If you haven’t read the recent Return on Action Report from Atlassian and PWC Australia, here’s what you need to know:

“Employees expect more. The world expects more. And the consequences of inaction are very real.”

That’s a lot. And my guess is you probably already know this and feel it.

There’s been a lot of industry talk recently about salary expectations and the talent crunch we face.

There are also whispers of recruiters seeing a jump in people leaving within their probation period or not long after. This is because people are landing somewhere for a higher salary - then realising there’s not much more on offer. Looking at this in isolation, it can be easy to blame unrealistic salary expectations, but from my experience, there’s more to it than pay.

Don’t get me wrong – pay people what they’re worth in market, so it takes it off the table. But if it’s the only thing you offer, you’ll face a continual cycle of short-term retention and a race to the top of the salary bracket – and that’s not good for any of us. Understand the other motivators that exist and when the shine of the dollar wears off, people will look up and around and realise they can feel more valued elsewhere.

There have never been higher expectations on the role work plays in our lives and what that means for culture and leadership.

In my experience, a carefully considered combination of competitive salary, career development and ways of working have supported longer retention and engagement of people.

Practically, it looks like this:

Relate; don’t reminisce.

Please never say, “In my day, we used to…”.

Reminiscing is nice, but those days are done. The second you say this to someone who wasn’t around ‘then’ you’re essentially saying, “I don’t understand you, and I definitely can’t relate to you.”

Every workforce generation has something to teach the next. I think we can get more curious about what the new workforce generation can teach us. I’m often in awe of the work ethic, commitment to a balanced life, love of learning, and vulnerable honesty of the Gen Zs I’ve worked with. When we open ourselves to genuinely listening to others’ perspectives with the aim of learning, we know what it does for more inclusive and diverse thinking and leadership at work.

Get comfortable with learning on the job.

Great things happen when we walk into work and openly say we’re learning.

What we’re saying is, “Hey, we’re not the experts, but we’re open to listening and trying new things to find better ways.”

When you can overcome perfectionist tendencies and not restrict yourself to the most perfectly thought-through answer, you open yourself and your team to many possibilities and ways to shape culture.

No one is the expert in this new world of work that’s evolving day by day. We’re trying things and making mistakes along the way – but at least we’re trying because the alternative is getting out of the way or getting left behind.

More conversation and more action.

We know that no one is just settling for a job anymore. Work isn’t just about exchanging some effort or skills for a salary.

Just as we’re refusing to compartmentalise work and life, we no longer compartmentalise our beliefs, values, and where we find meaning in the things we do.

Because of this, people want to be heard. They want to come to work and better their work community and culture, they want to be involved in decisions around how change happens, they want to give you their feedback and know that at the very least, something will happen with it, or even better, help make the change they want to see.

I think it’s a positive shift in the way we lead. Remove the noise, act on what people care most about, and get people involved to co-create those initiatives. It’s led to greater alignment on how work happens and how we operate. That's why we've chosen to undertake an Unlimited Leave experiment, having listened to what our team values most around flexibility and choice, knowing how this impacts their wellbeing, energy, and the work outcomes they deliver.

If you think about it, taking these steps helps us take control of our expectations and change priorities, and it’s freeing to admit we don’t have all the answers. Sure, this modern world of work requires some agility but taking a learning mindset into it makes it a lot more fun to navigate. So, let’s learn as we go, share our mistakes, try to change work for the better for us all and check in with the forward-thinking perspective of our new workforce generation. A valued workplace is far more than a pay cheque – and far more sustainable.