What Employees Want in 2023

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As the economy slows to a recession and the great resignation marches on, the highest-performing leaders and managers are looking for ways to deliver what employees want in 2023. 

If 2022 taught us anything, it’s that we can’t leave employee satisfaction or employee engagement to chance. If our people are unhappy, the company will suffer, whether it’s via productivity lost through quiet quitting or top talent walking out the door. 

The only way to meet the challenges that 2023 brings is to prioritise employee experience. And we at Frankli are always looking for ways to help teams around the world do exactly that. So today, we’re providing research-backed answers to a simple but critical question; what do employees want from their employers in 2023? along with some clear action points for leaders and managers.

What Employees Want in 2023: At a Glance

1. A competitive salary

2. Healthy workplace culture

3. Career development opportunities 

4. Constructive feedback

5. Flexibility 

6. Autonomy

7. Work-life balance

8. Purpose-driven work

9. Stability

10. Diversity and inclusion

Frankli helps managers and leaders transform employee experience in minutes. Find out how.

What Employees Want in 2023: The Top 10

1. A competitive salary

Unfortunately, the global cost of living crisis has put increased financial pressure on many employees in 2023 (1), so compensation is more important than ever. One piece of research found that 48% of US employees planned to ask for a raise in 2022 (2).

While the number on an employee’s pay check is rarely the only thing influencing their decision to stay or leave, it almost always ranks in the top three factors (3, 4). 

Leaders should, at the very least, be exploring the possibility of salary increases if they’re to hold onto top talent. Some will find this impossible in 2023, but the good news for these companies is that there are low-cost ways to improve employee experience too, many of which are featured further down this list!

2. Healthy workplace culture

A huge amount of research on company culture was published in 2022, all warning leaders of the negative effects of toxic workplace cultures on business success and employee mental health (5). We learned, for example, that toxic corporate culture is 10 x more powerful than compensation in predicting a company’s attrition rate. 

Toxic culture is usually defined as an environment where disrespectful, noninclusive, unethical, cutthroat and/or abusive behaviour is tolerated. But transforming culture is about more than just stamping out these behaviours. It requires a major time investment from leaders, who are almost always the predictors of toxic culture.

This is difficult, demanding work but the benefits can be staggering - one report states that thriving company cultures are 400% more profitable (5).

3. Career development opportunities 

Several reports in 2022 carried the same message - lack of career development and advancement is the number one people why people are leaving their jobs (3). 

People want to know where all of their hard work is going to take them, and they also want to feel that their employers are willing to invest in their future. 

For 1000s of teams using Frankli, this means individual, employee-led career paths. In our Careers space, people are encouraged to design their own career path (including non-linear moves into new areas of expertise) and have clear visibility of the steps that will take them there.

4. Constructive feedback

It’s widely assumed (and proven in research) that employees want to hear praise and recognition about their performance (6), and that, when they get it, they’re more productive (7). 

But research also shows that employees crave constructive criticism - in one study, over 90% of employees said they would like to receive constructive feedback in real time (8). 

The message for leaders and managers is clear - in order to get the best from our people, we need to master constructive feedback, while continuing to give praise regularly. Studies suggest we should give 3 pieces of positive feedback for every piece of criticism, so this is a good number to take as a rough guide (9). 

5. Flexibility 

We know that, when flexible work is offered, almost everyone seizes the opportunity - 87% of people according to a recent study (10). Flexibility is also the number one thing that would convince non-traditionalist employees - freelance or gig workers, or people who left the workforce during the pandemic - to take a full-time role.

Another highly sought-after and famously difficult-to-retain group - female leaders - has been shown to prioritise flexibility at work. In a recent study, 49% said flexibility is one of the top three things they consider when deciding whether to join or stay with a company (11).

So while flexible hours and remote work opportunities aren’t dealbreakers for all of your employees, they’re certainly influencing the people on your team who are most at risk of leaving.
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6. Autonomy

Although related to flexibility, autonomy goes beyond when and where people work. It’s also about how people collaborate, which projects they prioritise, and how many interruptions they field in a day. And while employees have always craved autonomy, the pandemic increased our appetite for it (3).

Meanwhile, the global shift to hybrid work has created a challenge for leaders - hours worked, number of meetings, and other activity metrics have increased, but 49% of managers of hybrid workers struggle to trust their employees (12). 

