What Do Employees Want from Employers in 2021?

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Employment in 2021

What Do Employees Want from Employers in 2021?

Employment is a mutual contract between an employer and an employee. While employees are reminded on a near-daily basis that the employer demands compliance to this contract, employers don’t spend enough time thinking about the reverse side of the coin: Employees have their own sets of needs and desires that they expect their employer to fulfil.

Workers deserve to be treated well, because your business would fail without them. Thankfully, the employer-employee relationship doesn’t have to be an antagonistic one. Just know that if you’re the employer, much of this burden rests on your own shoulders.

By reevaluating your organization’s core values in the context of what your employees want rather than what you as an employer expect, you can forge strong bonds with those employees. This can help build loyalty and trust that can reduce your turnover rate substantially, and this even set you on the road to becoming an employer of choice.

What do employees want in 2021? Here’s a list of things that employees expect from their employers in the current landscape.

A modern work environment

Technology seems like its evolving faster than ever, and the entire world is changing as a result. It’s inevitable that the workplace of 2021 feels substantially different than the one of 1991.

While this change is driven by technology, there’s a cultural component that’s far too easy to overlook. The modern workplace can’t just have the latest in technology; it should feel culturally modern as well. That’s a vague and broad statement, but we think the rest of the points we’ll be making here will give you a pretty good idea of what we mean by this.

Better pay

We’ve mentioned this before, but the balance of power is swinging in favor of employees. This, in turn, is causing wages to rise across the board. In 2021, expectations are that employers will be paying substantially more than they were in 2019.

We don’t want to belabor this point, since we recently published a full article about this very thing, but it is an important trend that employers should be preparing for if they want to stay relevant in 2021 and beyond.


Let’s be real for a moment: Working a 40-hour-a-week, 9-to-5 job creates problems for a lot of people. When you work the same hours as the entire rest of your community, it’s hard to get to the bank, which tends to only be open during work hours. Doctor and dentist appointment require time off work. Trying to look for a new apartment? You’ll be contacting management during work hours. Weekends are spent running errands that take twice as long because everyone else is doing those same things at the same time as you.

Sure, these sorts of things are what paid time off (PTO) is for, but when you dedicate most of your PTO to errand-running, a single weeklong family emergency can ruin your vacation plans for the entire year.

And this means employees aren’t just sacrificing their time between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.; they’re restructuring their entire lives just to be able to work for you.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Depending on the position, employees have the right to expect you to be flexible. Perhaps this means rearranging their work hours, or maybe it means giving them more time off. Maybe it simply means giving them the option to work from home more often.

In short, flexible work options create better lives for your workers.

And that brings us to…

Nontraditional work options

Think about this for a moment: The people who entered their careers during the aughts have now worked through two major recessions and a global pandemic. Those three world-altering events all happened within the past twelve years. If you think this hasn’t created a generation with massively different expectations than previous ones, then, to put it bluntly, we’re not sure what planet you’re living on.

There was a time when entering a career felt secure. If you could just land a good job, you could work your way up the ladder and carve out a place for yourself that would be yours until retirement. The current working generation has never really had that option, which means they don’t expect stability from their employer. In fact, publications like Forbes are even creating “survival guides” for the non-stable workplace.

While wily business owners might turn up the Grinch-like corners of their mouths at this statement, don’t be so sure this is an exploitable opportunity – it’s actually had an overall negative impact on employers. When your employees don’t expect stability from you, you can no longer expect it from them.

What this means is that people don’t expect to work for you forever. They’re less willing to jump through hoops to preserve their position at your company. They’ve adapted to change, and therefore feel more comfortable looking for fresh opportunities than they do staying loyal to your organization. This is part of the reason why the balance of power is swinging away from employers and toward employees.

However, you can counterbalance this by adapting to these changes as an organizational strategy. Re-focus your efforts on temporary employees. Offer flexibility and remote work opportunities for those who want those things (keep in mind that not everyone does).

It will take some figuring out, because every employee is different, as is every workplace. But with the right strategy, you can become the company that people go to rather than the one they leave in search of greener pastures.


Diversity can seem like a modern buzzword to some, but in reality its anything but. The evidence is overwhelming that diverse workplaces are healthier than those that lack diversity.

And once you start to imagine what a truly diverse workplace looks like, you start to see the appeal: People from various cultures and backgrounds come together and share their unique perspectives. This allows for personal growth among individuals, as well as unique sets of problem-solving skills for your company.

The Harvard Business Review did their own research on the topic, and they found that inclusive workplaces have higher levels of employee engagement. We should point out that this is referring to inclusion, which is a much deeper topic than simple diversity, so we recommend that you read the HBR article in full to get a better idea of what this means.

At the end of the day, diversity makes a difference. Diverse workplaces tend to be more productive and have higher rates of job satisfaction. Job seekers have figured this out long ago, and it’s something that they’re now expecting from their employers.

Continued growth opportunities

Some employees want to clock in, complete a list of rote duties, and then clock out. However, employees like these aren’t your top performers. The employees who really make a difference in your organization are usually the ones who seek constant growth.

Part of this is upward mobility. If an employee knows that their position is a dead-end career-wise, what motivation do they have to perform well? However, if there are opportunities to climb the ladder, your workers will put in the extra effort to try to stand out.

But this concept isn’t limited to ladder-climbing. For some, continued education is the key to a long and happy employment period. You should absolutely be rewarding these people with educational opportunities as often as you can. Not only does it make them happy, but it makes them better employees. If your employees want to learn and continue expanding their skillset, why would you ever want to deny them this?

By providing meaningful growth opportunities, you’re home-growing the skillsets that will make your company more successful. Don’t take this for granted.


Hopefully you can see by now that the workplace of 2021 has expectations that didn’t really exist a decade ago. However, with a clear idea of what those expectations are, you can be better prepared for fulfilling them.

If you’ve never considered any of this before, we hope this article can be the first step on an incredible journey.