These days, the environment is constantly front page news. From drinking straw bans to Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, the rising tide of evidence on the harm we’re doing to our planet is always at the forefront of our minds.
As this global narrative has continued to unfold, many of us have changed our habits as consumers. We are more aware than ever of how we travel, where our food comes from, and the impact our online shopping habit has on the environment.
But we don’t leave our personal values at the office door; we’re carrying them with us into the office.
We can take Patagonia as a good example of how this trend is shaping the workplace. During the global climate strikes in September 2019, the company closed its doors to allow its employees time off to join the protest. And if any of those employees happened to be arrested as a result, the company has a policy in place to bail them out.
Patagonia is just one of many of a new breed of people-forward organisations who understand that business success lies in listening and responding to their employees’ expectations.
But employee expectations are constantly evolving and it can be hard to stay ahead of the curve. We analysed 14 million survey comments in our Employee Expectations Report and identified the four biggest employee expectation trends for 2020.
Sustainability was one of them — and this is what we found.
Employee discussion on environment-related topics increased by 52%
Concern about the environment is rising globally — and the proof is in our data. Over the past year, employee discussion on environmental topics rose by 52%.
Plastic, single-use and carbon footprint were among the most prevalent topics employees discussed for their employers to tackle, while 2019 also marked the first time that Greta Thunberg — the face of young activism — featured in survey responses.
Environmental concern rose by 128% among Gen Z employees
As the youngest members of the current workforce, Gen Z is considered to be the most socially conscious cohort — and they’re looking for this in a potential employer. Our data definitely upholds this theory, showing that environmental concern among Gen Z employees surged by 128% over the past year. This was more than twice the growth seen in their peers, the Millennials, with a 62% increase.
As increasing numbers of Gen Z employees filter into the current workforce, they will bring new expectations of their own. Organisations that don’t respond to these expectations risk failing to attract this generation — and the new skills and values they can bring to the table.
Discussion on environmental topics rose by almost 600% in the Manufacturing sector
As businesses globally come under increasing fire to implement more planet-friendly practices, we can already see how these changes are trickling down to the employee.
While most industries experienced an increase in employee comments on the environment, the Manufacturing sector saw a 595% increase in discussion. This was almost six times the growth of its nearest comparator, the Consumer sector, which saw growth of 106%.
As consumers demand sustainable alternatives for the raw materials we use and how goods are packaged, the Manufacturing industry looks set to change in a fundamental way — and this burden is being passed down to the employee.
These changes come amid a time where the Manufacturing sector is suffering a chronic skills shortage, which is having a knock-on effect on talent attraction and retention. Organisations in this sector that fail to address this expectation risk losing key skilled members of their workforce.
Environmental discussion increased by more than 200% in Australia and New Zealand
As bushfires wreaked a trail of devastation across much of Australia and New Zealand last year, we can see the ripple effect of these real-world events in our dataset. Employee discussion on the environment surged by 220% in Australia, and 216% in New Zealand, showing that this topic was very much top of mind as the crisis deepened. This growth was more than twice that of the UK, where concern grew by 85%.
These sorts of events are becoming more commonplace as the climate crisis deepens globally. For businesses, the key will be understanding how these impact your people, and how employee expectations will shift as a result.
How you can respond to employee expectations on sustainability
As climate change has begun to affect every aspect of our lives, employees are looking to their employers to take decisive action. But what can you do as an organisation to respond to — and act on — this knowledge?
Businesses need to move beyond offering office recycling bins or organising the occasional litter pick-up as part of a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative.
In recent years, CSR has fallen out of favour as employees and consumers call for more transparency on the way businesses operate. Instead, Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) criteria and B Corporation certification are becoming the new benchmark by which companies measure social and environmental impact.
Both of these options are a metric-driven way of showing that companies are making a demonstrable effort to better the world around them by encouraging more transparency.
Do you know what your employees expect at work in 2020?
As our data shows, understanding your employees’ expectations is critical if you want to retain your best people and attract a new generation of talent.
This post represents a small snapshot of the findings from our full Employee Expectation Trends 2020 analysis. However, our research revealed three additional employee expectations for this year — expectations that are well within your reach to meet.
To find out the key trends for 2020 and how you can meet them, click here to download the full report.