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Libby Marks

Why Employee Preferences Are Important for Business Success

Respecting employee preferences delivers competitive advantage - we'll explain how, and help you get started on this journey to a happier, more motivated team.

The future of work is employee-focused: it’s all about unlocking the intrinsic motivation and potential of your people. 

Employee preferences play a huge part in that – from where and when people work, to how they’re recognized and rewarded. 

In this article, we’ve got everything you need to know to start putting employee preferences at the heart of your business strategy – so you can reap benefits like higher retention, more innovation, and better project outcomes.

What is the meaning of employee preference?

Employee preference means individuals’ preferred ways of working. It covers many different aspects of working life including place of work, working hours, assignments, training opportunities, recognition, benefits, and more – basically, anything someone can have an opinion about regarding their work. 

These individual employee preferences culminate in whether someone wants to work for you or not - the ultimate employee preference. 

This is why employee work preferences are moving up the agenda for forward-looking businesses. In a highly competitive talent landscape, understanding and catering to employee preferences can help:

  • Attract and retain talent
  • Create a positive employee experience
  • Increase engagement and employee satisfaction
  • Boost productivity and innovation

It’s all part of humanizing human resource management and making the working world a better place – for everyone’s advantage. 

Key areas of employee preference you need to know


Individuals have different preferences about where they work and organizations are increasingly offering more flexibility here – relaxing their requirement for on-site attendance and equipping people for ‘anywhere-productivity’. McKinsey reports office attendance is 30% lower than before the global pandemic

Remote work, working from home, and hybrid approaches offer people the chance to tailor their work location to their personal preferences – affording benefits such as lower commuting costs, better work-life balance, and enhanced focus and productivity. 

Working hours

Another relatively recent advancement has been the introduction of different working patterns – from compressed work weeks to fully flexible asynchronous working. Depending on personal commitments, employees may strongly prefer one approach over another. 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission reports that 84% of men and 91% of women would like flexible working conditions but only 9.8% of jobs are advertised as flexible. That’s a big gap between employee preferences and organizational behavior. 

Compensation and benefits

Money may be a primary motivator for one employee, while another may be more attracted to a generous pension scheme. Some staff might love your employee recognition program with discounts on leisure activities, but others might prefer an annual bonus. 

Recognizing different benefit preferences helps organizations optimize and tailor their compensation package, to make it more attractive. According to Qualtrics, employees who are satisfied with their pay and benefits are 13% more likely to stay with their employer for 3+ years.

Professional development

An obvious source of personal preference is professional development. People have different career aspirations and aligning these to workforce development needs is mutually beneficial. Personal circumstances may also dictate preferences over how individuals choose to learn - for example, day release, night classes, distance learning, apprenticeships, mentoring, etc.  

Work assignments

Employees often have distinct preferences regarding the tasks and projects they undertake. Allowing individuals to express their interests and strengths can boost engagement, job satisfaction, and autonomy at work. By aligning assignments with employees' passions, organizations tap into their intrinsic motivation – fostering higher commitment, productivity, and innovation. 

Corporate contribution 

Many employees have a strong preference for meaningful work and value-driven employers  – work and businesses that contribute to the greater good. Employers who demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility, sustainability, and making a positive impact on society can attract and retain employees who share similar values.

Why are employee work preferences important?

‘If you're able to take a step back and focus on aligning the work that you're doing with the passions and things that are intrinsically motivating to your staff, you'll get a higher quality organization, and probably a more profitable one as well.’ 

So says Tim Copeland, CEO of Runn, in an interview on the future of resource management. 

As an employer, Runn has consistently strived to respect employee work preferences and deliver outstanding flexibility and individual opportunity.

We’re proud to be a global remote-first team, offering flexible async working, self-directed learning, and a supportive culture.

Here are four reasons we think employee preferences are super important. (And why it’s not about being ‘woke at work’: it’s a strategic business decision that helps organizations reach their goals.)

Employees are more engaged and satisfied 

When businesses prioritize employee work preferences, they foster an environment where employees feel valued, heard, and respected. This leads to higher levels of employee engagement and satisfaction, resulting in improved productivity and outcomes, higher retention rates, and more. Flexibility also helps reduce employee burnout and associated costs.

Recruitment and retention is easier

It’s a tough talent market out there. Savvy businesses need to do everything they can to attract, recruit, and retain the best staff. Having a positive employer brand – being known to respond to employee preferences – can help you become an employer of choice. Plus, a high retention rate saves on the cost and disruption of unplanned turnover. 

