There’s no doubt that the US economy is in a period of upheaval with a high demand for workers and specific skill sets, yet steadfast inflation hangs over the country. This disconnect has left the employer-employee relationship in a state of flux. Workers can command — and retain — better working conditions and flexible arrangements, while wage growth has shot up — recent Fed data shows it is growing at 6% on an annualized basis.
At the same time, economic uncertainty, high prices and elevated mortgage rates give employers leverage. The result is an employment market where both workers and owners have power and influence over where, when and how work is carried out. Savvy employers are starting to address this new dynamic, which is no longer strictly employee or employer driven but one where there is more equal footing between the two. Here are five tips to help with this transition.
Prioritize retention. Attracting talent remains important for HR leaders, with 45% citing it as a priority according to a 2023 Gallagher survey on Workforce Trends. However, the same report places retention even higher, with 66% of respondents listing it as a priority. The message is clear that employers will benefit if they adapt their policies to meet the current retention challenges, including those around flexible work options, raises and bonuses, benefits and incentives, and training and development.
Engage employees. The employee experience is also critical for keeping workers. Employers, especially managers, should be trained on how to meet workers on an individual level with an eye toward personalizing the employee experience. A report quoted by Benefit News stated that currently only 32% of employees are actually engaged at work, an alarmingly low number which should concern any business leader hoping to keep their talent. The answer lies in understanding what each employee wants and balancing it with what the business needs to continue being successful.
Elevate communication. Getting to the heart of what employees want out of their job means creating great communication with the workforce. This shouldn’t be a one-way dialogue but rather a two-way exchange that uses research, surveys, conversations and other open channels of communication. Reciprocal communication has multiple benefits, including helping employees feel heard while also giving employers an edge when it comes to satisfying the people who make a day-to-day difference to the business.
Individualize the experience. The offer of a good work-life balance is appreciated, but keep in mind that what constitutes a good work-life balance differs between individuals. Childcare needs, family responsibilities, personal interests and the desire to work from home or the office are all individual preferences. At the same time, some positions have specific requirements, and employees need to respect those boundaries when they accept a job.
Harmonize the culture. The growing balance between employee and employer means the workplace doesn’t need to be just an act of compensation for services given. Corporate culture should prioritize a harmonious working relationship where productivity and employment isn’t a power struggle but a mutually beneficial relationship that values collaboration and communication. And for that to work, organizations should elevate the benefits they offer their employees while also putting an emphasis on the expectations they have of employees to move the business forward.
Understanding what drives talent towards one employer rather than another is no longer an easy assessment. But navigating this new workplace relationship doesn’t have to be a bumpy road. A more flexible attitude toward recruitment, backed by an understanding of what motivates an employee to stay or leave, will mean employers and employees can establish a strong rapport that celebrates and rewards their mutually beneficial relationship.