Half of Australians expect more from their employer this year, than they did before the COVID outbreak, research for SEEK reveals.
People are now keenly aware of whether businesses are truly committed to offering flexibility and work-life balance, or whether they’re just spouting empty words.
How workplace expectations have changed
65% of people say that what matters to them in workplaces now, has changed since the start of the pandemic.
“COVID-19 forced people to really think about what they want in life and what work-life balance means to them,” says Samantha Miklos, CEO of Cornerstone Medical Recruitment.
“There are a lot of open jobs right now, so candidates expect employers to move with pace during the recruitment process,” Miklos says.
"You cannot communicate enough with potential new employees in this market. Every candidate has multiple opportunities, and every moment counts from the minute you receive the application.”
“People are identifying what their goals are and what is important to them – and they expect that work will now support these goals.”
What people expect now
Here’s what matters to people in the workplace in 2022 – and they’re things that businesses of any size can offer in some form.
- Work/life balance
This is the top must-have for many people, with 48% saying it’s more important to them now than before the pandemic.
Be explicit about how work/life balance is measured in your organisation, says SEEK’s Resident Psychologist Sabina Read. “People used to be grateful to be able to do a school drop-off once a week. That doesn't hold the weight that is used to.”
- Flexible hours/schedule
Miklos says 2021 was all about employers defining what flexibility they offer, and understanding what work-life balance meant to their people.
By now in 2022, flexibility and the hybrid work model should be well engrained into organisations, Miklos says. And having this flexibility is important for 50% of people the research shows. “If these topics have not been addressed by now, you are well behind.”
- Salary & compensation
Financial benefits are still most important for two in five people. They are expecting salary increases, and offering fair and reasonable pay will attract and retain talent.
- Job security
Over two in five people say that job security is more important to them now, than before COVID, yet just 34% of employers currently provide it.
People have higher expectations than during early COVID and want more clarity around job security, says Read.
“This is not a time for employers to rest on their laurels. Now people will be more hesitant to take a job that doesn't feel secure, so spell out some of these factors. Talk about career progression in the job ad and interview, and spell out what job security looks like.”
- Option to work from home
Over a third of Australians, want the option to work from home some of the time, but only 26% of employers provide this.
Be clear in your job description about what options are available, Read says. “It’s better to have this conversation at the interview stage than 6 months later when you discover you’re a mismatch.”
- Working conditions/environment
Many people now know they can be productive and make a meaningful contribution working from home, so the physical working space needs to provide a complementary offering on top of that, Read says.
For example, this could include plenty of natural light, an even temperature, spaces to connect with colleagues and clients, and get-away hubs for quiet work or solitude.
“If the social and physical environment doesn’t support and stimulate connection, innovation, comfort and motivation, people will be tempted to continue working remotely,” Read says.
- Good working relationships
Many employers now face the challenge of how to keep workplace culture and engagement in a hybrid working space, Miklos says.
“Hybrid work is not an excuse to save money on all the great cultural events that bring people together. Everyone is Zoom fatigued.”
Help people understand the culture of a workplace and how they can keep connected with their peers within the new hybrid work model, she says.
- Mental health support
“Wellness and wellbeing are still big topics and I believe these will become a bigger focus this year,” Miklos says.
“People are mentally fatigued from the challenges they’ve faced and continue to face. Resilience is at an all-time low, and workplaces need to offer wellness initiatives to support their team.”
How to align with candidate’s renewed priorities
- Set your business apart
Employers need to be very forthcoming with their Employee Value Proposition (EVP), Miklos says. “Your EVP is important, it’s what sets you apart from other businesses.”
“There has been lots of change and now is the time to define who you are to ensure you attract like-minded employees who are excited to work alongside you as we navigate life post COVID.”
- Understand what your people want
Gone are the days where the employer has the upper hand, says Read. “Let it be a two-way exchange and be curious about the potential candidate.
“While 80% of people would be more loyal if they were offered more benefits, they'll only be more loyal if those benefits are meaningful to them. There's no point in offering certain benefits if the staff don't value them.”
- Be specific about what you’re offering
74% of people are more likely to apply for a job if the job ad clearly lists the employee benefits such as flexibility, job security, and career progression.
That’s why it’s so important to be specific when you’re outlining a role, says Read. “People expect there to be commitment to wellbeing and work-life balance, and they want to know how that's going to translate for them personally. Employers and hirers need to spell that out.”
Expectations shifted for many during the pandemic, and what people want now has changed since last year. But that change has opened up new opportunities for hirers who are ready to understand and adapt to those expectations. And ultimately, doing this can help to broaden your appeal to new talent, and help you support and retain your existing staff.
Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK. Interviewing 500 Australians. Published April 2022.