What workers want

Employers must focus in on what applicants are seeking

Posted on Feb 27, 2020 :: Talent
Bryan Aschenbrenner
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

If you’re on the hunt for a new job, it’s a seller’s market, with companies competing fiercely to land workers in today’s tight labor market.

“It’s an employee’s marketplace,” says Deb Marshall, a senior manager of HR consulting for Wipfli.

Businesses looking to attract employees need to change up their game and focus more on what applicants are seeking in their next job. Marshall says one comment she frequently hears from job seekers is they want a workplace where they will be respected.

“The first thing on a candidate’s mind is, ‘Will this employer treat me with respect?’ People want to feel valued and want the employer to recognize them as an individual,” she says.

Kerry Weber, a talent acquisition manager with Information Technology Professionals, agrees, adding this is a vital strategy for employers to keep their workers on staff.

“I’ve never seen such a challenging market” when it comes to hiring, she says. “Most of all, employers need to show workers that they care about them. If the employee is fine with sharing personal information, ask how their family is, a pet, what they did over the weekend. Take an interest in them besides what they do at work.”

Another workplace trend is what’s being called “the thank you economy,” which focuses on initiatives employers can take to retain their employees, Weber says. “It’s all about giving thanks, appreciation and acknowledgement to your team, in both little and big ways,” she says.

Employers can send a thank you email or offer a small perk, such as gift cards to a restaurant or an extra day off. “What is returned is increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and most valuable to business owners, employee retention,” Weber says. “In such a tight job market, it is incredibly important to retain the talent you already have.”

Workers don’t like feeling they are a commodity, and if an applicant picks up on that during the interview process, it will likely mean a “no” if an offer is extended, says Thomas Schultz, a BizOps HR consultant with CLA. “(Employees) want people to see them and acknowledge them,” he says.

Weber says manager and supervisor training is a vital part of these strategies. “They need to recognize how they’re treating employees and what steps they can do to be more ‘real,’” she says. “People leave bosses, not companies. It’s critical to have a good relationship between bosses and their employees.”

A map to the future

Whether someone is just starting their career or has been at it for a while, most job seekers want to know what comes next — in other words, how an employer can help develop their skills so they can grow in their career, Marshall says.

“They want to know about the pathway at a particular company. If I’m doing this now, what opportunities are available for me later on?” she says. “It’s important to discuss how employees can move from A to B to C in the business.”

Schultz says employees want to see that what they are doing every day may eventually lead to something else. “No one wants to be on a hamster wheel forever,” he says.

Marshall recommends organizations have a well-designed careers page on their website. “It says something when you’re spending marketing dollars to reach out to not only applicants, but also current employees,” she says. “Having that presence on the website sends the message the business cares about its employees too — not just the customers.”

Career pages can contain testimonials from employees about why they like working for an organization, a list of benefits and types of volunteer activities the business participates in along with examples about the ways employers invest in their employees, whether it’s paying for additional education or covering the cost of joining a networking group.

“Discussing those growth opportunities sends the message to employees and applicants that you care about them and they are worth investing in,” Weber says.

More than just pay

While employees appreciate large paychecks and generous benefit packages, many are looking for something more, whether it’s flexibility in their scheduling or perks for working at a company, such as onsite yoga classes or a free membership to the YMCA.

“Employees definitely want more flexible schedules, the opportunity to work from home and to be more autonomous,” Weber says. “Most feel they are more productive out of the office environment with all of its distractions.”

Schultz agrees, adding the technology is available for most people to work remotely, and when employers deny workers
that opportunity, it sends a message that they can’t be trusted to get the work done.

“What I’m hearing a lot of is ‘life first, work second’ and workers want an employer that recognizes that,” he says. “Employees also want to work at a place where they feel they’re making a difference or that the company is making a difference in the community.”

Applicants like to hear about “come-along benefits” — whether it’s discounts to the drycleaner (especially if office pickup and drop-off is included) or a local garage for car repairs or oil changes, Schultz says. “It’s a little extra perk that makes employees appreciate why they’re working for a particular business,” he says.

Marshall admits when she discusses with employers what steps they need to take to attract and retain workers and stand out from the crowd, there’s sometimes pushback.

“There’s concern about the cost or how much time it will take to get done, but I turn that around and say that doing this now will save them time and money later on since they will find and keep the workers they need,” she says.

2020 Expected Workforce Changes

The Young Entrepreneur Council recently released a report called “The 8 ways the workforce will change in 2020, according to business leaders.” The council asked a panel of entrepreneurs to share their top predictions for how workplaces will change in the coming year. Here’s what they said:

• More remote work options

• Greater dependence on technology

• Increased mental health awareness

• Shorter work weeks

• More diversity within workplaces

• A bigger focus on improving the office environment

• Increased use of artificial intelligence

• The disappearance of “corporate ladder” aspirations