April 26th, 2022 | Ken Schnee, General Manager - Technology, Media, Entertainment, and Hospitality

What is the Future of Work as Employee Expectations Shift?

After more than two years of adjusting day-to-day operations to ensure employee safety amidst a global pandemic, many companies are finally ready to ease their dependency on remote arrangements and bring workers back into the office. In fact, according to a new report from Microsoft, as many as 50% of business leaders either already require or are planning to require employees to return to the office on a full-time basis over the next 12 months.

But such a transition, needless to say, won’t be a simple as snapping your fingers and expecting the entire workforce to simply go back to the old status quo. Between an ongoing mass exodus of Millennials from tech jobs (now being dubbed “The Great Resignation”), an increasingly competitive hiring market, and a broader shift in employee expectations regarding work-life balance and company culture, business leaders will once again need to recalibrate how they think about work in order to retain talent and remain profitable and productive in the long term.

Hiring Amid Uncertain Expectations

A recent study from McKinsey reveals a significant disconnect between the expectations of employers and employees. While 75% of employers said they expect to see their workers in the office for at least three days per week, 75% of employees expressed a desire to continue working from home for a minimum of two days, with more than half expecting to work remotely for three or more.

Of course, identifying the best path forward is going to require a bit more nuance and consideration than just going by the numbers. Beyond the bare-bones demand to work remotely for a certain number of days each week, McKinsey’s study uncovered a much more complex set of reactions among employees regarding how their work arrangements have shifted in the past couple years. Factors such as increased stress and fatigue, mental health struggles, and feelings of detachment from company culture will need to be taken into account as business leaders attempt to return to the office without sacrificing employee satisfaction.

To make matters even more complicated, transitioning operations to reflect a post-pandemic workplace will be as much about hiring and retaining new talent as improving the satisfaction of existing employees, if not more so. According to CNBC, a record-breaking 47 million people quit their jobs in 2021, and despite an uptick in job openings and new hires, as many as 4.6 million roles remained unfilled during the month of December.

Integrating Flexibility Into the Candidate Experience

With the hiring market appearing more competitive than ever, it seems clear that there has been a considerable shift in the power dynamic between businesses and potential new hires. Whether it’s the ability to decide how, when, or where they perform their duties, employees seem to desire one thing from their employers above nearly all others: flexibility.

According to Fortune insights, flexibility is second only to better pay and benefits among the many demands of employees who are increasingly willing to leave or change jobs. More than a simple renegotiation of terms, the emphasis on flexibility is likely a symptom of the pandemic’s influence on how people think about work in a broader sense. For tech workers in particular, having a “flexible” job means having the freedom to work remotely whenever possible, and without the need to sacrifice job security or stability. In a recent survey by marketing research firm Dice, 71% of employees said they now value remote work as an important aspect of their job, followed by notions of security, corporate leadership, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Because hiring and retaining new talent has perhaps never been more important, employers will need to ensure that the promise of some form of flexibility — in whichever way it can reasonably fit into their overall business models — is front-and-center in the candidate experience.

Remote vs. In-Person Work: Bridging the Generational Gap

While demands for remote work and hybrid arrangements are certainly exponentially higher than ever before, companies banking on return-to-office plans might find some hope in opposing attitudes between workers from different generations. The challenge, however, is reconciling seemingly contradictory feelings on the topic.

For example, a survey from Hubble found that Millennials and Gen-Z employees are actually more “pro-office” than their older counterparts from the Gen-X and Baby Boomer generations. Whereas 72% of Gen-X and Baby Boomers reported positive remote work experiences since the pandemic, that sentiment was shared slightly less by Millennials at 71%, and notably less by the Gen-Z crowd at 63.7%, with over 8% even describing the experience as negative. However, another survey by Workspace Technology as reported by Computer Weekly, paints a different picture. More specifically, the survey found that most Gen-Z employees not only value hybrid work arrangements, but nearly half would even quit their jobs or seek out a different employer if the option wasn’t made available, frequently citing benefits to mental health and wellbeing.

Although there does seem to be a generational gap that needs to be bridged between employees from different generations, both studies did reveal a common employee desire to strike a balance between in-person and remote through the use of a hybrid model. To complement Gen-Z’s call for hybrid options as displayed in the Workspace Technology report, Hubble found that 86% of survey respondents across generations would like the ability to work remotely at least once a week. Beyond these two studies, the broader research does seem to suggest that rather than favoring remote work over in-person, or vice-versa, employees across the board are gravitating increasingly toward a combination of the two models.

Ease the Transition With Seamless Background Screening

There’s no question that the way we work is undergoing a rapid and significant transformation, from the “when and where,” to the “what and why.” And as employers continue to navigate these complex transitions (with competitive hiring efforts increasingly at the forefront), they must also confront the challenge of balancing the need to attract fresh talent with the responsibility of making sure new hires not only have the professional qualifications to get the work done, but that they have also been thoroughly screened for the sake of the physical and financial safety of other workers and the organization at large. Naturally, remote work has made the latter more difficult yet more crucial than ever.

Over and above the need to perform standard background checks, employers today face the additional hurdle of providing candidates with a seamless hiring and onboarding experience, and one that reflects the speed and sophistication of modern technology. In this area, the right background screening partner can be invaluable by uncovering criminal records, verifying identity and experience claims, and/or leveraging social media to evaluate a candidate without violating privacy and compliance obligations. If you’re looking to bolster your hiring initiatives with the help of our tech-enabled background screening and verification tools, or simply want to learn more about how Sterling can help update your organization’s background check process to increase your confidence in hiring, please reach out to us here with any questions.

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