Building a culture of trust delivers huge benefits in terms of employee engagement (an increase of 76%) and stress levels (a decrease of 74%) (13). But it also looks like autonomy could be the critical piece in the hybrid work puzzle.

7. Work-life balance

Employee satisfaction took a nosedive in 2022 - according to one study, 39% of employees described the work-life balance at their company as excellent or very good in 2022, compared to 48% in 2021 (14).

An unhealthy work-life balance is one of the root causes of burnout, which leads to lower productivity and higher attrition - burned-out employees are 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job (15).

What these statistics prove is that work-life balance is more than a nice-to-have, it’s an essential component for business growth. 

8. Purpose-driven work

In 2021, 52% of employees said the pandemic made them question the purpose of their work, prompting Gartner to report that purpose-driven work is essential for high-performing teams (16). 

Meanwhile, McKinsey broke purpose down into three categories, all of which must be aligned for maximum performance - purpose outside of work, purpose from work and purpose from the organisation (17).

Company purpose, company culture and employee experience are the only aspects of purpose where leadership have direct control, whereas purpose from work is a little trickier to influence.

This is about supporting employees to pursue and progress with work that provides meaning and energy, an area that’s heavily influenced by individual managers.

Platforms like Frankli take the guesswork out of giving employees purpose - digital goal-setting helps everyone understand how their work fuels company success and aligns with the work of their teammates. 

9. Stability

In early 2022, when employees were surveyed about their reasons for staying with their current organisation, stability was shown to be the second biggest influencer after compensation (18). 

Amid the economic uncertainty of 2023, stability is understandably difficult for employers to offer. The good news is that stability is not only about compensation and job security.

It’s about providing the resources your people need to succeed, being consistent with feedback and 1:1s, and offering clarity on expectations, company goals and company strategy.

Organisations that master a consistent rhythm around goal-setting and communication will find it brings a valuable competitive advantage.

10. Diversity and inclusion

A whopping 78% of employees say working at an organisation that prioritises diversity and inclusion is important to them (19) but whether this is a dealbreaker or a nice-to-have for these employees is more difficult to establish. 

Unsurprisingly, women are more likely to want to work for a company that prioritises DEI than men (86% vs. 72%), and Asian, Black and Hispanic employees are more likely than whites (88%, 87% and 85% vs. 75%) (19).

We also know that employees who are satisfied with their company’s DEI efforts are more likely to be happy with their career development opportunities (19), signalling that a serious commitment to DEI can help leaders with multiple items on an employee’s wish list.

Bonus Item: Something else entirely

Research is great for showing you where global workplace trends are headed, but it needs to be combined with regular in-house research on your people and their needs.

A survey is the simplest and best way to find out what changes your people would like to see made - they may surprise you with something that's not already on our list!

Find out how Frankli helps teams master constructive feedback, bring purpose to their work, build a thriving company culture and support a healthy work-life balance.

leadership give employees what they want
Frankli helps leaders transform employee experience in minutes. Find out how.

How to Give Employees What they Want

Action Points for Leaders

1. Investigate whether you can offer salary increases for employees, even if the idea of matching the pace of inflation seems impossible. If it's not a viable option, shift focus to some of the lower-cost items on this list.

2. Commit to making your company’s culture great. Model the behaviour you expect from employees, coach managers on nontoxic behaviours, make expectations crystal clear, give employees ownership of their work, and track culture improvements with employee survey data - you'll find more tips on this here.

3. Launch a people-centric career development program. You can start with something as simple as connecting employees for coaching and mentoring opportunities and gradually add elements like digitised career pathways and stipends for employee learning.

4. Ensure leaders and managers are skilled at delivering constructive feedback. Share resources like our constructive feedback guide, and consider investing in a high-ROI platform like Frankli that prompts more effective, more regular feedback.

5. Review and update company policies around where and when your people work. Run a survey to establish interest in flexible hours and remote work and commit to implementing some of the highly-requested changes.

6. Tackle micromanaging by building a culture of trust. Encourage managers to focus on outcomes, not inputs. Digitised goal-setting is ideal for this, and also provides clarity on expectations. You'll find loads more tips on building a culture of trust here.

