How do companies retain and attract talent if they don’t have an actual place for employees to go to anymore? What kinds of things do employees want to see if remote work becomes the new normal?
Buffet-style cafeterias, exotic team retreats and spa services feel like a lifetime ago – and it’s unlikely they’ll return anytime soon.
The good news is that company culture isn’t tied to the four walls of a building – it’s a set of experiences that people have every day that create a great workplace.
Sure, perks matter – they grab attention and can be a sign of leadership’s investment in their people – but they are just the beginning.
We don’t organize a birthday cake just for a hit of afternoon sugar. We celebrate birthdays because it makes the person feel special for a day. It helps the person feel seen as a whole individual with a life outside of work. It all comes down to care.
Today, employer brand is less about perks and more about actions and experiences.
Through studying employee experience for nearly 30 years, Great Place to Work® research shows that tangible benefits – like fancy campuses and buffet lunches only go so far.
We’ve been surveying employees throughout the COVID crisis, and our data tells us that in this new environment, people want five primary things:
What employees want from their employers right now
1. Trustworthy leaders
When asked what makes their company a great place to work, employees surveyed during the pandemic frequently praised leadership for its “transparency” and increased “communication.” These are markers of trustworthy leaders.
“During this COVID-19 period, the company has gone above and beyond to stay in touch with employees and offer programs for the wellbeing of its employees. I still feel I’m part of the company community even though I am working from home. It’s awesome!”
Managers can create trust with employees right now by:
- Communicating transparently about the health of the business, restructuring and layoffs.
- Prioritizing employees’ wellness and safety.
- Taking the time to make sure employees feel connected with their leaders and with each other.
2. For their leaders to trust them
Employers need to trust their employees to do what’s right for the business.
A genuine belief that people …
- Have much to offer.
- Can be trusted to do their best.
- Deserve the benefit of the doubt.
… infuse day-to-day practices with authenticity. This trust mindset is something that many leaders wrestle with as they manage a remote team for the first time.
If you are checking in on your team, it should be because you care about their well-being and want to ensure they have the support they need – not because you want to make sure they are working.
If you are implementing rules about what people can and can’t do when they are working from home, you are sending a message about how little trust you have in them.
If you’ve ever felt micromanaged in your career, you know firsthand what it feels like – and you also know the negative impact it had on your productivity.
This kind of micromanagement is also known to cause job burnout, so resist the urge to define what working from home should look like, and instead focus on communicating clear objectives and measure people’s performance against outcomes.
Choosing to have more faith in people is the foundation of a high-trust culture. The glass-half-full perspective sparks goodwill and higher levels of trust. That goodwill and trust fuel high performance.
3. Human connection and shared awareness that we are in this together
Working from home in a pandemic can create high pressure and isolation. This is particularly true for often-marginalized groups, who already experience exclusion and inequality more than other employees.
A distributed workforce calls for centralized care. Great managers must build connections with and between employees and reassure their people that they’re not alone.
Sometimes this means dropping the “professional persona” and sharing more of our authentic selves with our people. Employees who report experiencing a sense of connection to their managers and colleagues during the pandemic describe management practices like these:
- Communicating no judgment for kids or pets interrupting video calls.
- Allowing people breaks from Zoom to recharge without judgment.
- Encouraging and modeling good well-being by publicly talking about things like exercise, meditation and mental health.
- Scheduling virtual beverage breaks throughout the day to connect with people about non-work issues – replaces the communal kitchen or water cooler.
- Leaders increasing the cadence of 1:1s – and creating space at the start for connection.
- Guidance and support for parents, especially on more complex topics like helping parents communicate to their kids about COVID-19 and racism.
4. Multi-faceted wellness
Wellness is multilayered today. When people think about wellness, it goes beyond physical health like increasing steps and eating more veggies. It’s about mental and emotional wellness – not just for themselves but also for their families and their communities.
Wellness also includes financial health. People are looking to their employers for guidance on how to manage their money, prepare for retirement or what they should do with that government stimulus check they received.
Financial wellness can be educational or financial help at times of crisis. For example, Workday put money in people’s hands early on in the COVID-19 crisis to help mitigate the impact an uncertain economy and job market can have on employees.
5. Diversity, Equity and Belonging
In a job seeker survey, 83% of respondents said an employer’s commitment to diversity is a factor deciding whether to accept a job.
An employer’s commitment to diversity not only attracts talent but also retains and engages talent. Our research shows that when employees trust that they and their colleagues will be treated fairly regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and age, they are:
- 9.8x more likely to look forward to going to work.
- 6.3x more likely to have pride in their work.
- 5.4x more likely to want stay a long time at their company.
Why? Because people want to see people who look like them in management. They want evidence that opportunities for growth and development are available to everyone who puts in the effort.
They want to know that the organization they work for has values that align with their own – with values like treating all people with respect and fairness at the top of that list. People want to align themselves with organizations that allow them to bring their authentic self to the table and celebrate differences.
And that’s the kind of company millennials and Generation Z want to work for.
Job perks in 2020 and beyond
There’s no doubt that working from home is here to stay.
When reviewing your benefits, ask yourself: to what degree do your benefits and wellness offerings allow people to feel safe, accepted for their authentic selves and included in all aspects of life at your company?
Perks attract people to your business, but management’s actions are what get people to stay and give their best work.