Every business needs to succeed, and ultimately that success rests on the shoulders of your employees. It’s a lot of responsibility. In return, employees deserve the support of the businesses they work for. But sometimes, that support isn’t as strong as it could be.
A recent survey of 1,000 UK employees by Lattice and YouGov uncovered what’s needed for businesses to take better care of their workforce. From wellness programs to performance and career development — setting your team members up for success is one of the keys to business growth.
Is Your Company Setting Employees Up for Success?
Employees are not robots, and they need the right environment and support to be able to thrive, perform, and succeed in the workplace. But what does that even look like?
We asked 1,000 UK employees to indicate which of the following were provided by their employer. Here’s what they said.
While there’s some good news here, businesses can do more to support their employees, both from a wellness and performance perspective.
Not enough employees have access to mental health and wellness support.
Our results show that 42% of employees have access to mental health and wellness programs or other support. But that leaves over half (58%) of UK employees without the help they need to do their best work. And that’s not good enough.
When it comes to mental health, a disconnect between what employees expect and what businesses are willing to provide is nothing new, but with burnout and quiet quitting a concern for many, it’s time for businesses to offer proactive wellness support.
Dave Carhart, vice president of Lattice’s People Strategy Group, said that while many business leaders understand the link between well-being and performance in an abstract way, it’s important to get specific: “What are the actual needs that employees feel are and are not being met? How does that differ across different demographic groups, teams, and tenure?”
If you can uncover the answers to those questions, it’s easier to get specific and actionable with the support on offer.
Larger companies are setting the pace.
In our survey, larger companies (those with more than 250 employees) outperformed smaller ones for every provision except flexible personal time off. While small businesses (those with fewer than 10 employees) may not have access to the same budget as a multinational corporation, there are often ways to embed the know-how from large companies — just on a smaller scale. That might look like leveraging a new HR software platform with a great return on investment or looking to business leaders for inspiration around creating a people-centric company.
Performance expectations…what expectations?
We already know individual performance drives wider business outcomes. It’s surprising, then, that so few businesses in the UK are offering clear employee performance expectations and metrics — with only 22% of employees saying they’re offered goal-setting conversations for their specific role.
Carhart said that while “business leaders are well aware of how much the economic environment and needs of their business have changed, many lack the same level of understanding of what their employees need to deliver high performance.”
To optimise high performance, Carhart recommends strategies like embedding regular one-to-one conversations as part of each team’s monthly routine. This makes it easier to clarify expectations and listen to each employee’s perspectives and needs, something that’s crucial when driving change and boosting performance.
As per usual, London leads the way.
London is a focal point for business, and as a result, there’s sometimes a disconnect with the rest of the UK. Generally, employees in London receive a broader and better range of provisions than workers across the rest of the country.
For example, 45% of London employees have regular one-to-ones with their manager, compared to just 24% in the North and 22% in the Midlands.
Daisy Taylor, HR and finance manager at London-based Absolute Digital Media suggested that this disconnect could be due to a few different reasons: “London's status as the economic and financial hub of the country has led to an increase of resources and investment that has fuelled its development.” She added that in contrast, other regions may struggle to match London's economic opportunities, as the resources and investments are just not the same.
Limited resources and budgets then impact the level of support available to employees outside London. “[These constraints] can ultimately hinder their ability to invest in certain programs or hire dedicated staff.” Taylor added that outside London, “some employers may not fully appreciate the importance of such support or may lack awareness of the latest research and best practices.”
Alex Ugarte, marketing and operations manager at London Office Space also noted that sometimes, being at the forefront of business tech can mean London is naturally a step ahead. “London is the hotbed of the UK’s innovation, and businesses here have been quick to adopt digital tools and best practices that facilitate wellness and performance support,” he explained.
London might be a hub, but not everyone wants to live there. “It's important that efforts are made to address regional disparities through initiatives and investments, as London is not accessible to everyone,” said Taylor.
Career Growth Is Being Left on the Sidelines
Wellness support isn’t the only area where businesses could do better. Career growth conversations — vital for driving performance — are also lacking. Our survey found that regular career development conversations are the norm for only 15% of employees.
Employees at large companies were three times more likely to have regular career growth conversations. But even so, only 16% say they have a clear career growth path. Without these conversations, it’s hard to drive business outcomes.
