As the world dramatically evolved post-pandemic, so did the workforce. In the last year, more than 19 million U.S. workers have quit their jobs, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has recorded the highest number of workers leaving their jobs since it began tracking the data in 2000. The reasons? Well, there are many. To name a few, employees want to be paid fairly, have more flexibility, and find greater meaning in their life and work. People are no longer content with traditional 9–5 jobs.
The Great Resignation has had a massive impact on business productivity and, by extension, economic prosperity. Businesses have had a harder time finding employees, and it’s been even more difficult to find ones who stick around. Talent is also expensive to replace—up to twice an employee’s annual salary. For employees riding it out, many feel like they are not reaching their full potential because they are unengaged, disconnected from their coworkers, or unsupported in their career growth. These problems can start small but begin to fester if they are not addressed quickly, leading to a poor reputation among the talent pool or on an employment review site—or worse, another notice of resignation.
Businesses that want to keep their talented employees, and attract the next generation of talent, need to embrace the new ways of working. This includes effective diversity and inclusion policies, engaging employees in a meaningful way, providing flexible work environments, and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace. This, in turn, makes employees more fulfilled and a company more successful, and in today’s modern world, this is now the only way to do business.
So how can your company join in on the Great Reinvention? Here are a few tips to implement today:
Connect with People on a Personal Level
Video calls, real-time messages, and workflow tools have revolutionized the way we work, but they have also created a new set of challenges for company leaders and employees alike to connect at a personal level, as a lot of us are working remotely. This means creating an environment that fosters, rather than forces, connections at a personal level, which can be accomplished by scheduling brainstorming sessions in the office for remote and hybrid workers and more transparent communication about employee goals, company purpose, and initiatives. When managers take the time to connect with their team members, it creates a supportive environment where everyone can flourish. Providing the right tools for your managers to measure and improve these interactions will make your organization a great place to work.
Motivate Employees with a Clear Career Path and the Coaching to Achieve It
Create a culture in which employees feel they can grow professionally by providing them with a clear path to growth. When employees feel like they are on a path to career advancement, they are more likely to stay with a company. According to the Harvard Business Review, if an employee stagnates in the same role for an additional 10 months, his or her odds of leaving the company are higher. This is because the longer you stay in one place without any clear progression, the more likely it is that you will become unhappy and want to move on.
A clearly defined career path is essential for ensuring that employees have a clear understanding of how they can grow and advance in their work and within the company. Of course, promoting employees who aren’t ready isn’t the answer, which is why it is essential to proactively mentor and coach employees toward their next step.
Give Workers Greater Flexibility for Work-Life Harmony
The traditional 9–5 on-site workday is no longer the most effective way to get work done. According to a recent Gallup poll, on-site workers are less engaged than hybrid and remote workers. The lines between work and home have become forever blurred, even integrated. People now prefer flexible work hours and scheduling work around their other daily responsibilities, allowing them to be more productive and satisfied with both their work and their lives in equal measure.
Every employee is unique and with various circumstances and responsibilities outside of the workplace. For parents and caregivers, remote work allows them to do school drop-offs or stay at home if their child is sick. Many employees don’t want to return to the daily commute, particularly with inflation and gas prices at an all-time high. And while some workers prefer a social work setting, there are just as many others who prefer working without distractions to be more productive.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to ditch the 9–5 depends on what is best for the company, its employees, and their job function. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but a flexible work model that combines both remote and in-office working is much more enticing to the new, modern employee and talented executive. When you’re putting hybrid work systems in place, location and schedule flexibility should be nonnegotiable.
Seek Ongoing Feedback from Your Employees
When it comes to striking the right balance after implementing new programs and initiatives, it’s important to regularly ask employees how they’re doing. Only by understanding their needs and concerns can businesses hope to create conditions that are conducive to high engagement and retention. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that no one does.
One way to get valuable information is to survey employees’ preferences with regard to their working arrangements. Questions can focus on whether the current work arrangement is working well for them and, if not, what their ideal arrangement would look like. By using a basic template, such as this example, or creating your own custom version, you can collect the feedback you need to make informed decisions about how best to support your employees. This, in turn, will build trust and open communication, both of which are essential for maintaining a healthy and productive workforce. I’ve seen too many talented employees leave a company because they were simply never asked what they needed to thrive. Oftentimes, it’s a minor adjustment in schedules that can be easily put in place. An alternate way to understand employee sentiment is by analyzing the data you already have. Most organizations are required to keep a lot of employee interaction data for compliance purposes. Privacy-preserving and aggregate analysis of the data can provide insights into employee sentiment and inform areas for improvement.
Prioritize Overall Workplace Wellness
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many workplace wellness programs focused on making offices a “fun” place with catered lunches, Ping-Pong, yoga classes, and company swag. Today, employees are seeking better and more innovative safety and wellness benefits not only for their own well-being but also for the health and well-being of their loved ones. For example, employees want to know of any viral outbreaks that could disrupt their personal lives and want to trust their employer to communicate openly and efficiently to manage these outbreaks, as well as the plan for business and employment continuity.
The definition of a great workplace has forever shifted to one that prioritizes employee health and wellness, flexibility, and culture, perhaps before many businesses were ready. But it’s not too late to implement the right employee wellness programs that offer modern benefits and resources to support physical and mental health. Real workplace flexibility lets employees work when it is best for them in order to best fit their needs and families. And an authentic culture ensures that employees feel valued and supported in their job. When these three components are offered together, it creates a safe, healthy, and supportive work environment for all employees.
In conclusion, as we shift from the Great Resignation to the Great Reinvention, it is evident that the new ways of working are here to stay. By prioritizing workplace wellness, seeking ongoing employee feedback, and giving workers greater flexibility and work/life balance, companies can create an environment where people can thrive both professionally and personally, which will provide the competitive edge all companies need for today’s business world.
Jikku Venkat is the cofounder and CEO of ReturnSafe, a people-first technology company helping organizations embrace new workplace changes by developing innovative HR solutions and resources that address workplace flexibility management, wellness, health, and safety.