Employee engagement has always been a critical aspect of any business’s success, but in 2022, it’s taken on a whole new meaning.
As The Great Resignation continues to show us, employees are demanding more from their employers than ever before, and only the companies who are listening are thriving.
But rather than looking at this as a dark omen for your bottom line, business leaders should instead focus on re-engaging employees and building a resilient culture capable of withstanding challenges.
Unfortunately, we need to make these changes while The Great Resignation continues today. According to a poll by Gallup, 48% of America’s working population is actively job searching or watching for opportunities.
Furthermore, 40% of employees plan to leave their current jobs in three to six months, according to research by Microsoft.
With numbers this staggering, it begs the question: why are so many people quitting? According to an article written for the MIT Sloan Management Review, the top five reasons people left their jobs in 2021 were toxic culture, job insecurity/reorganization, innovation-driven burnout, failure to recognize performance, and poor response to Covid-19.
Interestingly, out of these five reasons, three are related to workplace culture.
While these may not have been the responses 10, or even five, years ago, we can’t deny the world today is not the same as it was then. We’ve faced a global pandemic, rising mental health concerns, and corporate burnout at an all-time high.
Furthermore, we now have Gen Z entering the workforce with differing values and priorities than previous generations. In truth, corporate culture was due for an update and The Great Resignation is just the proof.
Considering all this, what can organizations do to connect and engage workers, and build a thriving culture during a time when everyone seems to want to leave?
Building a Culture of Recognition
Research now supports what HR leaders have known: engaged employees are less likely to quit. In fact, some studies show that engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their job than disengaged employees.
During a time when voluntary turnover is at a record high, this isn’t a statistic to overlook. Engaged employees are the key to building a thriving company culture that lasts.
One way to improve employee engagement is through employee recognition. According to a study by Quantum Workplace, when employees believe they’ll be recognized for their work, they’re 2.7 times more likely to be highly engaged.
Furthermore, research from Forbes has found that companies scoring in the top 20% for their culture of recognition had turnover rates 31% lower. Conversely, according to a study by OGO, 82% of American professionals feel that they aren’t adequately recognized for their contributions.
This discrepancy shows us employees are craving recognition, but they aren’t getting enough of it. It’s understandable – managers have full plates and oftentimes recognition falls off the to-do list. Or maybe managers simply don’t know how to best recognize their employees in a way that resonates.
This is where a recognition program, especially one with a peer-to-peer element, can help.
An online recognition platform streamlines what actions to recognize and when. It allows managers and leaders to publicly celebrate employees’ contributions, but it also encourages peers to recognize each other.
This helps give employees ownership in the process and can even highlight some unsung heroes on the team who may have been overlooked in the past.
Furthermore, with over half of US employees working remotely, an online recognition platform allows in-office and remote workers to always stay connected. This is critical for building community regardless of where people physically work.
Building Employee Engagement with Wellness
Over the past two years, we’ve become all-too-well acquainted with the cost of taking sick days. Aside from the obvious physical toll, it slows productivity, disrupts communication, and can halt projects in their tracks. Not to mention the strain chronic illness puts on rising health care costs.
It’s not a groundbreaking concept that healthy employees save companies money in more ways than one.
But what may be a new concept for many organizations is mental wellness.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates depression causes 200 million lost workdays each year, at a cost of $17 to $44 billion to employers. Meanwhile, the WHO reported a 25% worldwide increase in anxiety and depression in March of 2022. Furthermore, a 2021 study from Indeed found that 52% of workers say they're feeling burned out.
The data shows what many of us already know: Our employees are struggling.
So, what can employers do to combat this? For starters, offer a comprehensive wellness program. While many companies have a physical wellness program in place, research shows these programs don’t hold significant weight when it comes to a return on investment.
Creating A Comprehensive Wellness Program
Instead, a comprehensive wellness program should encompass physical and mental wellness, while also being inclusive, measurable, motivating, and rewarding.
Successful wellness programs engage a wide audience. This means your program must be accessible to everyone in your company no matter how they move, where they are, what equipment they have access to, or what level their starting point is.
Think in terms of the lowest common denominator; people who run marathons, play sports, or do Crossfit 6 days a week are going to engage in their physical fitness regardless of a corporate wellness program.Instead, focus on engaging the people who wouldn’t otherwise begin their fitness journey.
Perhaps they’re intimidated by the gym, don’t know where to start, or have limited access. Thinking through an inclusive lens allows you to drive engagement through your entire population.
“That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.” Pearson’s Law demonstrates the importance of measuring and tracking.
