Employee Expectations Have Changed…How Are Your Leaders Adapting?

by | Aug 10, 2023

I’ve been with clients who are going through major shifts in daily operations, dealing with changes they didn’t ask for, and addressing critical issues that require timely responses…as well as when they are navigating significant growth in their business.

All of these common business challenges were only exacerbated with Covid. And in the recent years, we’ve also seen employee expectations change dramatically.

A McKinsey study found that 19 million workers have quit their jobs since 2021. And 36% who quit in the last 6 months did so without having a new job. Their research revealed why so many employees are willing to resign…

  1. 54% don’t feel valued by their organization
  2. 52% don’t feel valued by their manager
  3. 51% don’t feel they have a sense of belonging at work

These stats speak volumes and demonstrate the reality of shifting expectations. The workforce has changed since Covid. Employees have done a lot of soul searching about their priorities and what they want their work life to look like.

Not only that, but many have lost family members. They’ve lost jobs. They’ve dealt with the anxiety from instability in the economy, in society, in their own health. They’ve experienced painful events and unexpected challenges.

When it comes to the workplace, we as leaders need to know that many of our team members are rethinking how they do work. They’re asking themselves if they really want to spend the rest of their lives in a company with a toxic culture and bad bosses.

On the other hand, employers are struggling to find the employees to keep their business running effectively. Then, when they do hire employees, they struggle to keep them – many are experiencing high turnover and low engagement.

Some employers may see these new conditions as a downside. And they are no doubt a challenge. But in spite of sounding a bit like Pollyanna here…the truth is that in every seed of challenge, there is an opportunity for growth and learning…if we can see it and maximize it.

I love what John Maxwell said: “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”

And as crazy as this may sound, the OPPORTUNITY here is TREMENDOUS. It means that it’s time to re-evaluate and transform culture and leadership within your organization.

We as leaders have the opportunity to blaze a better trail, set a new standard, and lead organizations to becoming a thriving, attractive and purposeful place for employees to invest their time, energy and creativity. We can balance results with relationships, engage people at a higher level, and bring out the full potential in them and in the organization.

Companies that shift their focus now are the ones who will be successful in the future.

So, how can you be one of the leaders who will create success for your team and organization in the future?

1)     BE CURIOUS.

Observe and ask questions. Then, really listen. Then listen again – even deeper…with the intent to understand and not to reply. Temporarily abandon what you think you know your employees want in favor of being open and curious to find out what they really want. What are their personal values? How are they currently experiencing your company culture? What is working and what is not? What would they like to be experiencing more of or instead of?

2)     INVOLVE AND COLLABORATE.

Once you complete number one above, it is not your job to then go away and figure out what it all means so that you can “fix it.” Leaders have a tendency to quickly gather information, assimilate it, then execute on it. (It’s one reason they are in the role of leader!) But transforming culture is not a one man or one woman show. Involve your team throughout the organization in the process of discovery, learning and applying what you’re learning. It will inspire ownership and engagement in the process.

3)     EXPLORE AND EXPERIMENT.

If you’re leading five generations in the workplace, you can be sure that “the way we’ve always done things” will not get you to your desired future. Nor will deciding on and implementing one strategy to ‘close the gap’. What you initially adjust or implement will not be the one size fits all solution. Be willing to explore, experiment and try new things. Be like Thomas Edison who consistently and faithfully made adjustments until he reached his desired goal.

We have a mantra at Executive Impact: “Who you are is how you lead, and how you lead determines the culture and success of your team and organization.” This is 100% true in the case of navigating the changing employee expectations every company is experiencing. It is calling leaders to a higher level, and growth is a great thing!

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