Report: What Employees Want in the Workplace

By: on December 9, 2019

Here at Software Advice, we’ve been giving a lot of thought to how important employee engagement is to retaining both a strong team and strong company performance, and the most effective methods that organizations can use to help improve their employee engagement levels.

We surveyed over 200 full-time employees to get clearer answers to two questions:

  • What exactly do employees want in the workplace?
  • How have their managers handled their feedback?

Our survey showed that the majority of employees are engaged—a combined 72% rate their engagement as “often” or “always.”

But we know that an employee’s level of engagement is a sum of many parts, including not only the tangible factors relating to their work life and workspace, but also how well they believe their management understands and responds to their wants.

levels of engagement at work chart

In this article, we go through our survey results and provide recommendations for companies looking to ensure high levels of employee engagement by evaluating what employees want in the workplace.

Employees want to see improvements in salaries, flexible working, and employee recognition

We asked respondents to answer the following question: “In which of the following areas would you like to see your company make improvements?”

We gave respondents a wide range of choices—ranging from salaries, company culture, to work/life balance—and had them list their top three.

Salary ranges came out on top with 54% of respondents choosing this option as one of their top areas that they’d like to see their company improve upon. This was followed by workplace flexibility (38%), employee recognition (37%), and benefits packages (35%).

most desired areas for company improvement chart

These results show that there are two categories where companies could make solid inroads to improvement: financial compensation and recognition of employee preferences in the workplace.

Reframe the financial compensation issue

Let’s talk salaries—it’s the number one area that employees feel that their companies could make improvements. It’s oft been cited over the past few years that wages have not kept up with the same pace as inflation, and employees are clearly noticing this imbalance.

With almost 40% of Americans struggling to make enough to pay for rent or food, companies need to look closely at pay rises and salaries to address this widening gap. Here’s one way to look at it: Treating employees as an investment rather than a cost is a mindset change that can boost your profits, too.

Importance of flexibility in the workplace

Workplace flexibility is an issue that differs from industry to industry and company to company, but the fact remains that it’s become a crucial factor in talent retention.

Workplace flexibility can and should mean different things to different organizations—whether that’s a work from home/remote work policy, a flexible daily schedule, or a shorter work week, it’s up to you to find out exactly what employees want. We recommend employee pulse surveys as a good place to start.

For more info on how to improve employee recognition check out our article, “Everything You Need To Know About The Importance Of Employee Recognition.”

Employees feel that their managers understand what they want from their workplace

A majority of survey respondents (a combined 76%) believe that their management teams understand what employees want from the workplace. But what can you do about the 31% who somewhat or strongly disagree that their management team knows what they want?

'my management team has a good sense of what i want from our workplace' sentiment

These employees likely feel like they don’t have a voice, and are at risk of being disengaged at work. “Employee voice” is defined as any means through which employees communicate their views on their employment, workplace, and organization as a whole to their employer. The existence of an employee voice vehicle in the workplace is an important enabler of employee engagement.

For more about the methods you can use to improve employee engagement, and in turn, give your employees a voice check out “3 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Within Your Organization.”

Employees feel that their managers act on the feedback they’re given

Similarly, the majority of employees (a combined 69%) believe that their managers act on the feedback that they’re given by employees. But, again, what can you do about the 31% who somewhat or strongly disagree that their managers take any action on feedback provided?

management team feedback action chart

The answer to this seems pretty obvious—show employees that you’re acting on their feedback! But this is easier said than done, especially if they also feel like you don’t understand them in the first place.

Firstly, the results of requested employee feedback, such as surveys, should be shared with employees. Transparency is key when delivering feedback—don’t gloss over any negative or critical feedback and focus only on the highlights. Doing so only makes employees feel like their feedback is being ignored.

Both you and your employees know that not all of their feedback can be acted on, but communicating the reasons behind this is critical. Though some actions are not possible to carry out, demonstrate that leadership has given them serious thought, and if possible, provide an alternative to show employees that their feedback is important to leadership.


Methodology and demographics

To collect data for this research report, we conducted an online survey of 216 Americans in October 2019. Responses came from a random sample of the U.S. population. We screened our sample to only include respondents who fit the specified criteria. In this case, respondents were screened to ensure they were currently in full-time employment.

If you have comments or would like to obtain access to any of the charts above, please contact rhian.davies@gartner.com. For more information, visit our methodologies page.

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3 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Within Your Organization

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