7. Take concrete steps to improve employee work-life balance. Ensure workload is regularly discussed in 1:1s, review how much time your people take off and survey your people on the policy changes that would make the greatest difference to them.

8. Give your people purpose. Ensure regular 1:1 meetings around goals are happening across the organisation and communicate your company's mission and vision regularly.

9. Strive for consistency on goal-setting and communication. Work with managers to ensure people are getting enough feedback and 1:1 time. Use digital goal-setting to provide clarity on individual, team and company goals and communicate your company strategy regularly.

10. Make a meaningful, measurable commitment to diversity and inclusion. This will look different for every company, but be sure to include your employees every step of the way.

11. Run a survey to find out about the specific changes your people would like to see. Be sure to ask them to rank the above items in order of importance - this will help you prioritise the work you need to do.

giving praise digital feedback tools
Giving praise in Frankli

Action Points for Managers

1. Start a conversation with leadership about compensation and benefits. Ask whether salary increases will be considered in 2023, and whether key policies affecting employee experience - annual leave, flexible working, career development - can be reviewed and updated in line with responses to an employee survey.

2. Recognise your ability to shape a healthy micro culture on your team. Model the behaviours you expect from your people, make expectations crystal clear, and give your people ownership of their work. We’ve got more tips on this here.

3. Host a regular (at least quarterly) 1:1 meeting with all of your people focused solely on career development. Really listen to their career aspirations, and work with them on creating a pathway to get there (Frankli helps with this). Encourage them to take advantage of any career development opportunities that the company offer, for example, internal mentoring sessions. 

4. Give your people regular positive and constructive feedback, aiming for a ratio of at least 3:1 positive : constructive. Read our constructive feedback guide and encourage leadership to invest in a high-ROI platform like Frankli that prompts more effective, more regular feedback.

5. Support your people to avail of any flexible or remote working opportunities offered by your company. This might include normalising remote and flexible work and establishing a productive rhythm for asynchronous and synchronous work.

6. Build trust by focusing on outcomes, not inputs. Start by establishing frameworks for goal-setting and feedback - you'll find tips on this here.

7. Support a healthy work-life balance. This includes modelling healthy boundaries between work and personal life, and reviewing workloads regularly.

8. Give your people purpose by clearly communicating company and team goals. Hold regular 1:1s focussed on goal progress but don't forget to schedule dedicated chats about career development and job satisfaction, too.

9. Be consistent. Don't make promises you can't keep. Stick to a schedule for 1:1s and give praise and constructive feedback regularly.

10. Inquire about company-wide DEI efforts. Be sure to avail of any training that's offered and suggest the use of digital goal-setting, feedback and appraisal tools to reduce risk of biases.

Find out how Frankli helps teams master constructive feedback, bring purpose to their work, build a thriving company culture and support a healthy work-life balance.

Sources: 

1. Robert Half, 2023 Salary Guide. 2. World Economic Forum, The cost-of-living crisis is having a global impact. Here’s what countries are doing to help. 3. McKinsey, The Great Attrition is making hiring harder. Are you searching the right talent pools? 4. Pew Research Centre, Top reasons why U.S. workers left a job in 2021: Low pay, no advancement opportunities. 5. MIT Sloan, Toxic Culture Is Driving the Great Resignation. 6. Gallup, Employee Recognition: Low Cost, High Impact. 7. Forbes, Latest Research Says Praising Employees Boosts Productivity After All. 8. Wakefield Research, The Growth Divide Study. 9. B.L. Fredrickson, Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3-to-1 Ration That will Change Your Life. 10. McKinsey, Americans are embracing flexible work—and they want more of it. 11. Lean In and McKinsey and Company, Women in the Workplace 2022. 12. Forbes, Workers Are Less Productive Working Remotely (At Least That’s What Their Bosses Think). 13. Harvard Business Review, The Neuroscience of Trust. 14. Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald Research, 2022 Workplace Wellness Survey. 15. American Psychological Association, Stress in America, Paying with Our Health. 16. Gartner, Employees Seek Personal Value and Purpose at Work. Be Prepared to Deliver. 17. McKinsey, Help your employees find purpose—or watch them leave. 18. Employees Weigh In On What’s Important to Them and Why They Stay At Their Companies. 19. CNBC and SurveyMonkey Workforce Happiness Index.

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