Faced with so many profound changes to the work environment in 2021, leaders are asking how they can keep workers engaged while they navigate uncertain business conditions and adapt to evolving employee needs. Protecting the culture and the quality of employee experience is difficult even in normal times, but with the challenges of the past two years, this is an especially critical time to focus on the most effective ways to engage and retain your top talent.
These three trends will help your organization build and maintain a great culture and stay on top of engagement and retention in 2022.
1. Increase Transparency and Communication
At the height of the pandemic, leaders were communicating much more than usual and sharing more information than they ever had before. Now, many of them have stopped this continuous communication, which hasn’t gone unnoticed among employees. In April 2020 and again in January 2021, 78 percent of employees said they understand why their organization makes changes. However, by the third quarter of 2021, this figure dropped to 70 percent. The drop suggests possible employee-organization misalignment, as employees are left in the dark as to when and why changes are made.
Here are a few ways organizations can keep employees informed with increased transparency and communication:
Ensure that managers have consistent 1:1 meetings with their direct reports
Normalize giving and receiving straightforward feedback in daily work
Hire employees and leaders who communicate well and respect transparency
Provide good avenues for communication
Lead by example
2. Be Intentional About Building Trust
Leadership metrics show that employees are placing less trust in their leaders. During the pandemic, the trust level hit a peak; about 9 in 10 employees trusted their senior leaders to lead the company to post-pandemic success. That figure has since dropped to 84 percent in the third quarter of 2021.
Here a few ways your organization can build trust:
Share information widely – A 2015 study of 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries found that workforce engagement improved when supervisors had some form of daily communication with their direct reports.
Be Intentional about Building Relationships – Neuroscience studies show that, when people intentionally build social ties at work, their performance improves.
Recognize Excellence Effectively – Neuroscience shows that recognition has the largest effect on trust when it occurs immediately after a goal has been met, when it comes from peers, and when it’s tangible, unexpected, personal, and public.
Allow Employees More Control – A 2014 Citigroup and LinkedIn survey found that nearly half of employees would give up a 20% raise for greater control over how they work.
Encourage Leaders to Show Vulnerability – Leaders in high-trust workplaces ask for help from colleagues instead of just issuing directives.
3. Emphasize Work-Life Balance and Flexible Hours
Workplace flexibility is critical in driving employee engagement. During the pandemic, in the spring and summer months of 2020, an average of almost 87 percent of employees said their job gives them the flexibility to meet the needs of both their work and personal lives. In the first quarter of 2021, 86 percent of employees agreed with this statement, but by Q2, the proportion dropped to 81 percent. Additionally, according to a recent Glassdoor study, companies that offer good work-life balance have 25% less employee turnover, and 85% of companies that offer work-life balance programs report an increase in productivity.
Here are some examples of flexible work arrangements your organization can consider:
Remote work – Since the COVID-19 pandemic brought working from home to the forefront, companies have found that remote work arrangements may endure for years. They’ve developed hybrid workforces, new ways of managing teams and an ability to stay agile in an ever-changing job market.
Flextime – Flextime refers to any arrangement that gives employees options for structuring their work day or week. In its most extreme (and rarest) form, employees decide for themselves not only when they work but also for how long. More typically, though, employees operating under flexible work arrangements are expected to be on the job during certain core hours of the workday. They're given the opportunity to choose (within certain parameters) their own start and stop times—as long as they work the required number of hours each day.
Compressed work week – Under this arrangement, employees work the normal number of hours but complete those hours in fewer than five days. The most common variation of the compressed work week is the so-called 4/10, in which employees work four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days. Employees often appreciate this arrangement as it provides an extra day at home, thus improving work-life balance.
Job-sharing – As the term implies, job-sharing means that two permanent employees share the same job. Salary and benefits may be pro-rated on the basis of what proportion of the job each worker shares. Apart from the obvious consideration (both people need to be qualified for the job), a successful job-sharing arrangement assumes that the employees sharing the job can work together harmoniously to make the arrangement work.
Less than 40 hours – For employees who want to work limited hours, the work week will usually vary from 20 to 29 hours, with employees sometimes given the right to decide which days they will work and how long they will work on those days.
Employees can become very invested in alternative work arrangements that they may not be able to work out with a different employer. Take advantage of a strong work-life balance approach to build employee loyalty and job satisfaction, and help promote a happier work environment overall.
The lasting effects of the pandemic have created a changeable work environment, unprecedented in recent times. The unique chain of events that workplaces have experienced over the past 18 months has prompted greater understanding of the importance of employee engagement and its impact on retention and productivity.
Be intentional about building employee relationships through frequent and transparent communication, by building trust, and by allowing flexibility with employees in 2022. You’ll be glad you did!