If you don’t know where you started, how will you know if you’ve moved the needle?Oftentimes, data and reporting is also critical to prove ROI to leadership and continue to secure budget for wellbeing programs.
It’s important that your program motivates your team without overwhelming them. To do this, start short and simple. Think: a four-week movement or meditation challenge.
Also consider encouraging people to join teams. This will help with accountability while also increasing morale.We know that what motivates one person doesn’t work for everyone.
This is where gamification can help engage a wide audience. Approaching motivation from a few angles will improve long-term engagement.
These programs should be rewarding to those who participate. Recognize noteworthy employees either on a recognition platform, or in person (or both).
Encourage team members to recognize each other for achieving personal goals or staying consistent in their efforts. And don’t forget to announce challenge winners to the company.
People want to be recognized for their hard work, whether it’s a work project or a wellness win.
Start Building Employee Engagement Today
While recognition and wellness programs are great ways to improve employee engagement and build community, effective programs can take time to gain momentum. In the meantime, there are things you can start today to help bring positive change.
Teambuilding may bring back memories of elementary school for some, but it’s a concept that shouldn’t be left in the past. Teambuilding helps foster camaraderie, trust, and engagement – critical aspects of any successful team.
In fact, research has found organizations that promote collaboration and communication are 4.5 times less likely to lose their best employees.
But what used to be as simple as a regular get-together outside of the office, is less straightforward in a world of hybrid and remote work. So, what can companies do to build trust and engagement amongst hybrid teams?
First of all, you need to start with your lowest common denominator. If one person on your team is remote and the rest is in the office, your activities still need to be remote-friendly. Video chats will be your best asset here.
Consider having a virtual team dinner. Send your team a gift card for a food delivery service, like Doordash or Uber Eats. Have your team order their food to their home and enjoy together over Zoom.
This will give you the opportunity to discuss each person’s favorite foods, best local restaurants, and what possibly open people up to new cuisines.
Additionally, you can play a game virtually too. Try trivia, Pictionary, or a discussion game like Two Truths and a Lie. These are great ways to get to know the team as people instead of just coworkers.
The onboarding process can set the tone for an employee’s experience at a new company, for better or worse. In fact, according to a study by SHRM, 25% of a company’s new hires leave within a year if the onboarding experience was poor.
Why not take the opportunity to make this experience beneficial to everyone involved?
When it comes to building an onboarding process, start with establishing your goals and priorities. Chances are, reviewing the employee handbook isn’t the most critical aspect of your onboarding experience, so don’t focus there.
Instead, consider focusing on integrating your new hire into your company’s culture and empowering them to see a future with your company.
One way to do this is with a 90-day mentor or sponsor. Pairing a new hire with a seasoned employee will provide the new person with a built-in resource for questions and guidance.
As an added bonus, the more experienced person may gain a new perspective and be able to spot areas where the company could improve. Seeing a happy, successful tenured employee can also provide your new hire with a vision for a future with your company.
Additionally, don’t wait to get your new hire in meetings and participating in projects. While paperwork is necessary, human interaction is what builds trust and engagement for new employees.
Set up meet-and-greet meetings for new hires to get introduced to key people. This will help clearly identify roles and responsibilities early, while building relationships.
Lastly, don’t abandon your new hire too early. Studies suggest that longer onboarding programs are associated with stronger talent and higher employee engagement. It’s important that onboarding guides your new hire beyond the first week and instead ensures they feel confident and connected at their new job.
When it comes down to it, asking your employees what they want is the simplest way to improve employee satisfaction. You’ll never actually know what their experience is like until you ask. This is where surveys can be an impactful tool.
Consider sending surveys regarding culture, job satisfaction, and general suggestions. These can be anonymous or named, depending on the topic.
Keep in mind, anonymous responses will typically be more honest, so consider what information you’re truly trying to gather with your survey.
Also consider sending surveys regularly. Annually may be often enough, but it may be a better fit to send surveys twice a year or even quarterly. Just be careful to avoid sending too frequently and risk losing participation.
You may also be tempted to avoid sending surveys during difficult times, like a recession or downsizing. But this may be the best time to ask for feedback.
It can show your team that you understand difficult times take a toll and you care about the wellbeing of your employees.
And remember: surveys can provide insightful information, but it’s critical that leaders use this information to enact change. Sending surveys without action afterwards will just foster resentment and distrust amongst your team.
Living in unprecedented times calls for leaders to rethink the status quo. Without making conscious efforts to adapt to the changing times, you’re risking your employees leaving you behind.
But leaders who are willing to listen to the changing needs of their employees and take steps towards change will be the ones who see engagement rise and voluntary turnover fall.