You don’t have to look hard to find stories and news reports about staff shortages and skills gaps. Whether it’s Brexit-related, a post-pandemic effect, or some other factor, it’s not just the hospitality sector that is struggling to fill vacancies.
And the power seems to have shifted from employer to employee in other ways, too. Some employers, keen to return to pre-Covid ways of working, are finding that their long-standing employees enjoyed their taste of flexible working a little too much and are now resistant to returning to the office. They’re not afraid to vote with their feet, either, and walk out of the door to a rival who will offer them the improved work-life balance that they came to know and love.
Essentially, employees and jobseekers are becoming more discerning -more demanding, even- and the pressures within the jobs market are starting to afford them the upper hand. This means that employers who want to attract and keep the best talent need to focus on their current employee experience.
It’s not rocket science to know that keeping our people engaged and happy at work will minimise workforce attrition and the pesky costs (in both money and time) associated with recruitment.
A report by Achievers showed that companies with highly engaged employees experience a 25% - 59% decrease in turnover, as well as 41% lower absenteeism.
Leaders can do a lot worse than to shift their attention for a short while onto what makes their people tick and what motivates them. It’s a great time for them to think about how they can make their employees’ time at work more rewarding, meaningful, and enjoyable…
As employees, to feel that we belong somewhere, we need to know and understand the purpose, vision, and values of our employer. This must be communicated effectively and consistently. (This is even more important for our younger colleagues – Millennials and Gen Z are not afraid to job-hop, and they won’t stick around if our vision and values are unclear, unshared, or unrealised.)
We need to understand how our work is of value and how we are contributing to the big picture successes. This gives us meaning, purpose and relevance.
We need to know how the business is performing, even if the news isn’t great. That gives us trust and confidence in our leaders. We need a maintained, consistent flow of information and news that shares the full picture of what is going on around us.
We need to feel connected, both to the business as a whole and to our individual colleagues, regardless of our working location and shift patterns. This includes digital platforms, social channels, and a culture that facilitates and encourages communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing. It might also require management to proactively engage with employees at all levels, and with a focus on feelings.
We need the right mix of strategic, operational and social comms, and we need it in a tone of voice that is appropriate for the business and attractive to us as individuals.
We need to feel that our voices are heard and that our feedback is taken on board. The Qualtrics study found that companies that effectively turn feedback into action have an employee engagement rate of 80%. That is twice the rate of companies that don’t. We must have a feedback loop and two-way communications at all levels. We need senior leaders to talk to us, put themselves in our shoes, understand how we feel about our work, and our wider world. We want to break down the barriers between senior management and frontline staff.
And we need to receive regular and meaningful feedback on, and recognition for, the work we do and the contributions we make. The Achievers report found that employers with highly rated cultures of recognition are 2.5 times more likely to see robust engagement rates than those that don’t. We want our successes celebrated and knowledge shared.
We also need to know that our wellbeing is carefully considered and is of importance. Once again, this seems to be of greatest importance to the youngest in our ranks, with each generation being less tolerant of employers who don’t prioritise wellbeing than the one before.
A considered and robust internal comms plan should provide for all of this. And this really should have been updated if your working practices changed during, or as a result of, the pandemic. Regularly reviewing and, where necessary, evolving systems and processes is vital. Checking the health of your internal comms now could do wonders for your longer-term engagement scores and employee retention rates.
Finally, check in on the communication skills of your leaders. Are they all equipped with the right communication skills? Do they have, or give, the time required for meaningful communication with their direct reports? What about difficult conversations? Do they have tools and resources to support with these? Do they know where to access them and how to use them? Many an excellent worker has been promoted to a managerial role, armed with great operational and organisational skills, but without the experience, knowledge or training to handle some of the tougher elements of communicating with their former peers.
Don’t lose good people and serious talent because of a lacklustre (or worse) employee experience. It can start a vicious cycle of attrition, additional business pressures, and decreasing employee satisfaction. Focus on feelings, wellbeing, engagement and comms, and keep all that knowledge, skill, hard work, and loyalty where you need it.