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Power to the People: Workers Take Center Stage

What started out of necessity during the pandemic, with people around the world demanding better working conditions, more health and safety protections, increased compensation (especially for essential work under incredibly stressful times), and greater work-life balance, has rapidly become the new normal. Employees in every industry, in every corner of the world are taking their professional lives into their hands in ways that few could’ve imagined just a few short years ago. 

ManpowerGroup’s latest report, The Great Realization:  A Look at the 2022 Labor Landscape finds this year is shaping up to be one of the most transformative years in recent history with workers in line to benefit greatly. Five key trends are driving the employee experience, and employers better take notice.  

Trend #1: The Reinvention of Work by Workers – Flexibility, Location, and Purpose 
When people thrive at work, everyone benefits. In ManpowerGroup’s recent What Makes Workers Thrive survey of workers around the world, we found competitive pay and workplace flexibility ranking near the top of people’s wish list. The top three most important work flexibility factors were: 

  • Ability to choose start and end times (45%) 
  • More vacation days (36%) 
  • Having fully flexible workplace options (35%) 

People in all roles – from the production line to the corporate office – will demand greater flexibility, fair wages, and more autonomy as a norm, redefining “essential” for work and for workers. Thus putting individual choice in reach for the many, not just the few. A heightened focus on a values-driven agenda, empathetic leaders and a culture of trust will become a net positive for attracting and retaining talent and engaging remote teams. People will choose to leave jobs as nearly half (49%) of all workers would move to an organization for better well-being. 

Trend #2: Mental Fitness Prioritized – Prevention Will Be Better Than the Cure 
We all are  sick of hearing about the pandemic.  But the reality is COVID-19 has fundamentally exposed the growing mental health crisis affecting all workers across the labor force.  Employee burnout is a growing bottom-line issue, 43% say their employer is not doing well on taking the issue of employee burnout seriously and actively taking steps to prevent it. Our research found 3 in 10 workers want employers to offer more mental health days to combat and prevent burnout. 

Mental fitness will be increasingly prioritized, expanding traditional health and safety exponentially. A mass movement to break the stigma of silence will require employers to be explicit about their increased duty of care-protecting mental health as well as wealth, employability and well-being. Expect growing calls to action on burnout prevention as people expect organizations to look at benefits and policies, culture and leadership that helps build resilience and boost mental fitness.  

Trend #3: The Decoupling of Work and Home Continues 
Like flexibility, hybrid and untethered work models are becoming increasingly in-demand by people intent on retaining the pandemic’s silver lining and reshaping their own new world of work: balancing home and work, valuing flexibility, interaction, collaboration and human connection in a way that works for them. Even people who want to work remotely, 4 in 10, want flexibility to choose the working situation that suits them best. That goes beyond giving someone the opportunity to have a hybrid schedule but affording them the freedom to build hybrid schedules that fluctuate based on professional and personal needs.  

Hybrid and/or flex work will depend greatly on role and function as well as on the sector. For example, between 51% (finance) and 29% (manufacturing) will work a hybrid mix of remote and onsite. This hybrid paradox will continue while we practice and perfect flexibility that works for all.  

Trend #4: Culture Matters – The Attraction and Retention Tool That Eats Strategy for Breakfast 
“What is your company’s culture like?” is a common question candidates ask during the recruitment process. Culture is a key factor not just for new hires, but also for long-term, contingent, freelance, and gig employees as well. As companies work to attract more of these workers (many of them remote), culture will be a key factor for both recruitment and retention. Our research reveals that 3 in 4 workers want to feel motivated and passionate about their work, and 7 in 10 believe the work they do is important and want their contributions to be recognized by management. 

This increased focus on reshaping company culture to build trust, retain remote teams and energize the employee experience will call for an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that brings a sense of purpose and well-being plus empathetic leadership for a digital world. In this era of talent scarcity, the best employers will realize firsthand that without investing in and evolving company culture, they will struggle to execute their strategy and need to prepare to lose talent to companies that will. 

Trend #5: The Rise of Voice and Activism 
Piggybacking with culture is the need for companies, if they haven’t already, to take a stance on important social issues. 2021 saw workers stand up, speak up and walk out across industries. Louder demands for raising wages, flexible working, broader benefits and climate action are being galvanized via social media, with or without trade unions. Employees and customers want to spend their time and money with organizations that act as stakeholders: global citizens, pillars of the community and environmental stewards. The data reveals the rising significance of this trend as 64% of employees want their daily work to help better society and 2 in 3 workers want to work for organizations with similar values to their own. 

The aforementioned trends are not the end all be all for the coming future in the labor market. Employees want employers to offer more programs and initiatives focused on prioritizing well-being while also providing flexibility, competitive pay, engagement, good working conditions and opportunities for skills development and career advancement. Shared values matter too, especially on socio-economic issues. But if employers do not understand these trends or ignore what workers want, they run the risk of falling far behind.  

For more information about what workers want and other key trends, download The Great Realization: A Look at the 2022 Labor Landscape