Wellbeing, career stagnation and diversity all rated as top employee concerns in the past year, a new report reveals. Do you know what your employees want?
The past year has been taxing on everyone and, while steadying the ship has been a priority for many businesses, taking the next step requires knowing what employees want and need.
As an employee engagement platform with the largest standardised dataset of employee feedback worldwide, Peakon, a Workday company, is in a unique position to offer that insight. Our new Employee Expectations Report is based on over 150 million employee survey responses and 30 million employee comments from across the globe. It gives a comprehensive breakdown of the most pertinent strategic focus areas for organisations in 2021.
While businesses should acknowledge the challenging year employees had due to COVID-19, they should not ignore that some changes associated with the pandemic are actually positive. For example, employee engagement actually improved during 2020 – and remote work had a lot to do with it.
Here are some of the other takeaways from the report.
Don’t ignore employee development
The report reveals that employees need clarity when it comes to growth and development because many of them are worried their organisations aren’t invested in their future career prospects.
Most significantly, when compared to other engagement drivers, growth and development scores revealed a split between generations. The more senior generations reported steadily increasing scores for growth and development, while younger generations saw their scores decline across 2020. It suggests seniority afforded greater security last year, while younger generations struggled to find their footing and potentially missed out on crucial training and development opportunities.
As we move further from the height of the pandemic, economies will continue to expand and job openings will continue to increase. If employees feel their career has stagnated with their current organisation, the opportunity to leave will become increasingly appealing as it simultaneously becomes increasingly viable.
To make sure you retain talent, HR and leadership need to actively listen to their people.
Mental health is a top priority
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the proportion of comments relating to health and wellbeing leapt dramatically during 2020, increasing 46 per cent from the previous year.
It would be easy to assume that the majority of these comments referenced concerns about physical health and exposure to COVID-19, but that wasn’t the case. Feedback on mental and financial health dominated the conversation, comprising over 75 per cent of all employee wellbeing comments.
The trends changed over time. Towards the start of 2020, when the pandemic was hitting certain industries particularly hard, employees spoke more about their financial wellbeing. As the year went on, however, the number of comments about mental health spiked. At one point, they accounted for over half the total health and wellbeing comments.
The lower proportion of comments about physical health suggests employers moved effectively in protecting their employees’ physical wellbeing. When asked the question: ‘I have the option to work remotely when I’d like to,’ positive employee responses rose by 10 per cent year-on-year – which caused a significant shift on our overall 11-point engagement scale (see the report for more information on how this works).
However, the report also shows employees are asking for more support following a year that’s taken a toll on mental health. As the report outlines with further granularity – both by industry and location – such support will be crucial moving into 2022.
Diversity, equity and inclusion
Overall, the proportion of employee comments about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) dramatically increased in 2020, with employees 38 per cent more likely to speak out about issues surrounding DE&I than the previous year.
Employee comments reflect changing social tides. There was a significant outpouring of employee comments about DE&I following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, and the topic of ‘race’ featured in 25 per cent of last year’s DE&I comments.
Gender inequality also featured prominently, being mentioned in 18 per cent of 2020’s DE&I comments.
What’s more, 43 per cent of DE&I comments mentioned leadership or management – a sign that employees are looking to their leaders to take action.
A major lesson of the Employee Expectations Report is that people leaders need to discuss DE&I holistically, rather than focusing on one topic area. Employees want to see change on multiple fronts, and companies need to listen and act.
Create space to listen
The above are just some of the highlights from our Employee Expectations Report 2021. It also details best practices for focusing on what matters most to employees including how organisations should structure their flexible working and career development strategies, and how companies can hone their DE&I policies.
But more important than following global trends in employee sentiment is ensuring you listen to your people. The past year has been a perfect example of how quickly employees’ needs can shift, which is why annual surveys are not enough. Pulse surveys, two-way communication, and employee resource groups are all crucial.
For more insights about what employees are looking for in 2021, explore the Peakon Employee Expectations Report 2021. With these insights in mind, if you’re looking to improve your employee listening capabilities, contact the team at Peakon, a Workday company, to learn more.
Luke Amundson is a Director at Peakon, a Workday Company.