Employee expectations are changing. Here are 5 ways to keep up

Organizations must evolve their HR services to recruit and retain the best employees who, because of the WFH revolution, have more options, says this workforce management exec.

Employee expectations are changing. Here are 5 ways to keep up
[Photo: JLco – Julia Amaral/iStock]

Even before the pandemic disrupted life as we know it, the human resources department was feeling the pressure to evolve. Due to the ease of use of consumer apps and websites, employees simply expect more. The need for a better way to connect with colleagues and improved accessibility of core people systems and services was rising. Being “at work” was no longer an excuse for digital “not working.”


As the majority of companies have been thrust into remote work environments, 92% of HR leaders report that “employee experience” is a top priority for them in 2021. Where do they begin? Organizations can improve employee experience (from recruiting and retaining talent to culture and connectivity) in a number of ways. Here are the  top six:

Create tenured learners

Reskilling and upskilling employees has been top of mind for companies pivoting to a distributed workforce, experiencing furloughs and layoffs and retaining talent when suddenly many employees could work for any company, anywhere.

Beyond the employer’s point of view is that of the employee, with limited social engagements, fewer in-person networking opportunities and a boss that’s behind a screen, not at the same table. Digitally, career growth can seem inorganic if not approached in the right way.

In 2020, employees wanted yoga, more all-hands calls and, yes, to bake some sourdough bread. In 2021, employees demand to learn and grow—or they will go.

In a survey of full-time employees in the U.S., respondents indicated that the number-one way they want to be engaged is through HR promoting learning opportunities. Companies must offer learning opportunities for personal and professional growth – a course on leadership, a certification in their field, a class for an in-demand skill, a reimbursed degree program, a peer-learning opportunity. Using technology to identify skill gaps and suggest courses or match an employee’s career goals with learning opportunities are surefire ways to create tenured learners who learn and grow rather than quit and go.

Promote fairness across work situations 

HR leaders everywhere are trying to solve  the return-to-work dilemma: who to send back, where to send them back to, why to send them back and how to structure policies that work for everyone.

Whether it’s returning to the office full-time, continuing to work from home or implementing a hybrid option, leaders must create programs that still allow for a collaborative and fair in-person/remote culture.

The freedom of choice in how to work and from where opens up office-availability questions, fairness concerns and business continuity challenges. When offering flexibility, it must be consistently applied for every group capable of working in that manner. Voice-of-employee programs can help identify how employees want to work whereas technology can account for how they work.

Similar to how companies with dynamic scheduling understand what shift is open or who is fulfilling it, technology can show who is working from home, in office, travelling or in another remote environment. While choice in how one works will be a priority from here on out, technology can help minimize fears over desk space, working around schedules and time zones, productivity in less-traditional settings and the like.


Make referrals easier

At a time when many cannot meet face-to-face, employee referrals become even more important in securing new talent. A third of employees, however, don’t refer candidates because they are unaware of open positions. Having the right technology for employees to be aware of open positions, share open positions and be rewarded for placing candidates is imperative. Employee referrals was named the second most valuable recruiting tool, preceded by employee-review sites according to a survey of 500 HR leaders in the U.S. 

Remove digital friction

Regardless of where someone works, the need has never been greater to have a single workflow for getting real-time feedback, easier access to payroll, benefits, reskilling and upskilling and more.

The thread of digital connectivity must be a single layer and not siloed systems where data doesn’t feed into the other or employees can’t log in with a single sign-on or do everything they need to without logging into multiple systems. In fact, a human capital management (HCM) system is the number-one technology investment HR will make this year with the top expectation being that it’s an end-to-end solution for hiring, onboarding, engaging, benefit admin, payroll and offboarding.

By housing all people data—from hire to retire—in a single system of record, personalized recommendations for each employee becomes more accurate and more meaningful along their career path. What’s more, those consumer-like expectations get met since an employee is able to accomplish any goal—access pay stubs, sign up for learning courses, complete a performance review, enroll in benefits—in a consumer-like system where everything works the way it should. 

Foster financial, mental, and physical wellness

Getting to the root of the core challenges that employees are facing and addressing them head-on can be done by fostering a more inclusive, equitable workplace that puts a premium on financial, mental and physical health.

Engagement management tools have built-in surveys, collaboration, rewards and recognition, goal setting, peer feedback and performance reviews in order to consider the whole person at work.

Not only can employees vote on the types of programs they want to be involved in (e.g., financial literacy, exercise classes, food preparation) but carving out time for personal wellbeing can also be a goal they track toward in their company’s HCM as well. Goals don’t have to be solely aligned to the business objectives. Goals can and should include personal growth goals, for example, working reasonable hours, contributing a certain amount to their 401K or taking better care of our mental health by attending the wellness seminars offered. What good are the wellness programs, for example, if employees dismiss the meeting alerts on their calendars?

Having a digital-based system that houses engagement, learning, and performance and reviews opens up a lot of opportunity for real-time feedback on what employees want, ways to learn to get there, and how to measure it all toward their personal and professional goals. 


Amy Mosher is chief people officer at isolved, a human capital management platform for payroll, HR, and benefits used by more than five million employees and 145,000 employers.