Commentary: More than one in three employees is looking to switch jobs in the next year, and nearly half of all millennials expect to do so. That’s according to Aon Hewitt’s Inside the Employee Mindset study, which explores employee perspectives on the work experience, total rewards, and communication practices. Why are so many employees looking to make a move?

The answer stems from work experiences that are not in sync with what employees want or expect. At a time when employers are looking to attract and retain talent, employees are looking for a better, unique, and more compelling work experience.

When you understand what really matters to employees, you can shape a total work experience that can have an impact on engagement and business performance.

Employees are looking for a more “human” workplace — one that appreciates their efforts and successes, provides opportunities and balance, and is less focused on company financial performance. You can’t get away from focusing on the bottom line, but you’ll have greater success driving results if you pay more attention to the relationship-oriented needs of employees, like recognition, respect, loyalty, balance, and open communication.

Make a bold commitment to your employees by defining your unique and compelling employment value proposition — what you expect and what your employees can expect in return. Ensure you are delivering more of what employees say they need to be most productive — flexibility, recognition, career development opportunities, and open communication. This might include redesigning programs that specifically or even tangentially address these areas or it may require repositioning and/or promoting them to ensure understanding, utilization, and effectiveness.

Balanced total rewards matter

Engaged employees value a more balanced total rewards package. In fact, engaged employees place equal value on pay and benefits (average allocation of 36 out of 100 points for each), and significant value on paid time off and work/life balance (21 out of 100) and career development and learning (8 out of 100). Our study also found that bonus plans, career development programs, and work/life balance programs are among the least understood of all total rewards.

Show the value of your total rewards by shifting resources to highly valued and often less understood programs like work/life balance, career development and bonus, creating a strong total rewards brand (clear voice, compelling message, and consistent visual identity) that tells your story, and personalizing the experience for employees.    

Good communication matters

Engaged employees are significantly more likely to view communication as effective. It’s that simple. So, what makes communication effective? Employees in the study told us they want communication that is open and honest and relevant to them. Not surprisingly, they also want more communication about their rewards, including incentive/bonus pay, work/life balance and/or stress management, career and/or development opportunities, and recognition of efforts and accomplishments. For example, one-third of millennials say they don’t receive enough communication about recognition or career and/or development opportunities.

Go fully authentic with your communication approach: less jargon and more real dialogues with leaders and managers, and hyper-relevant messages focused on what matters most to employees. And when it comes to delivering communication, focus not only on formal corporate communication but also on leader and manager communication skill development. Commit the right resources to help managers have meaningful conversations with employees about pay, performance and career, and to help leaders engage in discussions about the organization’s goals and priorities, changes, and overall performance.

These three strategies will ensure your employment experience truly stands out from the rest in the areas that really matter to employees — the work environment, total rewards, and communication. Some will be even more effective for certain demographic groups. For example, women are more likely than men to desire improvements in communication and work/life flexibility, and millennials place more value on career development and learning than other generations.

Pam Hein is a partner, communications consulting, with Aon Hewitt.

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