Our survey uncovered that one cohort, in particular, is left out of employee development conversations — and that’s older employees. Employees over 55 are half as likely to have a clear career growth path in their current role as employees under 35 (Gen Z and some millennials) are. That’s likely down to a couple of reasons.
“Perhaps the notion that older employees have 'peaked' hampers the development of clear career growth paths. It's vital to challenge this stereotype and encourage every employee’s continuous learning and career advancement,” said Ugarte. “There is also a persistent and, regrettably, still pervasive unconscious bias and misconception that older employees are less interested in career progression, which could also be influencing the finding that they’re less likely to have well-defined future career paths,” he added.
But Carhart notes that another explanation behind the lack of professional development and growth conversations in older generations is that they’re sometimes further along their career path. “For more junior roles, it’s often easier to provide highly quantifiable expectations and set options for next role moves that can happen quickly. Senior roles take longer to master with less frequent promotions and often a limited number of roles above a certain level.”
Carhart added that two ways to address this are with talent reviews of more senior positions, plus building out a dual-career path that provides clarity on all the options for senior-level individual contributors.
Knowing the reasons why these conversations aren’t happening — whether through a lack of support for older employees or simply because of their job level — is essential for identifying whether this is something that requires action or not.
And what that action should look like depends a lot on what your employees want. To take the first step toward tailoring business support toward your employees’ needs, download our free employee engagement survey template.
The 5 Things Employees Need to Do Their Best Work
Employees have spoken — now it’s time for business leaders to listen. UK employees were asked to rank the top three factors that create a work environment where they perform their best.
Coming in at number one — employees want to know their managers trust them to do a good job. Being micromanaged or constantly monitored can increase stress and decrease job satisfaction, making employees feel undervalued.
To foster a culture of trust, some strategies Taylor relies on include: “encouraging open and transparent communication, involving employees in decision-making processes, providing opportunities for collaboration and teamwork, plus leading by example, demonstrating trustworthiness and integrity in all interactions.”
2. Flexible Work
Linked strongly to trust and autonomy, it’s no surprise that flexible work comes in at second. But there’s still a disconnect between employees — who have largely embraced remote work — and some companies holding onto the notion that in-office work should be the only option.
This might be down to tradition: “Some companies may have a long-standing tradition of in-person work. Shifting to remote work on a large scale can be perceived as a significant change that goes against their beliefs,” said Taylor. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do.
“To prioritise trust and flexible working, companies need to embrace a results-oriented culture rather than a time-oriented one,” recommended Ugarte. “The pandemic proved that productivity can be maintained or even increased remotely. And that’s not even taking into consideration the almost universally reported boosts to contentment and work satisfaction that occur when employees can adopt remote or, at the least, hybrid schedules,” he added.
3. Clear Responsibilities
Employees want to know what they should be doing and why — and a lack of clear responsibilities can feel frustrating. Taylor suggested that it’s crucial to not only communicate job roles, responsibilities, and expectations to employees but also provide them regular performance feedback and guidance to ensure clarity.
4. Regular Praise and Recognition
We all love a bit of praise. And without it, it can be hard to stay motivated. HR tech can be used to boost praise and recognition, both from managers and peers.
“Regularly recognizing and rewarding employees for their accomplishments helps to build self-esteem and motivation. A culture of recognition can be developed by implementing programs that acknowledge both big-picture achievements and small wins, and by encouraging peers to recognize each other's efforts,” said Ugarte.
5. Positive and Inclusive Company Culture
A winning company culture helps attract top talent and boost engagement which in turn, helps drive performance. “Businesses should work to develop a culture that values diversity — in background, thought, belief, and ability, plus promotes open communication,” said Ugarte.
To first achieve and then nurture this kind of culture, he recommends placing a focus on regular training, workshops, team-building activities, and inclusive hiring practices and representation at all levels of the organisation.
Be a Company Where People Want to Work
What ties the top five elements that employees want together? According to Carhart, “These are a core part of what most companies would consider basic management effectiveness. If your employees don’t see them happening, then the business is also likely to see challenges with engagement, productivity, and retention.”
It’s time to give employees what they want — and drive performance at the same time. To find out more, download HR’s Guide to Driving Business Impact and discover how to build effective people programs that deliver the value you’re looking for.
For a step-by-step guide to building a wellness program that drives high-performance, download our free workbook, HR’s Guide to Balancing Performance and Wellbeing.