Creating an Engaged Workforce During The Great Attrition
January 5, 2023 | by Chris Kalaboukis
Over the last few weeks, we’ve explored a wide range of topics related to The Great Attrition, including why we’re seeing a decline in the workforce, what each key employee persona is looking for in their career, and how to support your people to improve both retention and recruitment.
Today, we’re taking this concept a step further by discussing the importance of creating an engaged workforce. We continue to see that one of the biggest motivating factors that keep people in their jobs is the meaningfulness of their work, making now the time to take a closer look at how your employees feel about the projects, processes, and systems they work with every day.
Find out why it’s important to create an engaged workforce, read three tips to help you get started, and discover how you can sustain your efforts beyond The Great Attrition in the final installment of this series below.
Why is creating an engaged workforce important?
While at the surface, asking why it’s important to have an engaged workforce might seem like a simple question, the truth is that intentionally creating one is much more crucial to the success of your organization than you might think. According to McKinsey & Company, “people who report having a positive employee experience have 16 times the engagement level of employees with a negative experience.”
While the cost of losing a team member varies depending on their wages, their skill set, and the industry they work in, The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that companies typically spend six to nine months of an employee’s salary to recruit, hire, and train a replacement, which makes prioritizing employee engagement this year a financially sound investment.
McKinsey & Company also shares that employees who are engaged with their work in a positive manner “are eight times more likely to want to stay at a company.”
So, what elements contribute to a positive and engaging work environment? There are nine key areas to focus on, which we’ll group together under the categories of social experience, work experience, and organization experience. Keep each of these areas in mind as you read through the tips in this article to get a better idea of where your company stands today:
- People and relationships: Do individuals in your organization feel connected to other team members? Do they feel like their contributions are valued by leadership?
- Teamwork: Do members of your team show that they trust in and care for one another? Are they able to collaborate and innovate together effectively?
- Social climate: Do members of your team feel welcome in the workplace? Is there a sense of community and belonging?
- Work organization: Are individual responsibilities clearly defined and do your employees have the resources they need to be successful? Is the work they’re doing interesting or rewarding?
- Work control and flexibility: Are employees able to complete their tasks while maintaining a healthy balance in other areas of their lives? Is there enough flexibility for them to complete their work in an efficient manner that feels integrated with their other responsibilities?
- Growth and rewards: Do you provide your employees with new opportunities and incentives to grow, learn, and provide for their families?
- Purpose: Does your organization have a purpose employees can easily identify with? Do the processes and systems you have in place support this purpose?
- Technology: Does the technology your organization utilizes make tasks, processes, and systems more efficient for your team?
- Physical environment: Do your employees feel safe and comfortable at work? Are there opportunities for them to connect with other team members in an authentic way, even if they work remotely?
Read more: Recruiting and Hiring During the Great Attrition
3 tips to create an engaged workforce during The Great Attrition
Now that we’ve explored why it’s important to develop an engaged workforce and what areas you should focus on, let’s dive into some practical steps you can take to get started. Here are three tips to help you create an engaged workforce during The Great Attrition:
1. Review your employee value proposition.
Start by reviewing your employee value proposition and take the time to assess whether the individuals on your team are able to live a truly well-balanced life based on the full package of benefits, compensation, and perks your organization provides. Some of the areas you might examine include:
- Workplace flexibility
- Competitive benefits and compensation
- Development opportunities
- Meaningful projects
While there are plenty of initiatives you can implement to engage your team, if they feel underpaid or undervalued, it’s likely that your efforts will continue to stall. Assess what other companies in your industry—and outside of it—are providing their employees to ensure you can at least match their offers.
You can also analyze the five key employee personas to determine what unique value propositions you may be able to provide members of your team to help them maintain a healthy work-life balance while increasing their level of dedication to your organization.
2. Lead with empathy.
One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves as leaders is, “how can I make a concerted effort to show individual members of my team I care about who they are?” This is true even if you’re working in a virtual environment.
As Bonnie Dowling, Expert Associate Partner at McKinsey & Company, explains, “culture is how we interact with each other on a daily basis. It’s how our managers lead. It’s how our individuals and colleagues look out for one another.”
