Nobody would argue that these past few years have been challenging. As an SME leader, you’re no doubt tackling economic pressures, not to mention issues around acquiring and retaining top talent and managing a mobile workforce post-pandemic.

But what are your employees’ challenges right now? Are they the same as yours?

Surveys by Ernst Young, Forbes and Gartner reveal a widening gap between what employers and employees need, a shift that calls for businesses to rethink employee offerings. And you should know that in 2024, if you as an SME employer aren’t delivering, your employees are likely to go out and find one that is.

How can you ensure you’re meeting the evolving needs of your people?

This blog helps you walk the walk of your employees, giving you a better understanding of work life in these turbulent times from their perspective. It’ll help you come up with strategies to align your priorities so you have an engaged and happy workforce in 2024.

A ‘total rewards’ package

Employees are now motivated by a comprehensive package that cares for their overall wellness and growth, as well as their wallets. 34% of employees are ready to switch jobs within the next year to get:

  1. Better pay and increases
  2. Opportunities for skills development and learning
  3. Assistance with burnout and well-being.

By contrast, the top three employer priorities were shown to be talent attraction, then retention, and pay, trailing last.

This divergence reflects the differing challenges of employers and employees: employers focus on securing their talent pipeline, while employees prioritise making ends meet and coping with life’s stresses amidst the high cost of living and inflation. In these difficult times, the omission of well-being on employers’ priorities indicates a blind spot that needs to be addressed.

You don’t have to look far to find evidence that employees are feeling the pinch. Consider the rise of side hustles. Providing a financial safety net and a potential Plan B, Forbes reports that “70% of Gen Z and 50% of millennials” admit they have a side gig. And these aren’t just odd jobs – innovative ventures like influencer marketing are popular, especially with younger generations.

  • Consider for 2024: Could you adjust compensation to match inflation to help your people get through these tough times? Ernst Young suggests a ‘people-first’ culture, which would also encompass a programme of activity to support well-being. And a focus on upskilling and reskilling your team would go a long way towards talent retention, promoting ‘workforce stability and capability growth’.

Hybrid working: the new normal

Did you predict in 2020 that remote working wasn’t just a temporary response to the pandemic? Fast forward to 2024 and hybrid models are now the norm. Combining the flexibility of remote working with the social and collaborative benefits of face-to-face working, employees get to enjoy the best of both worlds. Less commuting, better work-life balance, flexibility – what’s not to love?

Ernst Young, though, highlights employer concerns around the productivity, leadership and culture of a distributed team. And Gartner’s findings uncover tensions between employers and employees, with only 26% of organisations believing their employees ‘fully comply with on-site attendance requirements’. It’s unsurprising, then, that only half of employees trust their companies.

  • Consider for 2024: As organisational culture no longer just happens by osmosis, Garter recommends that leaders intentionally create interactions between employees so that they can ‘engage with the culture wherever they work’. Acting purposefully this way takes thought and planning. But your efforts will pay off when these emotional connections reshape leadership and culture, improve productivity and promote a sense of belonging in your distributed workplace.

You might also want to consider team charters defining and customising your hybrid approach that works for both business and employees. Transparency and understanding the needs of both sides is crucial if you’re to rebuild mutual trust.

The Age of Gen Z

You’ve no doubt noticed Gen Z quietly starting to enter the workforce during these tumultuous times. Now making up around 23% of employees, your multi-generational team can only benefit from this wave of tech-savvy talent. Your team can learn lots from their younger colleagues’ open-mindedness to all things digital, fresh skills and ideas.

Do bear in mind, though, that some of your younger employees entered the workforce during a global pandemic and the altered reality of work in its aftermath. Covid has removed the opportunity for youngsters to observe workplace norms and dynamics. Their soft skills may need brushing up as a result.

  • Consider for 2024: Forbes suggests training to polish younger employees’ core skills, as well as “to upskill and develop their leadership capabilities”. Young workers should also be encouraged to be proactive and seek out mentorship opportunities from more experienced colleagues.

When considering your challenges and business strategies for 2024, don’t forget the challenges facing your employees. By meeting the changing needs and priorities of your people, you’ll be rewarded with the retention of an engaged, productive and loyal workforce.



How can a rebalance of power help re-energize your workforce? | EY – Global

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