As we move into the last quarter of 2017, it continues to be an exciting—yet challenging—time for human capital leaders.

By now, it should be clear that the old way of working just doesn’t cut it for your employees. They want more—more feedback, more learning opportunities, more touch-points with their managers, more recognition for what they do, and more connection to what their organization is doing. Employees want the “customer experience” and feel their time and effort is just as important.

What’s more, business leaders know they need strong talent to help them push their organizations forward. Consider one of PwC’s 20th annual CEO report headlines: “In the age of the machine, people matter more than ever.” Smart business leaders know that it’s the people that work for them that make their company successful and understand that it’s crucial to create an environment where employees can thrive.

However, just as predicted in Bersin by Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends research report, companies are struggling with finding the balance between meeting the business needs and creating a workplace that meets the new expectations of employees. Research has shown that employee engagement is a key factor in business success but we also know increases in employee engagement have been sluggish at best over the last decade.

It’s easy to say, “Have a great culture! Have great leaders! Set SMART goals! Provide learning! Use technology!” But how to do this effectively seems to elude us. How can we meet the needs of people and the business?

Here is some advice that I’ve learned through my own experiences and from some really smart, talented leaders who have shared their knowledge with me.

Make It About People

First, we need to understand just what it is employees want. Consider this: a survey of 2,000 U.K. smartphone users by Tecmark found that users carry out 221 tasks per day on their smartphone, compared to 140 tasks on their desktop or laptop.

It’s really not that surprising, though. For today’s workforce, technology and being constantly connected is second nature. Getting a ride, finding a hotel, connecting with a friend, creating a grocery list—there’s an app for almost everything in life. People are looking for the same finger-tip, consumer-centric service and connectivity at work. Employees eat up collaborative technology for projects within teams and performance management apps.

There have been major advancements to HR technology to bring mobile functionality to the workforce, but it seems that organizations struggle to roll out this new tech. According to Brandon Hall Group’s 2017 Learning Technology Study, nearly two-thirds of companies don’t have a technology strategy or if they do, it’s poorly defined.

Employees have recognized that adopting these types of collaborative technology helps improve process, allows remote workers to work better with the organization, and enables teams to make decisions faster and get more done. When we see results like this, it shows that employees are clearly willing and want to adopt technology that can help them be more productive and better at their jobs. If companies are uncertain, ask employees what technology would help them with their jobs and if they’d use certain tools. This will make roll out and uptake rates better.

Recognize All Forms of Learning

According to Gallup’s State of the American Manger report, people who get the opportunity to continually develop are twice as likely as those on the other end of the scale to say they will spend their career with their company.

Employers can really step up here and help plan for their future by embracing the bring-your-own-learning style of development their people are already doing. (There’s a reason why we all “Google it.”) The next step is to recognize and reward employees for their effort by tracking the learning activities they’re already doing on their own time—that they aren’t getting recognition for—alongside formal learning. This will create incentive for them to keep learning in all of the ways that they’re already doing, without asking them to do more than what’s happening naturally.

Capture the Complete Picture With Regular Feedback

Employees want feedback—good and bad. A SHRM study discovered 55 percent of employees felt that recognition from their supervisor about their performance at work was very important to job satisfaction.

When someone hits a project out of the park or, alternatively, under performs, real-time feedback will help them understand what is working, and what isn’t. People who have regular meetings with their managers are likely to be more engaged, compared to those who don’t. And employees that are more engaged are also more productive.

Outside of that, regular feedback helps in other ways as well:

  • It clarifies expectations.
  • It helps managers understand career aspirations and training needs.
  • It can help prevent performance issues.

And it’s not just positive feedback that inspires employees, constructive feedback is just as helpful. The majority of people say that they’d be better at their jobs if their manager gave them corrective feedback. Sure, it’s not always easy to give, but knowing employees appreciate it does lessen the angst.

All said, the flow of business might not allow for a scheduled sit down every week, but feedback can be given in a variety of ways. Face-to-face is best if you are giving less-than-glowing remarks, but immediate feedback delivered by email or a mobile app that gives specific feedback about the person’s behavior in a meeting or on a call or on a project can count for a lot.

We need to find a balance between the two extremes—a quick message is great, but it can’t substitute or replace face-to-face time. And face-to-face time shouldn’t just be reserved for the delivery of bad news either. There is no easy answer here, and managers and employees need to work together to find a solution that works—and makes sense—for them.

Surpass Employee Expectations

Employees want to succeed, and we want to provide them with the right opportunities to grow and develop. At the same time, we want our businesses to succeed too. We want to help make customers happier and our products and services better. The challenge has always been meeting these needs at the same time.

Finding the balance between business needs and satisfying employee expectations is critical. Once organizations get it right, it creates a space for employees to do their best work and for businesses to deliver the best to their clients. Everybody wins.

Your turn: I’d love to hear what you’re doing to meet the expectations of your people. Please leave a comment!