The State of Workforce Engagement: Candidate and Employee Attitudes, Preferences, and Needs
There’s no room for debate: the workplace is more complex than ever (and, in many cases, it’s not even a physical ‘place’ for many workers anymore). Rapid shifts in the priorities of job seekers and employees alike have challenged employers to up their game, and the target continues to move. Right now, talent acquisition leaders need to understand what candidates and employees want in order to deliver a great candidate experience, refresh disengaged employees, and improve employee retention. A lot of these things have changed over the past few years and teams that are operating by an outdated playbook may struggle to meet their goals.
Here’s a look at the key sentiments driving talent acquisition, employee productivity, candidate experience, employee experience, and employee retention right now.
Talent Mobility Remains High
The Great Resignation has evolved into the Great Realignment and many people will continue to move between jobs in the coming months and years. A recent Grant Thornton survey found that 70% of people who left their jobs in 2021 were voluntary quits and 40% of people who changed jobs last year are already looking to change employers again. Similarly, 44% of employees are job seekers, according to Willis Towers Watson’s 2022 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey. These findings mean that the proportion of active and passive job seekers in the talent market remains high—and they also feel more empowered than ever to look for their dream job. Employ Inc.’s 2022 Job Seeker Nation report revealed that worker confidence is at an all-time high, with 35% of job seekers believing it’s easier to find a job this year than last year and one-third feeling comfortable quitting a job without having another position lined up.
Key takeaway: Business leaders need to continue working on talent acquisition and employee retention simultaneously. Virtual events play a key role in this area, offering unlimited options for creative events that offer a great candidate experience, reduce your time to hire, and even help you improve the employee experience. You can easily host virtual events that boost employee engagement, facilitate talent development (like virtual trainings and mentoring), and lead to higher employee satisfaction and lower employee turnover rates.
Remote Work Continues to be a High Priority
While many business leaders are trying to ‘return to normal’ by mandating onsite work, most workers don’t want that—at least not all of the time. A recent Ivanti survey found that 87% of survey respondents do not want to work from the office full-time. Nearly half (45%) would be happy being remote full-time, while 42% said they prefer a hybrid model. The power of choice is a high priority for today’s workforce: 71% of survey respondents would choose to be able to work from anywhere over a promotion or an increase in pay.
Key takeaway: For positions or employee schedules that do not actually require onsite work, offering remote or hybrid flexibility is good for employee morale and is a big selling point on recruiting passive talent. Giving workers flexible schedules and more say about when and where they work (thus empowering employees further and fostering a culture of trust) might even boost retention, reducing the talent churn, lengthening the employee life cycle, and easing the collective burden on your TA team.
Internal Mobility is an Overlooked Opportunity
One of the most effective ways employers can boost employee engagement and retention is by giving employees opportunities to learn, grow, and advance within the company's organizational culture. Jobvite’s 2022 Job Seeker Nation report notes that internal mobility lacks emphasis, as more than half (54%) of workers who are actively looking for a job have not looked at their current organization for a new position. This suggests many employers are failing to communicate about internal opportunities for professional development and personal growth or, even worse, failing to offer them in the first place.
Key takeaway: TA teams can be proactive about internal mobility and make sure to integrate it into their workplace culture. Create a strategic plan for communicating with employees about internal openings and the steps they can take to prepare for those openings (e.g. training/certifications needed, mentoring programs, virtual mock interviews, etc). Painting a picture of a viable future within your organization can improve engagement and keep employees around longer. Consider marketing your positions internally the way you do externally as a way to meet your internal business goals for very little extra effort. For example, several Brazen clients already host virtual career fairs for internal openings to educate people about internal mobility opportunities as part of their regular engagement efforts.
Relationships Take Center Stage
We’re all human—and, ultimately, employment is personal. That’s why the relationships between people (especially individual employees and their managers) matter so much. But our relationship with technology is also growing and expanding exponentially. Harvard Business Review research shows that up to 65% of the tasks that a manager currently does has the potential to be automated by 2025. This creates the possibility that managers will become more ‘hands off’ and we think that would be a mistake, potentially leading to more employee disengagement. Positive relationships with management is the top factor in employee satisfaction (according to McKinsey) and directly linked with well-being and team performance.
Key takeaway: Automation continues to free up manager and employee time for people to invest in the things automation will never replace—like building relationships. Investing in strong relationships can fill the perceived gap in engagement caused by remote and hybrid work. We may not be getting as much ‘face time’ with the boss while working remotely, so the interactions we have need to be high quality. This is most obvious when thinking about the employee experience, but the same applies to the recruiter-candidate relationship as well.
Health Equity is Gaining Attention
Finding: McKinsey research and pulse surveys found that 30% or more of Black, Hispanic and Latino, LGBTQ+, and younger employees said they had considered switching employers due to their health benefits (being inadequate?), even when they had access to the same benefits as other colleagues.
Key takeaway: In the vast majority of cases, offering health insurance and PTO isn’t enough. Business leaders need to actively manage utilization as well as ensure that benefit programs meet a range of potential needs. It’s also crucial to continually expand benefits to ensure everyone in the organization has what they need to do their best work.
McKinsey advises employers to expand benefits to help employees meet basic needs (such as housing and transportation), make sure benefits are easy to access, understand and use (hosting a virtual benefits fair can help with this), and work to build a work culture that doesn’t stigmatize employees for receiving care. Organizational leaders should regularly check in with teams and take their input as actionable feedback to ensure the benefits they provide are matching what their teams need. Adding more unique benefit programs may be extremely appealing to job seekers, so consider mental health specific programs, pet insurance, elder care, tuition assistance programs, and more.
Talent acquisition leaders who understand the desires and priorities of candidates and employees can crush recruiting goals and boost retention at the same time, and often with the same strategies. Doing business amid a talent shortage requires business leaders to stay on top of evolving trends, and this fresh research paints a clear picture of what matters most to today’s workforce. With intentional strategies, great employee engagement ideas, advance planning, and the right technology in place, your organization can respond quickly to whatever challenges lie ahead.
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