How HR Managers Can Adapt To Changing Employee Expectations

As the world changes, so do the needs of the people who work in it. The workers of today do not have the same expectations as their counterparts did 20 years ago. This article explains.

These changes and the expectations they come with can, if not managed and responded to well, result in an increasingly dissatisfied workforce. Employees might frequently change jobs in search of the most ideal working conditions while employers might feel that they cannot get the right people for the job.

To keep employees engaged, productive and to reduce the rate of turnover, it is imperative that HR managers adapt to the changing expectations of their employees.

What are your employees expectations?

The first step is to ascertain what your employees expect of the organisation. In order to ensure that there is no disconnect between what employees want and what management is offering or planning to offer, HR should go on a fact-finding mission.

Ask your employees

What better way to know what people are expecting from a job than to ask them directly? Using well-crafted questionnaires or surveys, HR can determine what employees need in a confidential manner. Surveys are also a good way to get meaningful feedback from employees.

Ask their managers

Another way to gain insights into the expectations of employees is to discuss regularly with managers and supervisors. They have a better understanding of the daily work needs of employees at a company. They might even be able to help HR tailor policies to specific groups of employees.

HR managers can employ a number of tactics in order to adapt to employee expectations.

Update and educate employees about your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

An EVP, the set of benefits employees receive in exchange for working at a company, needs to be updated as time goes by. The human resources department should look at their changing workforce and craft an EVP that is suitable.

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One that is 20 years old might be missing the mark. Even the 5-year-old one might not do the trick anymore!

In addition, employees should be aware that the EVP exists and what it entails. If they don’t, they will not make use of it and that will be equal to wastage of resources. New staff in particular should be given the EVP as part of their orientation.

Upgrade their own academic qualifications

As employee needs change so do the requirements of HR managers to respond to them. That means that HR managers should continuously build their knowledge resources by enrolling in additional training, short courses, and management programs.

In the past decade, the workforce and workplaces have undergone changes like increased remote workers, the gig economy, and more diverse workers. Current courses take into consideration these changes and address them.

Other leaders and managers in the organisation should also receive new training so that they can provide the right support for the employees they supervise. These training courses should go beyond technical needs to also include areas like leadership styles. An inefficient leader can create a stressful environment, affect output and even drive up the turnover rate.

Avail opportunities for staff to upgrade their training

The workers of today find themselves in situations where they have to continuously adapt their skills to new environments. Sometimes this requires them to study. An organisation attuned to employee expectations will consider sponsoring courses or having a study leave policy.

Extra training is of value to both individuals and the organisation. It ensures that employees are better at their jobs, which can improve productivity and build confidence. It also gives employees a chance to go after promotions that require them to have more qualifications. The sense that they are growing can improve engagement and retention.

Be proactive

HR managers need to keep up with changes in their respective industries and seek to find ways to handle them before they come knocking at their doors. As an example, mental health has stepped to the forefront as a critical part of life that can have effects on the output of employees.

A proactive Human resources department will likely update their response to this need by extending their medical cover (where possible) to include mental health cover. Some companies have already gone ahead to let staff know that they can take a mental health day when necessary.

The world is going through a pandemic that has had resounding effects on the workforce. Many people were left wondering if they had jobs and if they would be able to receive support and what kind of support from their organisations.

In unforeseen circumstances like these, workers expect their HR managers to quickly have a response, and having one that prioritises employees over profits is the best way to do it.

Similar expectations will arise for any type of crisis or major shift in an organisation. Failure for HR to respond will affect the trust employers have in them. Having a response plan that includes thoughtful and open communication is a good move for HR managers.

Leverage their organisation’s corporate social responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, is a powerful tool that can help HR meet the expectations of both present and future employees. Employees are proud to be associated with a company that looks out for more than its own bottom line. Companies that give back to their communities and are environmentally conscious attract and retain employees.

According to a research paper by Cornell University, 55% of respondents said they were agreeable to staying with a company with strong CSR and charitable initiatives. In the same study, 33% of respondents said they were strongly agreeable to taking a pay cut in order to work for a company that has strong CSR initiatives.

How HR Managers Can Adapt To Changing Employee Expectations

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Balance technological and human needs

Employees need organisations to provide them with tools to do their work. It makes sense that HR should equip employees with technology to make processes seamless and output better. Digital initiatives have become a necessity in the workplace and HR managers who invest in them will meet the expectations of their employees.

But an investment in AI and tech shouldn’t overshadow the human needs of the employees. These needs will go beyond providing a healthy work environment to skilling both leaders and staff in areas like communication, team skills, and emotional intelligence.

This balance should also take into account what the company expects of its employees. With digital innovations and remote work, employers might expect employees to be available at irregular hours. It is good to keep in mind that employees will expect a trade-off and HR should put that into consideration. This could be in the form of more flexible schedules or extra days off.

Embrace Flexibility

Due to the rise of the gig and remote economy, flexibility at work has taken centre focus. An insistence on a 9 to 5 model might affect the retention of employees in certain industries. Millennials in particular have been said to value flexibility above many other job perks, including money.

In order to achieve this flexibility, there is a need for open dialogue and communication. Flexibility might also mean that HR departments have different engagement plans for their different workers. This is because what works for your millennial staff might not work as well for your Gen Z and Baby boomers.

For instance, while Gen Z are adept at technology, being new into the workforce means that they have not gone through the structured dynamics of a workplace that their predecessors have. HR might need to guide them through managing teamwork and customer relations.

See the role of HR in a new way

In order to adapt to changing employee expectations, the HR roles themselves have had to change. A few decades ago, HR’s roles were limited to managing wages and ensuring that companies followed rules and regulations of their industries.

Today, HR departments have had to adapt to include the focus areas of employee engagement and steering company culture. Because HR departments play a role in company strategy, employees expect them to drive policies that are equitable for them and challenge those that are not.

In Summary

HR managers should expect employees’ needs to change due to a number of factors. These can be changes in priorities, family obligations, or global situations. As opposed to hiding from these changes, HR should meet employees in the middle and adapt.

By doing so, they should see an increase in on-job satisfaction and motivation. In the end, this will also be a win for companies through higher employee engagement, reduced turnover, and increased employee loyalty.

About the Author

With years of experience as a content strategist and creator, Anita Sambol has a ‘super-power’ of being a clear human voice for brands when talking to their audience. One of the projects she currently enjoys the most is being a content associate to EU Business School, where she’s writing about business education, student life and online learning.

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