This headline alone screams volumes about where we are in the ‘world of work’. Post pandemic, employees simply have more power in the labor market. With that power comes higher expectations for better leadership and more accountability from organizations to treat employees well.
2020 forced a shift in the mindset of the workforce. Employees who’ve returned want their time at work to feel less transactional and they’re attracted to leaders who will treat them better than replaceable cogs in a wheel. According to a 2021 survey by Gartner, eighty-two percent of employees now say it’s important that their organizations see them as a whole person, rather than simply an employee. With that whole person comes concerns, fears, feelings and expectations that increasingly blur the lines between work and life outside of work.
With employees in the pole position to demand more accountable leadership, ER/HR teams must lead operations from a position of clarity and transparency. That said, HR people are business people, and the smartest ones understand there must be a balance between giving employees what they want, and doing what is necessary to keep the organization healthy.
Here are three smart places to balance delivering on higher employee expectations with protecting your organization:
Encourage Open, Accountable Leadership.
According to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, business is now the sole institution seen as competent and ethical. Whatsmore, they report a full 69% of employees now say that “having societal impact is a strong expectation or deal breaker when considering a job.” This heightened expectation puts business leaders, in particular CEOs, under pressure to step up and take a clear stand on issues including the top three: treatment of employees, climate change and discrimination.
In our social climate where misinformation has eroded public trust in many of our institutions, business leaders have the opportunity to rebuild that trust by becoming better examples of honest communication.
At their core, employees want to be led by people they respect and trust. Guide your C-suite when it comes to the appropriate issues your organization should weigh in on. Hint: not every organization needs to take a stand on every issue. When your leadership team does take a position, make sure they are prepared for both agreement and dissent. The best guidance should include helping them craft proactive communications grounded in truth and facts rather than emotional reactions.
Give Respect to Earn Respect.
While no employee should be subject to discrimination, harassment or unfair treatment, let’s face it – humans gonna human. When issues do arise, employees will expect a safe, fair and timely response from the organization. Show them the respect they deserve by ensuring your organization is ready to consistently respond the right way every time. Make sure you’re using an investigation and case management system with built-in best practice workflows and processes that work like clockwork.
Make Open Communication a Two Way Street.
Employees expect a culture that encourages open and honest communication. In fact, cultures that don’t provide this probably won’t survive for long. Employees should feel safe expressing their thoughts and opinions without fear of retribution. The best way to ensure you’re nurturing this kind of environment is to offer a tool that makes it easy for employees to report issues anonymously and for people leaders to respond quickly and consistently.
On the flip side, make it just as easy for your people leaders to communicate team values, policies and expectations back to employees. It’s absolutely ok as an employer to take a stand on certain things like attendance, process and performance – just be clear. If you expect employees to come into the office 3 days a week, make sure they know about it!
At the end of the day, most employees still want what they have always wanted: the opportunity to learn and grow in an environment that respects who they are and what they contribute. Rest assured, the employees worth keeping want to meet your expectations around performance, respect, attendance and accountability.
Final advice – Don’t let heightened expectations distract you from the basics – treat employees well. When your company leads with truth and decency as the north star, you’ll never feel hostage to higher expectations.