Get Ready for the Activist Employee

Photo credit: iStockphoto/DisobeyArt

As 59% of global employees quarantine themselves or stay at home, their expectations of their employers are shifting.  

According to the 2020 Employee Expectations report by Peakon, environment, flexible working, wellbeing and diversity and inclusion are key issues that affect their opinion of their employers.

Climate action
The report notes that comments about environmental issues increased by 52% globally in 2019 (year-on-year). Plasticsingle-use and carbon footprint were among the most prevalent topics employees discussed. 2019 also marked the first time that Greta Thunberg was mentioned in employee survey responses.

By sector, manufacturing employees were the most vocal on climate change in the past year, with a 595%-increase in environment-related terms year-on-year. They were followed by the Consumer industry (up 106%) and Professional Services (up 79%). The spike in environment-related comments among manufacturing employees also saw one of the least vocal sectors on the topic in 2018 to one of the most in 2019. 

Gen Z were most concerned about the environment, up by 128% compared to the previous year. Millennials and Baby Boomers with 62% and 59% increase came a distant second and third, respectively.

Australian and New Zealand employees both saw nearly 220% increases in discussion about climate action between 2018 and 2019. This spike was more than double the growth seen in the U.K. (85% increase), and almost five times that in Germany. However, employees in Germany still commented the most on climate change overall.

Flexible working 
It is easy to see why WHF and flexible work hours are trends. In fact, before COVID-19, employee comments already saw a 18% (YoY) increase in flexible working-related terms.

Gen Z employees were most concerned about flexible working, a 36% increase compared to the previous year. Millennials weren't far behind them with 34% growth.

Employee discussion on flexible working grew 52% in the Transportation sector, while employees in the U.K. and Germany are the most vocal about flexible working.


Mentions of wellbeing-related topics in survey comments have increased by 17% (YoY). Comments on wellbeing were the most among Gen Z employees, growing by 28% from the previous year.

Discussion on wellbeing increased by 51% in the Finance sector, while New Zealand employees saw their comments increase the most 37%.

Diversity and Inclusion 

The report found a 19% increase in diversity and inclusion-related terms in employee comments. This included terms such as 'POC' (stands for people of color), 'race' and 'minority' rising in prevalence.

Mentions of Diversity and Inclusion increased by 31% among Silent Generation employees. Age, bullied and discrimination were some of the highest-ranking terms they mentioned.

The education sector saw mentions of Diversity and Inclusion grow the most by 43%. Denmark employees are the most vocal about Diversity and Inclusion overall; this topic rose in prevalence in New Zealand over the past year, with a 44% increase in mentions.

Peakon noted that Businesses that don't keep pace with these evolving trends will fail to connect with their most critical audience—their current and future employees.

“As employees, we often think about what companies expect from us. But we also need to be clear about what we expect from our employers. Amid spiralling employee expectations, it is vital that organisations listen to employee feedback on a regular basis. Only then can they understand and meet their teams' expectations, before employees look for new opportunities elsewhere,” says Phil Chambers, cofounder and chief executive officer at Peakon.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/DisobeyArt