Last year, millions of Americans left their jobs in what was coined The Great Resignation, The Great Reshuffle, or The Big Quit. With this mass exodus of workers expected to persist well into 2022 and beyond, engaging employees has never been more business-critical.
Engaged employees care about their work and the performance of the company, and feel that their efforts make a difference. Unfortunately, 85% of employees are currently disengaged at work. Engagement efforts that succeeded in the past are no longer as effective due to the pandemic changing employee expectations. Employees today want more flexibility, autonomy, balance, and fulfillment. As such, those businesses that shift their focus from profit to people, from productivity to prosperity will do a better job of attracting and retaining talent during a time when competition for top talent grows fiercer by the day.
To succeed in 2022, companies must take a more holistic approach to employee engagement. Let’s explore four key strategies…
1. Design company culture with intention
Company culture is the engine that powers a company’s success. And with remote and hybrid work here to stay, a strong culture is more important than ever for uniting, inspiring, and guiding distributed teams towards a true north.
Culture is the single greatest reason why people leave a job. Workers are ten times more likely to leave due to a toxic culture than low pay. But because employers often assume that employees care more about transactional factors than culture, they may offer a slew of benefits like bonus checks and extra time off in an attempt to retain employees. Most often, what many employees really want is a healthy, energizing culture: one where work-life balance, shared values, and the ability to produce great work are prioritized above all else.
Intentionally designing a strong and effective culture requires listening to employees to gain an understanding of what they really want, and taking meaningful action to build a work environment where people thrive. Now is the time for leaders to look beyond a transactional employee-employer relationship and double down on fostering a sense of purpose, belonging, and connection for employees. In 2022, culture is king.
2. Shift to distinct and actionable core values
Core values are the bedrock of company culture. And when corporate values align with an employee’s personal values, they are five times more likely to be engaged.
But broad and generic values don’t engage employees or build culture. Basic ideals such as “integrity” and “teamwork” don’t always excite employees, shape mindsets, or guide decisions. They are obvious principles you would expect from any company. Values work best when they go beyond commonly-held and universally-embraced beliefs. They should reflect intentional choices for employees and leaders to make — choices that demonstrate what a company’s unique culture is all about.
To curate an effective culture and engage employees, companies must approach values as a strategic exercise, identifying distinct and specific actions that will shape the desired culture over time. Take Zappos’ and WeWork’s values for example — they are original, descriptive, and meaningful. They embody what’s special about working there and clearly state behaviors expected of employees. This is the foundation on which a strong culture is built.
In times of uncertainty, leaning into values can create a sense of stability and trust, which are key drivers of employee engagement. But if your company is like most, its values may have shifted during the pandemic as its team adapted to new ways of working together. Consider: are your values overdue for a refresh?
3. Prioritize employee well-being
Many employees across industries are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and overworked at unprecedented levels. More than 50% of the workforce experienced burnout in 2021. Unsurprisingly, an authentic concern for employee well-being is now one of the top three considerations for job seekers across generations. For millennials and Generation Z, it’s number one.
Following a widespread shift to remote work, studies have found that blurred work-life boundaries and an inability to disconnect from the office are among the greatest contributors to mental stress and burnout in the workplace. Unfortunately, that’s something that group mediation and access to wellness apps won’t fix. In order to truly prioritize employee well-being, companies must think beyond band-aid wellness benefits and instead give employees more of what they want: time.
By reinstating better work-life boundaries and offering flexible work policies, companies can help restore employees’ mental and physical well-being, allowing them to be more present, resilient, and engaged at work.
4 . Communicate ESG progress
The pandemic sparked a heightened interest in ESG. Now more than ever, many employees want to work for a company that positively impacts people and the planet. In fact, 71% of job seekers say that sustainable companies are more attractive employers.
But promoting a vague commitment to “corporate citizenship” or “sustainability” is no longer enough. Employees want to see their companies walk the talk and drive meaningful action and results. This is particularly true when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The 2020 social injustice movement inspired companies to set promising DEI goals, but employees were ultimately disappointed in the lack of progress made in 2021. Just 24% of employees reported significant change within their organizations.
In 2022, shifting the focus from good intentions to tangible impact is key to engaging employees around ESG. This requires taking a stance on important topics, investing time and resources in the most impactful initiatives, and maintaining transparency about the work still to be done. In the end, companies that can demonstrate real progress in terms of ESG and DEI will have an advantage in the war for top talent.
Ready to reinvigorate your company culture and engage employees? Contact thinkPARALLAX to discuss how we can elevate your employee engagement efforts in 2022 and beyond.