The workplace has changed. Things that were rarely an issue in years past -- such as how your company's management handles political or social issues -- have become major topics of discussion.

Those changes have pushed accountability to second on this year's Workforce Mindset Study, up from eighth in 2015. The new report from Alight Solutions shows the top characteristics of workers' desired employee experience. It also shows how things have changed in today's highly-charged political climate.

Three people working in an office

Listen to what your employees want. Image source: Getty Images.

"2018 was a year when political divides, privacy concerns, and corporate accountability dominated the media," the report says. In fact, many companies took very public stands on social issues, wrote authors of the report. "Workers want their companies to be ethical and honest, and they themselves want to be treated fairly and respectfully."

What do workers want?

Workers have more leverage today than they have had traditionally, thanks in part to the tight labor market. That means it's important for employers to understand what employees want their workplace experience to be like. Not every employer is paying attention and following through, though, because only 38% of the survey's 2,500 respondents rated their workplace experience as "awesome or great," while 30% said their overall experience was "below expectations."

Listening to what employees want can help employers create a work environment that employees will look forward to being part of. This kind of support improves retention and recruiting, which have become critical in the current competitive market for employees. Working on the top-ten workplace characteristics that employees really want can help with filling positions and keeping strong employees. Here they are:

  1. Balanced (home/work)

  2. Accountable

  3. Honest

  4. Continuously improving

  5. Ethical

  1. Employee recognition-oriented

  2. Compassionate

  3. Respectful

  4. Trustworthy

  5. Fair, having integrity (tie)

You can see a recurring theme here. Workers want an employer they can be proud of. Eight out the 10 answers on this list refer to how the employer behaves, and you could argue that the two that don't --"balanced (home/work)" and "employee recognition-oriented" -- speak to corporate attitude more indirectly.

When it comes to the top answer, "balanced (work/home)," workers surveyed said they value flexibility. That means different things to different workers, but respondents cited things like flexible schedules, the ability to work from home, and the ability to take on different tasks on occasion.

"Employees desire flexibility to such a degree that 51% say they would not even consider a job that provides less flexibility than what they have today," wrote the report's authors. "Those who would consider a job with less flexibility say it would take, on average, a 31% pay increase to make up for the flexibility loss."

What should employers do?

If your employees want accountability and demand a certain type of behavior, it's reasonable to deliver that. But of course it's not always easy. Some employees may want their company to take a political stand, while others may be against that or hope for a different stand.

Ini light of these results, employers should strive to be as transparent as possible. Communicate with workers and solicit their opinions. You may not be able to please everyone, but you can at least hear the employees who disagree with what management is doing or open the floor to new ideas. It may not be enough to keep everyone happy, but it's much better than operating behind closed doors and not looping workers into what the company plans to do, and why.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.