and identity, employees are seeking more from today’s changing workplaces.

It is time to consider the following – if you believe that your people are your most valuable asset, why then, when they are struggling and at increased risk, would one not have a system in place to help them in the most effective and efficient way possible?

We may not be able to guess what employees want in today’s workplace, but Optimum have built a system that removes the guess work. Fortunately, our data powered, people centred technologically driven system provides employers the ability to make informed decisions concerning employee’s needs, wants, health, wellbeing and performance. It delivers the best opportunity to identify the real challenges facing employees in today’s world and subsequently what they really want.

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