HP Inc. just released its first annual study exploring the relationship between employees and work, particularly the gap between evolving work expectations and reality, and that gap is surprisingly wide on a range of drivers for a healthy relationship.
The research covers more than 50 facets of work, such as the significance of work in individuals’ lives, their competencies, work environments and expectations from leadership. It also highlights the influence of work on aspects like employee wellness, productivity, engagement and organizational culture. HP initiated and will continue to research these factors to help drive thought leadership in all things related to the future of work.
To gather the data, HP conducted an online survey earlier this year with Edelman Data & Intelligence in 12 countries, including the U.S., France, India, the U.K., Germany, Spain, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Canada and Indonesia. The 15,624 respondents included 12,012 knowledge workers, 2,408 information technology decision-makers and 1,204 business leaders.
The data was used to create the Work Relationship Index, a tool measuring global work relationships over time. HP made a startling discovery that only 27% of knowledge workers believe they have a healthy relationship with their job. Interestingly, developed nations displayed a poorer relationship with work compared with some developing countries. India, for example, scored highest in terms of work satisfaction. In contrast, Asia Pacific countries, specifically Japan, recorded some of the lowest satisfaction scores.
“Regardless of where you’re working — whether you’re in the office or at home — this is a much broader set of issues than just tech in the office or tech at home,” Dave Shull, president of HP Workforce Solutions, said in an interview with ZK Research. “It’s a fundamental shift in expectations. What are the big drivers of a healthy relationship with work? It boils down to fulfillment, leadership, people-centricity, skills, tools and workspace.”
Let’s break down each of these six core drivers necessary for a wholesome work relationship.
Fulfillment in work is rooted in deriving purpose, meaning and a sense of empowerment. However, a mere 29% of knowledge workers consistently feel this way, highlighting a significant disparity in expectations.
Although 68% of business leaders believe that modern work calls for fresh leadership approaches, only 20% of workers feel leadership has adapted appropriately. Senior leaders must acknowledge the importance of establishing an emotional bond with their workforce. Things such as regular engagement surveys can help leaders develop this bond by capturing employee sentiments.
People-centricity is about prioritizing employees, ensuring they feel valued and central to decision-making processes. However, just 25% of knowledge workers consistently feel respected and valued. Given how many people feel undervalued in their jobs, leaders should be addressing this problem in the workplace.
Additionally, there’s an opportunity for businesses to invest in comprehensive training, considering most workers want to have technical skills yet feel uncertain in their own knowledge. The data shows that 70% of workers believe strong technical skills are important, but only 31% are confident in their expertise. Currently, there’s a gap in training for soft and hard skills versus what’s needed in a job. Soft skills, in particular, are more essential than previously assumed.
Increasingly, chief information officers are seeking feedback from end-users regarding technology choices. But while 75% of workers want to have a say in the technology and tools provided by employers, only 25% trust companies to equip them with the right tools to support hybrid work. This shows a significant gap in expectations.
“The leadership change and involving employees in the conversation is most of the equation,” said Shull. “Technology by itself, without that emotional transparency and that sense of fulfillment, doesn’t solve the problem. People won’t come into the office and use the tools unless they have a sense of purpose.”
Lastly, there’s an apparent disparity in technological capabilities and comfort when it comes to office and home environments. Knowledge workers desire a smooth transition between workspaces and the freedom to choose their location. That’s why efficient hybrid workplaces, effortless transitions, and flexibility are key drivers for overall employee work satisfaction.
A notable finding from the study is that individuals who don’t have a healthy relationship with work also face challenges in their personal lives. Such individuals tend to be less engaged with their families, exercise less and don’t maintain a balanced diet. According to Shull, this link between work satisfaction and personal well-being reveals a global correlation that was previously unrecognized until the survey brought it to light.
Discontent with work harms businesses, leading to 34% less productivity, 39% more disengagement, and feelings of detachment in 38% of knowledge workers. Even when employees feel indifferent about work, more than 71% contemplate quitting. The desire to quit escalates to 91% for those who are completely unhappy.
Millennials and GenXers exhibit stronger desires for emotional fulfillment from their jobs than baby boomers. However, these sentiments are consistently seen across generations, which was unexpected. The research underscores that the expectations employees have from their work have evolved significantly in recent years, as acknowledged by nearly 60% of the respondents.
Creating trust and an emotional connection in the workplace is critical for attracting and retaining employees. Some 70% of business leaders recognize the significance of emotionally intelligent leadership. Remarkably, 83% of employees would be willing to accept lower pay to be happier at work.
The relationship between work and individual well-being is undeniably intertwined, as highlighted by the study. Employers should recognize the importance of offering flexibility and understanding employees’ needs, not only to enhance workplace efficiency but also to positively impact their overall happiness.