Making Sense of Employee Expectations in 2022

The list of events impacting organizations and their employees over the past few years has continued to grow. Whether it’s the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change, political turmoil, humanitarian crises, social justice movements, or the “Great Resignation,” they’re all reshaping the employee experience.

Employee feedback is an essential part of understanding what your people need to feel valued and perform at their best, so that the organization as a whole can adapt to external circumstances in a way that ensures ongoing success and employee loyalty.
Our latest report, “Employee Expectations 2022,” reveals how employee priorities are changing in response to events over the past 12 months, based on an analysis of 19 million comments submitted in Workday Peakon Employee Voice throughout 2021 by nearly 1.8 million employees across 1,000+ companies.

Employees were much more likely to comment about external events when responding to engagement surveys in 2021.

Flexibility Remains a Top Priority for Employees
The proportion of employee comments related to flexible working, which includes terms such as remote working, work-life balance, and mental wellbeing, has remained almost unchanged since 2020. This highlights that flexible working is still a primary concern for employees—especially when taking into consideration the 125% increase in comment activity between 2019 and 2020.

While the proportion of comments has remained stable, flexible working scores actually decreased between 2020 and 2021, which suggests a disconnect between what organizations and their employees think the future of flexible working should look like.
In particular, organizations with a higher number of frontline workers need to ensure that employee feedback is being incorporated into the design of flexible working policies.

Environmental, Social, and Governance Practices in the Spotlight
Employees were much more likely to comment about external events when responding to engagement surveys in 2021. This points to the growing impact that issues related to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices are having on the employee experience.

An increased number of comments related to environmental, social, and governance themes signals the emergence of more purpose-driven employees.

The data reveals 12% of all employee comments in 2021 were related to ESG themes, with those mentioning social issues and the environment seeing the biggest increase compared to the year before.

The importance of ESG practices among employees is likely to remain in the spotlight for years to come, especially as it relates to attracting and retaining top talent. Over 50% of employees evaluate ESG commitments when looking at prospective employers, while those at purpose-driven organizations are 1.4 times more engaged, according to a recent survey.
Growing Influence of Younger Generations in the Workplace
While a number of themes, including flexible work and growth, have remained consistent over the past few years, the increased number of comments related to ESG signals the emergence of employees who are more purpose driven, particularly among younger generations.

As part of our analysis, we found that millennials are driving the conversation across all three areas of ESG, and are much more likely to voice their opinion about social issues. Similarly, Generation Z represents a significant proportion of comments related to ESG themes.
This pattern also extends beyond ESG to other vital aspects of the employee experience, such as belonging and diversity (B&D). Breaking down employee comments by generation reveals that millennials were most likely to leave a comment about B&D throughout 2021.
While Generation X and baby boomers are still well represented in our data, the growing influence of younger generations in the workforce will only continue to grow, especially as millennials already represent a third of the global workforce with Gen Z predicted to reach 27% by 2025.


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