Virtually every business and every industry has felt the impact of the pandemic, both financially and culturally, and it’s up to HR leaders to ensure employees feel taken care of during this state of constant change and uncertainty. The impact of COVID-19 has forced companies to take on a new mindset around flexibility, plus a heightened focus on the employee experience.
As we pass the second anniversary of COVID-19’s HR disruption, we’ve seen businesses add on layers of reactionary adaptation (e.g., forced remote work, reversing return-to-office plans and attracting talent in a nearly impossible environment). I just spoke with a CEO who said, “We need to stop waiting for things to go back to normal and lead our people forward with strength and purpose.” It’s time for an adjustment and it’s up to HR leaders to lead the charge toward a more proactive, adapted approach for the workplace realities of today. HR leaders must reset and realign and ask how to ensure they have the processes in place to be agile—but prepared—for what employees demand now and in the future.
A global report from employee engagement company Reward Gateway reveals more about the expectations and intentions of employees and HR leaders during the unique times we face today – highlighting employees’ plans to leave their current jobs and what HR leaders are willing to do to keep them. According to the data, how HR leaders help companies adapt to these changes this year will define the future of work, the role leaders must take from a culture standpoint and how we can best attract and retain employees.
To ensure the future of work prioritizes positive employee experience, along with driving a healthy churn of attracting and retaining employees, data suggest these three themes are integral for HR leaders to consider as they guide their organization throughout this adjustment:
Reward and Recognition
Being recognized and rewarded at work is imperative for employee morale, and high fives and employee-of-the-month posters in the breakroom don’t cut it – particularly when face-to-face interactions on the job are less frequent than ever before.
What may have worked in the past isn’t working anymore, with more than 40% of employees reporting that they feel only somewhat valued for their contributions on the job.
When it comes to how employees want to be rewarded, two main factors stand out, which is the need for choice and transparency.
Celebrate your employees when great work happens to create meaningful moments, and let them take the driver’s seat in choosing their top reward for a better employee experience, which will drive more motivation, accountability and improved retention.
Trust in Leadership
Visibility of leadership becomes increasingly important in a remote or dispersed workplace environment as employees look to their leaders for direction. At the height of the pandemic, leaders learned powerful communication lessons and strategies – and Gallup engagement numbers went up – as the dust settled and employees felt the presence of leadership fade, those engagement numbers returned to normal. These learnings should be integrated into future workplace norms.
For example, daily blog updates from leadership is a simple way to connect everyone in the organization to the same goals and mission. Opening up channels for open feedback so employees can have a voice in what they desire is another way to increase engagement and transparency between employees and leaders. To humanize leadership in a virtual workplace, communications can be expanded to include video messages, and digital hubs can host specific resources and publish timely updates surrounding a particular topic, promoting the visibility we often miss in a remote world.
Open and Honest Communication
In a constantly changing workplace, 49% of employees indicated they wanted employers to focus on communication, yet only 23% say they have gotten more open and honest communication as a result of COVID-19. Without a constant face-to-face presence, connections are at risk of being lost and employees may feel transparency is following suit. In order to combat this and maintain a productive open line of honest communication, HR leaders can use integrated digital platforms within their organization to conduct frequent pulse surveys, provide meaningful, consistent company updates and recognition, and offer tailored communication that’s aligned with strategic goals to promote a shared mission from employees to leadership.
What lies ahead is truly an opportunity for businesses everywhere to evaluate their past and change the present to mold the future their employees want to see. Now is the time for HR leaders to take the lessons and themes that have emerged amid the COVID-19 disruption, invest in new digital tools and hit the reset button in order to build a new and improved strategy, fueling positive employee experience through open and honest engagement, leadership visibility and meaningful reward and recognition.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Powell is a highly experienced employee engagement consultant, trainer, and speaker. For over 15 years she has helped HR and business leaders implement strategies that drive true culture change. Her wealth of knowledge comes from coaching and training thousands of managers from a wide range of industries across the globe. Alex focuses on providing organizations with proven practices that drive results for varied leadership styles and the multiple generations in the modern workforce.