New research from Aon, a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions (NYSE: AON), shows that 94% of employers believe their employees’ expectations of work experience are changing. In Aon’s Benefits and Trends Survey 2020, employers say their employees expect flexible working hours, the ability to work from home, better awareness and handling of mental health, better approaches to diversity and inclusion and better parental policies.

A surprise in this year’s report is the strength of opinion on environmental and sustainability policies, coming in at the seventh most important expectation in its first year in the survey. Fifty-four percent of employers believe that employees want clarity and positivity on this subject.

In their responses to the survey, employers say the top eight employee expectations are: more flexible working (97% of employers say employees expect this), agile or home working (94%), better awareness and handling of mental health issues (88%), a better approach to diversity and inclusion (72%), improved parental pay/leave/return to work policies (68%), casual dress codes (61%), clear and positive environmental and sustainability policies (54%) and access to financial education (48%). Other expectations include emergency childcare support, increased volunteering opportunities, mindfulness and resilience classes, help with debt management and emergency eldercare support.

Richard Morgan, principal at Aon, said:

“The workplace has become more of an extension of our everyday lives. As awareness of work-life balance, more effective use of technology, mental health support, and diversity and inclusion rapidly increase, so too do employees’ expectations that their employers will play their part.

“It is encouraging that employers see the strength of opinion on mental health and diversity and inclusion, as these have gained significant momentum over the last few years. For the first time, however, we included environmental and sustainability policies on the list of choices in the survey. For it to appear so high on the list straight away is an important indicator, echoing the conversations we have with clients as they increasingly seek advice on weaving sustainability into their benefits and communications.

“There are many opportunities to consider – from removing single use plastic to offering electric cars and cycle to work schemes in benefits packages. The range scales from employers needing to consider charging points in car parks, showers and storage racks for cyclists to ethical pension funds, as increasingly employees want to invest in companies that have good governance around sustainability.”

Aon’s tenth annual report also showed that 56% of companies say that their businesses are changing (or will change in the next five years) and that they are having to compete for talent within different market sectors. Often this means that employee demographics are changing – which is then compounded by macro generational changes and global mobility. Only 38% of employers think that their benefits meet the needs of a multi-generational workforce while over 80% believe that they will need to adapt to meet the needs of future generations.

Richard Morgan summarised:

“Most employers are all too aware of changes affecting their workplaces, not least an ageing population with lower levels of pension savings meaning people will work beyond a traditional retirement age, as well as birth rates dipping, resulting in around 20% fewer people entering the workforce. On top of generational challenges, the workplace has moved from ‘a job for life’ to ‘fulfil my needs and make my life easier’. It means the wider employee value proposition and supporting communications are increasingly focusing on employees feeling present, focused and productive.”

More info on Aon’s Benefits & Trends 2020 Survey.