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    Employers need to adapt to the changing expectations of employees: study

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    Employers today are grappling with the demands of four generations of employees who are at different life stages, according to a recent Canadian survey.

    The study, done for Hamster, found that a large portion of the Canadian workforce was happy with their employer. About 90 percent were engaged and 81 percent motivated with their work. However, an in-depth look found those numbers were not a true picture of what is happening in each generation.

    According to the research, 89 percent of Baby Boomers (those over 55) are satisfied at their workplace, 95 percent are the most committed and 89 percent are highly motivated.

    Yet, Generation X (classified as 35 to 54 years old for the purposes of the study) are largely dissatisfied in their employment (19 percent) and 21 per cent reportedly lack motivation. Furthermore, 84 percent of Millennials reported being satisfied with their work, but 58 percent told researchers they wanted to change jobs within a couple of years.

    The study also showed a big difference between the expectations of each generation. In particular, the younger generations’ expectations have been changing the face of work altogether.

    Employers who are already aware of the changing workforce have started to make some changes, yet, 50 percent noted they struggle to meet the demands of all generations. Eighty-nine percent have recognized they will need to make changes to keep younger workers.

    Employee expectations

    Millennials have high expectations when it comes to benefits their employer should offer. This includes coverage for professionals such as psychologists, occupational therapists, massage therapists, and nutritionists. Offering one on one personal training to exceed expectations as an employer is an option in this context. It chimes with the wellness-focused expectations that younger generations are bringing to bear on the businesses they work for, and aligns with the data points that this research has brought to light.

    A similar study found that 63 percent of employees were looking for generous parental leave policies and 54 percent expected financial education help. These are a result of standards set by previous generations, a professor from the University of Guelph noted.

    “Millennials are more likely to view their jobs as an exchange where benefits and services are an entitlement, rather than as a relationship,” Dr. Sean Lyons told the Daily Hive.

    Employees have noted these changes among their employees. Aon’s Benefits and Trends Survey found that 98 percent of employees expected flexible working hours and 89 percent were looking for the opportunity to work from home.

    “There’s still a wide gap between the kinds of experiences employees want to have at work and the experiences they’re actually having,” HR expert Carrie Patrick wrote in an article for Medium.

    She noted that these changes are a response to a change in the expectation of employers.

    Patrick wrote in her article that because most employees are expected to be available outside the traditional 9-to-5 workday, workers have developed expectations for extra benefits and flexibility in exchange.

    “Most employees consider a consistent routine a luxury,” she wrote. “These demands lead employees to expect work-life balance support from their employers.”

    Employer strategy

    The results show that younger employees demand more in the way of growth and development opportunities. Therefore, employers who want to build loyalty in their millennial-aged or Gen Z staff members will need to develop engagement strategies built around these types of opportunities.

    “If I have advice for employers in 2019 it’s to get to know who your employees are as people and what their specific needs and wants are and keep asking,” Dr. Lyons said. “The answers are critically important to making evidence-informed HR decisions, but the very act of asking is meaningful and critical to relationship building.”

    Employers who are already aware of the changing workforce have started to make some changes, yet, 50 percent noted they struggle to meet the demands of all generations. Eighty-nine percent have recognized they will need to make changes to keep younger workers.

    “All sectors in Canada are facing significant challenges in talent acquisition and retention,” Denis Mathieu, president and CEO of Novexco, those behind the study stated. “Employees are the most important resource for a company, and we believe it is essential to fully understand their aspirations and needs to better meet them in order to have a competitive advantage.”

    The CEO of Redstone Agency in Toronto told the CBC that employers needed to be aware of what motivates younger workers.

    “Millennials and Gen Z are just looking for purpose,” she was quoted as saying. “While yes, it’s a paycheque — and having that financial support is definitely important — I think that having purpose and working toward a larger goal of something that’s bigger than themselves is something they’re looking for … in the work that they do.”

    Originally published June 12, 2019, updated December 14, 2023

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