What Do Employees Expect in 2021?

Employee at a desk with laptop & cell phone

April 7, 2021

One of the most surprising aftereffects of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is that while unemployment is high, it’s still tough to get open positions full. In part, that’s because the crisis revealed weaknesses in systems we rely on, including healthcare, schools, employment, infrastructure. As a result, employees are questioning several aspects of their work lives. Hit their hot-button issues out of the park, and you’ll attract in-demand candidates.

Pay Rates

One of the issues that gathered attention during the pandemic is that the minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living. Depending on location and the nature of the work being done, it will be tough to get people to take minimum wage jobs at the current rate. For most individuals, it’s simply not realistic to pay for transportation, childcare, rent, groceries, healthcare, and other necessities for $7.25 an hour. The federal minimum has stagnated at this rate for more than ten years. A raise to $15.00 an hour is proposed but will be stepped up gradually until 2025, after which it will continue to rise with the national median wage. Until then, employers may be wise to experiment with higher rates on tough-to-fill positions to gain more applicant interest.

Employees want higher pay. Image shows a wallet with cash.

Remote Work

Employees want remote work. Man on a couch with a laptop

Another reality revealed by the pandemic is that a lot more work can be done remotely than expected. When faced with a crisis, we found that not only can many jobs be performed effectively remotely, but work can often be done at different times. This has been an adjustment for traditional managers accustomed to managing by walking around. They might measure productivity by viewing people in their seats looking busy. It turns out many tasks can be performed just as effectively at home. Some can even be done as well at nine o’clock in the evening on someone’s couch as it could in the office at two in the afternoon. Quantify desired results rather than process so success can be easily measured.

Schedule Flexibility

An additional challenge exposed during the pandemic is the shortage and expense of childcare. Flexible shifts can give people a low-cost option to keep their kids cared for in the home. As an employer, you can present second shift positions as a family-friendly option. Because employees will save on daycare costs and some positions offer a shift differential, this option provides advantages for employers and workers. Also, if it’s realistic to allow employees to set their own hours within reason or take off time for appointments or emergencies they can make up later, it will go a long way toward building goodwill and loyalty.

"You'll gain productivity and boost engagement by offering a safe and healthy workplace and putting yourself in employee's' shoes."

Employees want to be thought of as people with individual needs, not cogs in the machine. You’ll gain productivity and boost engagement by offering a safe and healthy workplace and putting yourself in employees’ shoes. Adapt your approach to hiring to address these factors, and your recruiting job is likely to get a little easier.

Insights Webinar

Evolving Employee Expectations: Top 3 Trends Impacting Your Business

Join us on April 22, 2021 for a live webinar with Karina Schultheis. She will will explain why some companies are struggling to fill positions, discuss how employee expectations regarding flexibility and benefits have evolved, and offer strategies for spearheading meaningful strategic initiatives like well-being and long-term growth and development


For a deeper dive on this topic, please join us on Thursday, April 22nd, 2021 for a live webinar with Karina Schultheis, manager of human insights & HCM at Ultimate Kronos Group. This event has been pre-approved for HRCI and SHRM credits

Check out our other blog posts for more useful tips and tricks!

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