Few people anticipated the long-term impact of COVID-19 on employee satisfaction. It certainly set in motion the Great Resignation, which is still going strong, with an estimated 4.06 million U.S. workers quitting their jobs in September 2022. It’s also partly responsible for the new and more problematic phenomenon dubbed “quiet quitting.” At a minimum, Gallup believes that 50% of the U.S. workforce could fall into this category, doing only what’s required of them. So, while companies build out their strategic plans for 2023, a key focus point will inevitably be improving employee engagement.
Employee engagement is staggeringly low at just 21%, according to Gallup’s most recent “State of the Global Workplace” report. Making matters worse is the number of workers who report being emotionally detached (60%) or even miserable (19%) at their jobs. Companies have responded in kind, offering signing bonuses, more attractive benefits packages, flexible work arrangements, and mental health and wellness benefits to attract new talent and retain existing employees. Here’s the thing, though: If every other business is employing the same exact tactics, it does nothing to help you stand out from the crowd. Your employee engagement strategies must go deeper than that.
This isn’t to say people don’t want higher pay. Roughly half of workers who switched jobs between April 2021 and March 2022 secured pay increases of almost 10%. This also isn’t to say people don’t want greater flexibility in the workplace. Three-quarters of workers want their company to make flexible work arrangements permanent. However, you must remember that employees are human beings with differing needs. A one-size-fits-all approach to engagement no longer works, and it requires some personalizing to ensure you keep employees engaged and excited moving into 2023.
- Live up to your cultural promises: Maura Kautsky, president of Sales Xceleration
Finding the right talent who wants the job and possesses the skills to do the job has been a challenge for years, and that’s not even accounting for new hire turnover. Roughly 20% of employees quit within the first 45 days of employment. Part of this can be chalked up to improper onboarding and training. If you’re unable to acclimate new hires to the role or the organization, it’s difficult to maintain engagement, make them feel like part of the team, or instill any commitment to the business’s success.
But another part of the problem is not living up to the promises made during the hiring process about your organization’s culture and values. Employing people who align with your culture and are educated, trained, and do a great job simply adds value to the bottom line, according to Maura Kautsky, president of Sales Xceleration, a firm specializing in assessing and implementing sales strategy, sales processes, and sales execution to drive growth. Clearly articulate why your company exists, explains Kautsky, and, more importantly, recognize employees who are living that culture and those values. It’s really that simple.
Kautsky also recommends that leadership teams start listening to employees. Perhaps someone needs an hour each day to get their kids to the school bus. Maybe another employee needs an extra 30 minutes at lunch to hit the gym for their physical and mental health. Culture is everyone’s responsibility, so work around people’s schedules when you can, get their input, and make some allowances. You’ll be amazed at how much harder employees work when you adapt and personalize how you meet their needs.
- Incorporate growth incentives: Nicole Durham, marketing director at Enertia Software
“You always want to encourage and recognize longevity,” says Nicole Durham, marketing director at Enertia Software, the leading developer of integrated enterprise solutions for the upstream oil and gas industry. “We have several employees who’ve been with the company for 10, 15, 25, and even 30 years. That’s huge in today’s environment, where making moves is far too easy.” But engagement isn’t just about maintaining the institutional knowledge that tenured team members bring.
Durham goes on to say, “Having senior employees is critical for the onboarding and encouragement of new hires. It also helps set an example for what a long-term employment relationship looks like.” As far as growth incentives go, whatever you choose to do must make sense for your organization. Enertia Software, for example, offers many networking and learning opportunities for its employees. The company also has wellness initiatives to support workplace physical and mental health, as “Happy employees make better employees,” according to Durham.
- Reevaluate your tech stack: Rob Israch, president of Tipalti
“Most leaders don’t think of their tech stack when considering the best ways to invest in the employee experience,” explains Rob Israch, president of Tipalti, a payment automation software that helps businesses manage their entire supplier payments operations by streamlining all phases of the AP and payment management workflow in one holistic cloud platform. “The truth is, intuitive fixes can improve the employee experience, open up opportunities for growth, and be the difference between keeping top talent or losing them to a competitor,” he says.
For Tipalti, those intuitive fixes involve automation solutions and other efficiency drivers that eliminate manual workloads and reduce stressors that lead to burnout. The company has also implemented an HR microsite to centralize resources, enable more intuitive communications, and streamline onboarding and training—among a host of other benefits. That way, team members can devote more time to analysis, strategy, and other value-added activities that directly impact the bottom line. The technology also serves as an investment in employees, as it facilitates career development and boosts employee engagement while enhancing the skills necessary to drive business success. “It’s a win-win for everyone,” Israch puts it.
- Practice gratitude: Erika Perez, senior human resources manager at Enertia Software
“Employees are the company,” says Erika Perez, senior human resources manager at Enertia Software. “At times, companies tend to forget this. But you get what you give.” That’s why Enertia Software practices gratitude. Gratitude in the workplace is just as it sounds: showing your genuine appreciation for employee contributions. The simple act gives team members a sense of being valued and appreciated for what they do day in and day out.
With the cost of replacing a full-time employee running upward of 50% to 60% of that person’s salary, a little gratitude can do more than you might think. Employees who feel valued and appreciated tend to be more productive, satisfied, and loyal. Gratitude alone isn’t the cure, however. Perez also recommends implementing strategies that focus on recognition, purpose, intention, and corporate culture. Intention can be of particular benefit, as it takes more abstract concepts, such as values, and puts them into action. The same can be said for purpose, as people want to bring more meaning to their work.
A livable wage, flexible work arrangements, and a decent benefits package are all table stakes these days. And although each can certainly help retain employees, you need to do more to keep them engaged. Look at your culture and what it promises, take another look at your tech stack, and recognize all employee contributions to see how changes might improve the employee experience. Your employees devote their time and energy to your business’s success, so it only stands to reason that you should be doing more to improve their job satisfaction and engagement.