A study across six nations by communications company BCW, in partnership with Workplace from Facebook, found that the pandemic has shifted power dynamics at work, with employees emboldened to demand change.
More than half (55%) feel empowered to change their company’s culture; most (59%) feel they can change their work experience; and over half (54%) think they can change their company’s business strategy.
Sophie Forrest of ForrestHR told HR magazine that the pandemic had shifted office power dynamics in favour of younger and more mobile workers.
She said: “It’s perhaps not surprising that millennials feel more empowered, as they have grown up with social media and online chats as ways of staying connected.
“Particularly in smaller businesses, younger staff possibly helped deliver the nimble solutions needed to stay digitally connected with colleagues and customers,” she added.
A substantial force behind the shift in power has been the record number of vacancies - over one million in the UK - which plays part of the current talent shortage.
For HR, this has presented particular difficulties in recruitment and retention.
One in five workers (21%) of ‘generation Z’ and one in six millennials (18%) reported that they planned on leaving their company if their expectations of leadership (or of the lived work experience) were not met.
Forrest said: “This is a timely warning to organisations considering a ‘my way or the highway’ approach.”
But empowered employees could offer new opportunity to HR, she argued.
“HR professionals and employers who are willing to work with this new empowerment can leverage it positively to create organisations in which staff are more involved and motivated, given opportunities to share their ideas and expertise organically and fluidly, rather than hierarchically, and able to enjoy better work/life balance.”
Many employers are adapting to this new mode of business.
Most (59%) workers reported that their leaders were listening to feedback, and the same number (59%) said their work experience had improved over the past year.
The change most sought after by employees, even now as society opens up from COVID, was the introduction of flexible hours or a hybrid work environment, wanted by two-thirds (67%) of workers.
A Flexible Working Bill is currently at the second reading stage in the House of Commons, with cross-party support, yet it is uncertain when the bill will make it through parliament. The bill would give employees the right to work flexibly from their first day of employment.