by Amy Ransom
It should feel like the bleak, gray skies hanging around from 2020 are lifting as our population gains access to vaccines for the coronavirus. People are enjoying more freedom and confidence to resume missed activities, like visiting friends and family. Life is beginning to feel more and more like we knew it “pre-COVID.” However, optimism about the future of work is waning for many of us. According to a recent study by PwC, only 50% of employees are excited or confident about the future.
Why are so many workers feeling glum about their jobs? It could be because 39% of us feel that our jobs will be obsolete in the next five years. Many industries have not yet recovered from the impact of COVID-19, and as a result, there are many people in the national workforce making career changes. For some industries, business is ramping up, and hiring freezes are lifting for many companies. Potential job candidates are eager to land in the right role with the right employer.
Before a company can attract top talent, it must step back and take a close look from the outside. What are future employees seeing and hearing about the company? Between networking, social media, and numerous websites that offer a peek into an organization and its executives, a job seeker can get a good sense of what it is like to work at a company. Some websites provide data about current employees and whether they feel positive about the environment and the CEO. Often, this research is the first step many potential workers will take to determine if they even want to apply with a company.
Each organization must take an honest assessment of what it offers to current and future associates. Examine why good employees leave to go elsewhere and what it is about other organizations that attract top talent. There may be opportunities for improvement, which, left unresolved, could create lasting damage to the company brand. Turnover not only impacts the bottom line but also impacts the morale of those who stay. Not every company will make the “Top 10 Best Places to Work” list. Still, every company can prioritize creating a positive employee experience that attracts and keeps its employees happy and engaged. We’ll focus on three areas that significantly impact the overall employee experience and, ultimately, the bottom line.
The onboarding process starts long before a new associate joins the firm. Ensure that when potential candidates explore your company, they see an organization with strong core values and a place that appreciates its employees. Create a workforce that loves their company so much they become brand ambassadors.
Building a productive and positive workplace for your employees is vital to the future of every organization. From the initial job offer, a new employee should be welcomed with messaging to get a sense of the culture they are joining. The onboarding framework is often minimized or mistaken for orientation. This shortchanges the employee from getting integrated as quickly as possible and the organization from getting the benefits from a productive worker.
Because social distancing has required organizations to shift the way they bring new employees onboard, the newbies can feel disconnected from the very first day. However, a few simple steps, such as creating cohorts and including socialization in their onboarding strategy, organizations can engage new hires in the company culture right away. Additionally, providing mentor programs, team-building activities, and coaching initiatives from the first day can also lead to a more satisfying onboarding experience.
Onboarding should not be viewed as a one-day or one-week orientation, but rather a year-long program that helps new hires feel acclimated and motivated to perform. What is the right length for a comprehensive onboarding program? A recent study conducted by the Human Capital Institute and Kronos shows that “capitalizing on new-hire momentum can drive stronger business results,” and that happens over the course of the first 90 days. These longer onboarding programs consistently correlate to more substantial business outcomes and lower attrition.
As an onboarding plan is designed, it is imperative to bring consistency to the process across an organization. Consider the five most critical pieces of knowledge, skills, experiences, and/or behaviors that a new hire needs to master within the first 90 days to be successful at the company. According to research shared by Brandon Hall Group, “organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%”.
Utilizing technology throughout the onboarding process allows managers to best utilize their time with new direct reports on more personalized training. While a supervisor’s time is often stretched thin, many new employees report that one-on-one time with their direct manager is the most important part of the onboarding process.
Capability + Context + Connectedness + Drive = New Hire Contribution
Surprisingly, only 53% of employees worldwide are engaged in their work, according to a recent Global Employee Experience Trends report from Qualtrics. As the entire world is emerging from this global pandemic, there is an urgency to get employees more engaged in their work and help them feel that they are essential to their employer.
Qualtrics’ study also found that 18% of employees around the world intend to stay at their company for less than a year, while 16% intend to stay for less than two years. These folks always have their resumes ready, their “open to work” option on, and their ear to the ground. According to Sapling HR, these are disengaged employees, and they cost the U.S. between $450 billion and $550 billion each year!
Lululemon, retailer of activewear (and Number 8 on Glassdoor’s 10 Best Places to Work list), has completed a study of people and their overall levels of well-being, which has links back to the workplace. In Lululemon’s research, only 15% of respondents strongly agreed that their employer offers resources that support their overall well-being. Additionally, the same study reports that optimism about the future has fallen from 59% to 40% in the last twelve months. The younger the person, the more “barriers to their overall well-being, including stress and a lack of time, money, knowledge, and resources.” All these factors support why organizations feel increased pressure to consider the entire employee experience to attract, onboard, train, and engage their workforce.
We are coming out of a pandemic; shouldn’t we all feel happy about that? Not everyone shares a sunny disposition, though. Is it possible to create happier employees? The answer is yes! Organizations that focus on elevating the well-being, connectedness, and engagement of their employees will benefit from more productive workers who stay longer.
While they may be leading the initiative, improving employee engagement is not the sole responsibility of the HR department. It requires commitment from the top executives to the frontline leaders within a company. It is HR’s job to hold all teams accountable, but it is ultimately the executive team’s charge to steer the organization forward to a culture of high employee engagement.
More personalized experiences are expected from today’s employees. Companies that have refocused on the human side of their workforce are creating happier employees who work hard to achieve their best selves at work.
What exactly does that shape up to be? Mary Kennett’s LinkedIn Learning course: Building a Stellar Employee Experience – Talent War has boiled it down to five areas that make the biggest impact on a positive employee experience:
- Sense of worth – the employee’s ability to achieve their full potential in their role
- Support from their manager – individual goal setting, coaching, and respect
- Sense of community – inclusion; importance to the mission and vision of the organization
- Opportunity for growth – learning and development; advancement opportunities
- Trustworthy leadership – transparent and focused on the purpose of the company
Not on this list but worthy of consideration is how the future of work looks like for your employees. Most of us have been working remotely for more than a year now and have a steady routine to balance work and family obligations. How is your organization planning to bring associates back into the office? Harvard Business Review found that “workers whose companies allow them to help decide when, where, and how they work were more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, performed better, and viewed their company as more innovative than competitors that didn’t offer such choices.”
The employee experience can be positively influenced by simple expressions of gratitude as well. Taking a moment to recognize an individual for their efforts can drive confidence and encourage a more productive mindset. It is most impactful when the acknowledgment is personalized to the individual. A thoughtful gesture, like a hand-written note of appreciation, can go a long way.
Leadership skills do not come naturally to all managers, especially those who are new to management. Providing feedback and recognition can be taught, though, and steps for continuous improvement should not be left out. Helping leaders build strong and collaborative relationships with their team will help everyone achieve mutual respect and solid positioning to attain personal and organizational goals.
To help employees have a more positive work experience, organizations may need to invest more time, financial resources, and energy in employee mental health and well-being. Companies that offer flexibility, technology that allows employees to work anywhere, and supportive leadership will build morale, increase job satisfaction, and create a high-performing workforce; all of these facets lead to a healthier bottom line.