As most countries around the world continue to emerge from the tumultuous upheaval of the global pandemic, there is no denying that our working lives are still very different to how they were at the beginning of 2020 – the way we think about work, what we want from work and the relationship between organisations and employees. Individuals’ priorities and ambitions have changed, both at work and in their broader lives. People are looking at their careers through a new lens. 

As a result, many people have made important decisions about their careers and livelihoods, looking for new challenges and greater purpose. This is without doubt one of the big drivers (although not the only one) of the Great Resignation trend that is playing out across many economies.  

Expectations soar as employees view work through a new lens  

While some people have switched jobs and even careers, the vast majority have remained with their employers during this time. These people have increasingly looked to their organisations to help them, asking more of their employers than ever before. They’re leaning on the organisations they work for to protect and enhance every aspect of their personal wellbeing – mental, emotional, physical and financial – both inside and outside the workplace. They’re expecting employers to help in areas of their lives that would previously have been thought ‘out of scope’ of the employee benefits package.  

At the same time, employees want ever greater levels of flexibility in how, when and where they work. They want access to the very best technology and systems that enable them to work effectively, wherever they are. And they want to feel valued and part of a community with a strong sense of purpose that aligns to their own personal values. 

At a broader level, we have all become far more aware of the experiences we have at work – the communication we have with managers and senior leaders, the technology systems we rely on, the extent to which we feel supported and part of an inclusive culture. We’re no longer simply thinking about work as the tasks we carry out that are rewarded with pay; we’re considering the whole employee experience and the impact that has on our lives more generally.  

Indeed, in research that we carried out in June 2021, 96% of HR and Reward leaders reported that employee experience had become more important.  

Employers must act now to respond to new employee demands  

Employers know they need to change in response to this massive shift in workforce dynamics. They know they need to provide a more rounded, holistic employee experience which meets these new employee needs, but our research found that many feel daunted by the scale of transformation required. They don’t know where to start, often because they simply don’t feel that they truly understand what employees now want and need from them. 

Importantly, businesses cannot afford to think that the changes in working practices that were forced upon them during the pandemic can now be reversed. Already we’re seeing employers who try to row back on commitments to hybrid working and new processes and structures coming unstuck.  

Employers need to re-set their workforce plans and develop robust, future-focused strategies which give people the type of employee experience they are looking for now and tomorrow. This means embedding agility into their strategies and choice and freedom into their offerings, across the whole HR brief.  

An outside-in approach to employee experience  

Strategy starts with understanding. And our latest report Great Expectations, which we launched at our 2022 Benefex Forum, sets out to arm HR and Reward professionals with the knowledge of what employees are really looking for off the back of an emotionally exhausting two years. 

Based on comprehensive research across 4,027 employees in four major markets (India, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States), Great Expectations explores attitudes to work (and to employers) in 2022. It reveals the extent to which people’s priorities, ambitions and (crucially) expectations around work have changed.  

The research shows that there isn’t a single aspect of people management or employee experience that doesn’t need to change or transform to meet the great expectations of the new workforce. From benefits and wellbeing to reward and recognition, communication and technology, HR leaders are having to re-think their entire strategies to stay relevant and compete in an ever more dynamic and competitive labour market.  

This report is designed to be a starting point for these new strategies and plans, a platform from which HR and business leaders can re-think how they need to evolve to meet current and future employee needs. 

Download your copy of Great Expectations now to find out how employees’ expectations of the workplace are changing and the implications for employers.