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After years of intense change, employee goals have changed too.

July 14, 2022 - 6 min read

Employee coaching goals have shifted

 

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted and reshaped life as we knew it, and the resulting changes are evident practically everywhere—especially at work. We’ve seen it in the Great Resignation, the move to permanent hybrid and remote workplaces, and a need for clearer boundaries between work and home life.

But it’s not just team leaders and executives who are learning to adapt to a new era of work. BetterUp member data shows that employees are also adjusting, and their top goals and concerns have changed since the pandemic. Employers have a greater chance of retaining workers and supporting their best work if they learn how those goals have shifted and help workers reach a sense of alignment between their goals and their work life.


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Today's workers are prioritizing well-being over professional success

To better understand how employees’ goals and concerns are changing, we partnered with ICONIQ to analyze data from the initial coaching conversations of more than 100,000 BetterUp members between 2019 and 2021. During that time, we found that the goals employees wanted to talk about with their coaches shifted from strictly professional success to more holistic topics that involved well-being. 

In particular, goals focused on career advancement, strategic planning, and influence decreased throughout the pandemic, while goals focused on work/life balance, purpose and passion grew more common.

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Improved well-being leads to better work

At first blush, this data might make a manager wary. After all, an employee who’s more interested in work/life balance and less interested in career advancement could be checked out and disengaged with their work. But in reality, shifting priorities don’t necessarily spell bad news for employers.

The pandemic prompted a reassessment of practically everything, from systemic support to what we as individuals want and value most in our lives. So, it’s little wonder how workers came to reassess what they want and need from their jobs. With greater clarity about what’s most important, and the support they need from their workplaces, workers may be able to achieve the well-being that helps them do great work—and protect against burnout at the same time.

There are some important steps employers can take to help workers feel supported and help them stay invested in their work while also achieving their goals—whether personal or professional.

  1. Foster sense of purpose. Mass tragedy, like a global pandemic or gun violence, sometimes has a crystalizing effect, reminding us that our time is finite and precious. You can help employees feel more connected to their work and more purpose-driven by talking often about your organization’s or team’s collective mission and what they’re working to achieve. Track the results and share your employees’ impact with them, so they know their work is meaningful. Celebrate their wins and express gratitude often, so employees know their work is valued.
  2. Develop strong relationships with each individual. Regularly take time to get to know your employees, and make an effort to learn about their values and passions. Encourage them to think about their long-term goals by creating a five-year plan. Once you know what their values and goals are, try to assign them work that aligns with their interests. 
  3. Encourage work/life balance and model good boundaries. Working around the clock is an easy trap to fall into when you work from home or in a hybrid setting—and it’s often a quick path to burnout. Make sure your employees know that it’s okay to log off and stop checking email when their day is done. Encourage them to use their vacation time or personal days, and to have hobbies and pursuits outside of work that help them feel balanced and fulfilled.
  4. Prioritize well-being. Healthy, happy employees tend to do better work, and they’re less likely to fall ill, burn out, suffer from absenteeism, or otherwise languish. You can build a culture that emphasizes wellness by talking to your employees about well-being practices. This can include talking about the importance of self-care, such as good sleep habits, healthy eating, regular exercise, and mindfulness practices. 
  5. Balance workloads. Check in with your employees often to gauge how they’re doing with their current tasks and how they’re feeling. Promote psychological safety, so that employees can openly share when they’re struggling—whether personally or professionally. If employees can be candid with you when they encounter a problem, you’ll be better able to lend support. When an employee feels stretched thin, consider how you can lighten their load, move deadlines, or redistribute the work to reduce stress.   

The data suggest that after the intense challenges of living and working through a pandemic, many workers are reassessing across the board. They’re considering what’s most important, what they really want out of their lives and careers, and what they can do to live in alignment with their values and goals.  

For employers who meet workers with a desire to understand and support, there’s a significant opportunity to strengthen organizations and help cultivate a healthier workforce. Workers who feel more aligned to their values are less likely to jump ship and more likely to do their best work. And happier, more resilient employees are more creative, more productive, and less likely to burn out.

Workplaces and the role of work in our lives are evolving. But employers who remain open, curious, and compassionate throughout these changes stand to get the best from their employees.

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Published July 14, 2022

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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