Empathy is the cornerstone of culture and effective communication, so take the time to really listen to the people on your team and show them you’re taking their input into consideration when making decisions at the organizational level.
While having authentic conversations is important, there are some tools and techniques you can use to lead with empathy even if you operate a large Fortune 500 company that makes it challenging to get to know every individual you employ personally.
Encourage biweekly or monthly 1:1 check-ins between managers and their team members that incorporate discussions about advancement opportunities, challenges, achievements, and personal goals, in addition to routine employee performance reviews. Make it easy for management to share the highlights from these conversations with you, your HR department, or other key decision-makers, and consider using a software or AI program to identify common keywords that pop up in conversations across your company.
You can also use software programs like Lattice to encourage anonymous employee feedback and share how your organization scores in different performance areas on a monthly or quarterly basis. Use this information to drive the decisions you make to improve your work culture so your employees can see they have a real impact.
Read more: Supporting Teams & People During the Great Attrition
3. Prioritize fun.
While it may sound counterintuitive, prioritizing fun in the workplace can actually increase productivity levels. It also improves employee retention rates, which can save you a significant amount of money in the long run. But in a time period that’s been dubbed as The Great Attrition when it feels like we’re facing one unprecedented life event after the next, fun actually plays a crucial role in the long-term success of our organizations.
“Fun can boost our resilience and our spirits in a way that makes it easier for us to cope with whatever life may throw at us,” explains Catherine Price, author of Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again.
That’s right, incorporating fun into the workplace is about more than just making friends around the office. It can actually help our teams navigate turbulent times, whether they involve a global pandemic, supply chain issues, or adapting to changes in the market.
“We need to rethink how we think about fun: less as a treat we get to have only if everything’s already going great and more as a tool we can tap into to help ourselves weather the challenges life may present us with,” Catherine Price shares.
Ask yourself, how are you creating a space for fun in your organization? Are there opportunities for your team to explore new ideas in a playful way or form connections with each other outside of traditional meetings and group projects? Embed activities your team enjoys into the work week and then give them time to actually have fun. You might be surprised what innovations spring forth.
Maintaining an engaged workforce beyond The Great Attrition
Creating an engaged workforce is one thing. Maintaining it is another. As leaders know, even initiatives with the best intentions can crumble without the right support. Here are three ways you can sustain your efforts to generate long-term results:
1. Align incentives across your organization. Often, we see initiatives to improve work culture start off strong, fueled by excitement and the energy short-term goal setting brings. However, if overarching objectives with measurable KPIs are not established throughout the organization, these promising initiatives eventually fizzle out.
To prevent this from happening, incentivize process owners as well as your broader team by defining a mix of aspirational and hard benchmarks. Some questions McKinsey & Company suggests using to keep individuals in your organization on track include:
- What are you leading as an individual?
- How do you support your team?
- How do you support the broader organization for the long term?
Focus on what your organization needs to continue driving momentum forward when sustaining new ways of working, new mindsets, and new behaviors.
Related: Reach Your Long-Term Goals With The Three Horizon Framework
2. Embed transformational disciplines into everyday processes. Instead of creating separate projects dedicated to employee engagement, look for opportunities to weave this transformational change throughout processes and systems your organization already has in place.
For example, you might choose to integrate your efforts into weekly team meetings, quarterly reviews, employee newsletters and communications, and your annual business-planning process. Creating regular touchpoints can help you consistently reinforce the changes you would like to see and turn these efforts into habits that feel natural over time.
Related: Work Environment Post-COVID
3. Analyze your efforts and refine routinely. Creating an engaged workforce requires more than simply checking a few boxes on your to-do list or hitting a specific quarterly benchmark. Just like any transformational change, it’s a journey that involves ongoing support and refinement. Assess your efforts at regular intervals to determine the overall health of your work culture as your business evolves and the market shifts. Designate specific roles to help you monitor the successes, failures, and areas for improvement over time to ensure you continue to adapt to the ever-changing needs of your people and your organization.
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