Is your organization positioned to thrive as the future of work takes shape in the months and years ahead? While some businesses will move ahead with “return to office” plans for 2022, others are taking a serious look at remote and hybrid structures as the “new normal” for their talent base and making cultural adaptations to keep their people engaged.
For the past year, we’ve been examining the cultural traits of successful companies and the practices they’ve put in place to address the business and cultural transformation that’s taking place in today’s digital workforce. Here’s a look at some of the best employee engagement ideas from 2021 to help you gain a competitive edge in the new talent game.
Organizations that win the talent game tend to focus energy in three main areas
1. Everyone is clear about the company culture and their part in it.
Organizations that consistently attract and retain top talent know that culture is more than just a slogan. They actively pursue clarity about their shared sense of purpose – the “why” behind their work – and how employees treat each other and the company’s customers.
2. Internal communication is a two-way street and leaders are expert listeners.
Employees are more likely to invest discretionary effort when they feel heard and connected. High-engagement organizations invest in internal communication and make sure that leaders have open and honest conversations about quality-of-life issues in the workplace.
3. Reward and recognition systems are fully aligned with company goals and values.
As competition for top talent heats up, business leaders are getting more creative about the total rewards they offer. Public recognition helps to build inclusivity among remote team members. Service bonuses and equity participation programs help to boost retention.
While COVID-19 triggered a major shift in work-from-home dynamics in 2020 and 2021, the pandemic hasn’t been the only factor influencing emerging company culture trends. There has been media buzz about a labor phenomenon called “the great resignation” along with public calls for higher wages, better benefits, and more flexible, people-centered working conditions.
For these and other socioeconomic reasons, business leaders are starting to question old assumptions about the traditional nine-to-five workplace that evolved decades before the two-income family. It turns out that many kinds of workers can be just as productive at home (or in a different city or state) as they can in a company office.
Conversations about culture should include not only clear definitions of shared values, but also an open dialog about hub, remote, or hybrid work structures that balance employee needs with company viability. For businesses that operate in multiple offices or regions, it’s more important than ever to focus on connection and inclusion with programs that give remote and regional workers a sense of identity and belonging within the larger organization.
Effective internal communications demand a two-way conversation. It takes more than a single executive email or video clip to build engagement. Today’s business leaders need to listen actively at all levels of the organization and constantly test for adoption of key messages through 1:1 meetings, surveys, and live or virtual Q&A fireside chat gatherings.
Consistent repetition is another critical success factor. Employees need to hear and see multiple versions of a message, ideally through multiple channels, before a concept sinks in. In addition, active listening cycles are not complete until employees get regular, fact-based progress reports on how leadership is responding to their feedback and improvement ideas.
Competitive wages are certainly an important recruiting and retention factor, but along with the other cultural transformations we’ve covered here, there’s more to total compensation than just a paycheck and garden variety benefits. Employees need to know that their work has meaning and that what they do has an impact on the success of the organization.
Innovative companies are experimenting with more substantive kinds of recognition and benefits once reserved only for upper management echelons in order to keep top talent. Some of these include leadership development, tuition support for advanced degrees and professional certifications, and expanded types of equity sharing and Employee Stock Ownership Programs.
In addition to the direct benefits to employees, these kinds of arrangements can be mutually beneficial. The way these programs are documented and administered can also help with important ownership matters like succession planning, tax planning, or positioning for future merger and acquisition plays.
The future of work: the big picture
Success in any of these three major conceptual areas requires advanced listening skills on the part of your leadership team. As we continue to watch the evolving impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on work norms, it’s important to take the other recruitment and retention variables we’ve examined here into consideration. Balancing the human needs of remote and office-based workers will continue to be an advanced executive skill in 2022 and beyond.
Recruiting and retention can have a big influence on the overall health and profitability of your business. We can help you evaluate and optimize the staffing considerations that have the most impact on your key performance metrics. Contact us today to learn more.