Innovation and creativity increase

We all put more mental energy and enthusiasm into work we find interesting. Aligning employees’ opportunities to their interests can increase engagement and productivity. By harnessing this intrinsic motivation, firms benefit from higher creativity and innovation, which can deliver a competitive advantage. 

Diversity pays dividends

Removing artificial barriers to your business makes it more accessible and welcoming to different demographics. This attracts a more diverse talent pool. Research repeatedly shows that more diverse organizations perform better – through better decision-making, higher innovation, and the talent advantage.  

Responding to employee preferences: where to start

If you’re keen to begin building a more employee-responsive organization, but don’t know where to start, we have some guidance for you. 

1. Gather employee input 

The first step to recognizing employee work preferences is to understand what they are. An employee survey is a good place to start – plus evergreen feedback mechanisms through 121s, suggestion forms, focus groups, etc. 

Ask employees about their preferences regarding place of work, flexibility, recognition and benefits, work assignments, professional development, and more. This can give you an insight into individual and organization-wide opinions – such as home vs office, or sync vs async working. 

Make surveys an annual thing to capture changing preferences and current concerns, as well as the views of new employees.

2. Act on any intel

Remember, you need to be ready to act on the intel you collect – otherwise employees will lose faith in the process. If employees vote that they want to work from home, for instance, are you able to implement that change? Don’t raise expectations prematurely. 

Communicate the changes you’ve made – for example, via ‘you said, we did’ information – so that employees know you’ve taken their views on board. 

If a big change is needed, keep people informed about the steps you’re taking to implement it and when they can expect it to happen. If you can’t accommodate employee preferences, let them know why. Transparency in business can foster trust and loyalty. 

3. Involve people in assignment planning 

Passion can be the secret ingredient in successful projects – giving people the opportunity to work on things that really float their boat. It can lead to higher engagement, commitment, productivity, and innovation. On the flip side, disengaged employees can sink a project’s chance of success.

So it makes sense to give individuals a way to raise their hand for projects they’d like to work on. Establish a process that highlights forthcoming opportunities and gives people a way to volunteer to join particular projects. Consideration can then be given to this when assigning work. 

4. Make flexibility a strategy 

Flexibility is the crux of many employee preferences – where to work, when to work, how to work. So choosing to become a more flexible, people-centric employer is a savvy strategic choice – one that addresses numerous employee preferences at once. 

Certain restrictions that used to seem irrefutable – like presenteeism and inflexible hours – are no longer essential. Consider how you can relax any unnecessary restrictions on employees’ working arrangements. 

Understand and embed the value of strategic flexibility in the workplace in your business – from higher engagement and retention, to increased innovation and diversity. Ensure senior staff lead by example so that people don’t fear being penalized or judged for choosing flexible options. 

5. Prioritize personalization 

Our final tip is to make personalization a priority. Bespoke benefits packages shouldn’t just be for head-hunted hot-shots. Tailored training paths aren’t just for your ‘talented and gifted’ teammates. Reflecting personal preferences – in all elements of working life – can unlock everyone’s potential, motivation, and commitment. 

Consider areas where a more personalized approach can advance your organization’s objectives. For example, praise and recognition preferences. Would someone prefer a private pat on the back or public recognition in a team meeting? Even a small recognition of personal preferences can make a big difference. 

Resource management and employee preferences

If you have a project-based business or professional services firm, you’ll be actively engaged in resource scheduling and allocation. This is an amazing opportunity to recognize and reflect employee work preferences. 

Project work is the perfect way to offer people assignments that 

  • Align with their personal passions
  • Develop skills that align with their professional ambitions
  • Bring out their intrinsic motivation and best self 

It’s something we’re hearing a lot from our clients – who use Runn to plan projects and allocate the ideal resources – as our COO Nicole explains:

‘Clients talk a lot more about interests and passions - bringing that into the mix as well. So not just about the skills someone has but their interests too.

For example, you might get a project that’s a new website build for a big guitar manufacturer. And you have two engineers: one who’s highly skilled in terms of actual implementation, and someone who's less adept but very, very passionate about playing the guitar in their spare time…The second person might be the better choice because they will be bringing so much more into that project for the long term.’

Want to learn more about how embracing employee preferences can bring the best out of resource management? Hop on over to our on-demand webinar ➡️ What We’ve Learned for Conversations with 1,000 Resource Managers

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