In our constantly evolving workplaces, there is one area that employers should prioritize as a strategic focus to attract and retain the best talent: Well-being.
If you’ve been in the workforce for over 10 years, you have likely seen a shift in what employees want at work. In one of my leadership programs last year, a supervisor commented that he was surprised at how many men on his staff ask for time off from work to attend their children’s sporting events. The supervisor said he would have never thought to ask off of work for a soccer game, and he noticed a shift in how younger generations want to be more involved in their children’s lives.
In high school, I played three years of softball, and my dad didn’t come to any of my games. Before you feel sorry for me, know that for most of my generation, it was uncommon for anyone to take time off for children’s events unless it was a concert or graduation. My mom was a homemaker, and took care of my four younger siblings, and my dad left the house at 6:00 a.m. and returned at 6:00 p.m. in time for dinner. It was a different time, with different values and priorities. In my family, and many others in that time, providing for the family was a priority, and everything else came secondary.
As more women entered the workplace, employee values and priorities started to shift. No longer were employees willing to have a career at the expense of their personal life. Research shows that professional women still handle most of the housework, in addition to working full time. Women struggled (and continue to struggle) with balancing families and a professional career, and working in an environment that wasn’t fulfilling and engaging, and offered no flexibly, added to their exhaustion and burnout.
Today, employees have different expectations of what they want at work. Gone are the days where employees would devote all their energy and time working at a company with an uninspiring culture or a bad boss to provide for their families. While financial security is important, workers are looking for fulfillment and a great work environment and are not willing to sacrifice their personal life for a job they dislike. The modern family brings with it a lot of pressures—balancing two parents working full time and managing the house and kids, all while being involved parents.
The pandemic has brought another shift and a new layer of expectations from today’s workforce. Over the past two years, employees experienced a different way to work—remotely—and many of them appreciated the flexibility working from home provided. It’s not surprising that flexibility is one of the top benefits employees want at work, and many are changing jobs and moving to companies that support their values.
Well-being is emerging as an important element for retaining the best talent, and will become increasingly important as our society and workplaces continue to evolve. There are two elements of well-being—personal and organizational.
Personal well-being includes the flexibility and freedom to enjoy life outside of work; including healthy boundaries, greater involvement with family and children, time to rest and rejuvenate, and recreation.
Companies that expect employees to be responsive and available on weekends and vacations, insist on employees being in an office five days a week, and care about results at the expense of people will struggle to stay in business.
Organizational well-being includes an enjoyable work environment and culture, a meaningful and fulfilling position, a manager and colleagues who are supportive, development and opportunities for growth, and the ability to be authentic and use your strengths at work.
Companies that employ traditional managers who micromanage and believe a paycheck is a reward for work, who don’t prioritize coaching and developing employees, and who don’t model healthy boundaries at work, will increasingly struggle to keep exceptional employees.
Gone are the days of staying at one employer your entire career to collect a pension and a gold watch. Today’s employees don’t want to work long hours at the expense of their personal lives. They want work that supports and contributes to their personal well-being. Employees want to actually enjoy and feel fulfilled by their work, and work with leaders who appreciate and acknowledge their contributions.
To create an exceptional culture, you need leaders who care about the whole person—not just work performance—and prioritize personal and organizational well-being.