Ping pong tables and on-site baristas are fun, but is that actually what employees want from their workplaces? Seemingly not, or at least not just perks. Which begs the question – what do employees actually want?

The last few years have certainly seen a shake up to the way of working and a re-prioritising for many. Let’s look at how some organisations are getting more creative to foster a win-win situation for employees while maintaining profitable growth.

“Trying to replace good people is really hard so investment in people more than pays for itself.”

Louise Stark, Hachette Australia CEO

Fair pay

It doesn’t matter what else is included in the working equation, people work to be paid. Employees are increasingly less attracted by perks and gimmicks, instead wanting fair compensation and financial stability due to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

Australian laws have now eliminated pay secrecy, though there are more calls to have full transparency by including pay in job ads. Boston Consulting Group, who took 2nd spot in Comparably’s Best Compensation 2023, has transparent base pay. This transparency is what more employees are looking for as it means fair pay for the same work with no possibility of favouritism. According to the Hatch Hotlist 2024 survey, “85% of Gen Z say they’re less likely to apply for a job if the company does not disclose the salary range in the job posting”. It’s also beneficial when trying to close the gender pay gap. This was the basis of the ‘Closing the Gender Pay Gap Bill’ which passed in Australia in March 2023.

Pay is not everything, and we are seeing an increasing rhetoric around reward. Compensation packages that are getting great feedback from the employees include Atlassian’s learning budget and a paid holiday after 5 years of service. Judo Bank offers setup allowances for working from home. Vow offers a relocation budget, and Qantas offers its people heavily discounted travel.

Flexible working arrangements

A lack of strategy within your company could put you at risk of staff leaving. Mandating a return to the office without capitalising on real life collaboration may see your people look elsewhere as they have discovered the joy of no commute and the work life balance that can come with that. It’s more than just preference, as workplace flexibility also opens up opportunities for some otherwise excluded from traditional work opportunities. The where and when of work are important topics for both diversity and inclusion.

Those companies who have implemented a full time return mandate have seen mixed results with nearly half (42%) of companies experiencing a higher level of employee attrition than they had anticipated. A surge in senior tech roles departing for competitors has also been seen with many opting to go to competitors without the mandate. It remains to be seen what, if any, impact those companies who have chosen to tie in bonuses to attendance will have. 

By analysing data and asking their people what they want (where this is feasible to do so), there are some clear leaders in this space. The investing platform Stake is a winner in the AFR BOSS Best Places to Work 2024 List (Banking, superannuation and financial services division) and has seen an increase in diversity of job applicants by offering a portion of commute time back as leave. Salesforce gives their people the option of full time work from home only attending for company events and Hachette Australia has work from home in January to take advantage of the summer weather. Accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton Australia is the latest major employer to permanently adopt a nine-day fortnight after a 12-month trial coincided with record profits, employee retention and productivity.

Meaningful and purposeful work

The collective pause we all took during covid allowed many, if not all, to reassess what was important to them. Increasingly there were moves away from the traditional metrics of success and corporate ladder climbing to doing meaningful work. While a paycheck is very much necessary, meaningful work with purpose gives people an additional sense of accomplishment and is arguably more fulfilling.

Meaning, like many other things, is in the eye of the beholder. What can be meaningful to one is simply going through the motions to another. So how can you find meaning at work? Finding work that aligns with your values is a great place to start. 

Employee wellbeing

Wellbeing has increasingly been seen to be of importance in workplaces. Once thought to be narrowly focused and something that was up to employees, more and more companies are seeing wellbeing initiatives benefit both employees and the company. Wellbeing actually covers all aspects of worklife. This can include employees’ health (physical, mental, emotional and financial), their safety, how much support they have from their leaders through to how their work is designed and more. Effective wellbeing initiatives can help workplace culture, reduce absenteeism and can help to attract and retain talent and increase productivity and morale.

Barclays has a mental health wellbeing program that not only includes their employees but goes further by giving their customers access to mental health services. At UpGuard there’s a focus on gratitude, and staff are issued with the company’s own gratitude currency. KPMG identifies employees at risk of burnout and once flagged they attend an energy check in with their manager. 77% of employees reported that it was beneficial to their wellbeing.

Happiness is another area once put in the woo woo section, now seen for the benefits it provides to individuals and companies. Happiness at work can be closely linked to high levels of employee engagement. Gallup estimates low engagement costs the global economy $8.8 trillion, so it’s little surprise that companies are starting to sit up and take note. Multiple studies have shown increased productivity levels and profitability aligning with higher happiness levels.

Career Trajectory and Transparency

Setting clear career goals enables them to be acted on. At an individual level, it allows employees to outline their career goals and identify the skills and experiences required to achieve these. Armed with this data, the company ideally then provides the education and resources to help them get there. But how many companies actively help their people in this area?

The clear standouts are once again those who understand the concept that one size does not fit all and people are wanting individualism at work. Unilever runs a “Shape your own adventure framework” that aims to empower employees with control over their own career journeys. As a result they are seeing people from within apply for roles very separate from their current role which is turning out to be a big win for the individual and the company. It’s a new approach and this out-of-the-box thinking is working well for them.

In summary

It may have emerged unexpectedly, but the new ways of working are here to stay. With many workers realising the old ways weren’t working for them anymore, companies needed to respond with new and innovative ways of keeping employees engaged. It comes down to finding solutions that are beneficial to both the company and the employees.

For more information about how Humanico can help you understand how your employees think, feel and behave so you can tailor unique initiatives to get the most out of your people, get in touch with us below.

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