Right now, Americans are leaving their jobs more than ever before. In August of this year, 4.3 million people quit their jobs. The quits rate, measured against total unemployment, rose to a record high of 2.9%, according to information published by the U.S. Labor Department. Some left in search of better pay or job security elsewhere, but a large number left the workforce altogether. Users on the popular discussion forum site, Reddit, have created a forum dedicated to discussing reasons for quitting their jobs, called r/antiwork. Reasons range from unfair pay and low benefits to poor treatment of individuals at work. Anthony Klotz, a management professor at Texas A&M University, said this about the Great Resignation: “We were all able to take a step back in the last year and spend more time doing other things and really question the value of what we’re doing at work.” In other words, employees are deciding that their time is worth more than the experience, compensation, and treatment that they’re currently receiving at work.
However, there are still millions of Americans who are choosing to stay with their employers. Perhaps they were not financially able to quit their job, or they feel enough loyalty to the company to persevere through tough times. No matter the reason, the Great Resignation leaves implications beyond record-breaking quits rates—what does this mean for those who are choosing to stay employed? Simply put: it’s time to show our employees that they are valuable, because they are. The corporate workplace can no longer be a plug and chug machine with no care for how each role is (or is not) nurtured. Instead, managers need to understand the elements of the employee experience and strive to maximize its potential. According to Youtuber Katie Lynne, the employee experience is comprised of seven things that individuals will face or witness during their time with a company. Those seven things are as follows: engagement, purpose, belonging, optimism, productivity, meaning, and connection. Throughout this post, we’ll dive into these seven elements together and focus on how managers can enhance the employee experience. For more strategies regarding beating the Great Resignation, check out our Blaast post here.
1. Employee Engagement
This means the degree of engagement employees feel with their work. According to writers at Engage for Success, employee engagement is “a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organization to give of their best each day, committed to their organization’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.” For employees, this is all about having a clear understanding and enthusiasm for their roles in an organization, for the tasks that they will accomplish throughout the day to achieve personal and company goals, and for being part of a successful team.
For employers, employee engagement means emphasizing positive reinforcement, drawing on employee strengths for innovative client solutions, and prompting deeper levels of commitment from employees. Employee engagement cannot be achieved via a mechanistic approach involving manipulating employees’ commitment and emotions.
By highlighting employee engagement in the workplace, businesses offer themselves a better chance at success, noting higher levels of organizational performance and productivity. Engagement is about two-way trust and enthusiasm toward productivity. Promising those employees who have chosen to stay a degree of engagement at work ensures they will continue to perform well for you and your business.
Employees want to feel that their work has a greater purpose. What are they contributing to as a whole? Do they get to see the fruits of their labors? These are questions business owners and leaders should be asking themselves. With the Great Resignation, many who chose to quit their jobs did so because they wanted to fill their lives with purpose, and their job did not offer them that. Knowing this, if employers wish to retain their workers, they must ensure that their employees sense more purpose at work.
A great step to get started might be to evaluate employees’ current understanding of their purpose at work, then enhance it. Employers should help workers understand what greater goal they are working towards and remind the team of their purpose often. Now, this purpose shouldn’t be shallow or vague, but rather deep, meaningful, and detailed. Employees who find their work purposeful are more likely to be engaged in their job, increasing their effectiveness and job performance.
Workers want to feel that they have a sense of belonging at work. They need to feel that the organization genuinely cares about them as individuals. Here are three ideas to help employees feel that they belong in the workplace:
- Get rid of “outsiderness.” Despite diversity and inclusion efforts and the progress made thus far, many people still feel like outsiders at work. Feeling a need to put a lid on unique parts of themselves can be painful for employees; these negative emotions can even pose as a mental distraction and productivity hindrance. To eliminate this, employers should acknowledge uniqueness in their workers and even place value to their individuality. Provide regular check-ins and general workplace support.
- Incorporate employee input. Another way to increase feelings of belonging at work is to encourage workers to show one another that they care to hear everyone’s input. Consider integrating employee feedback and opinions into organization protocols. By doing this, individuals will be able to sense that they are valued and appreciated at work.
- Introduce inclusive benefits. Benefits such as flexible work scheduling and programs to support emotional wellness demonstrate care for employees and can promote a sense of belonging.
This element relates to whether individuals are optimistic about their future with a company. Studies show that optimism in general has many positive benefits. As far as work goes, this recent study by Leadership IQdiscloses that having certain mindsets, like optimism, can increase engagement and happiness at work—even more so than working for a particularly great manager. An employee’s optimism, or expectation that more good than bad things will happen to them, accounts for 30% of their inspiration at work. From the same study, we know that only 13% of people have a high level of optimism, and 33% have low or moderately low optimism.
As with each of the seven elements of the employee experience, employee optimism has a lot of room for improvement. Specifically, it is important to cultivate employee optimism toward their future at work. Employers should be setting up their employees for success—success in reaching personal goals and accomplishing work tasks or projects, as well as recognizing their own potential for growth and advancement as a professional.
5. Employee Productivity
Do your employees feel that they are part of a productive environment? Productivity doesn’t necessarily need to be incentivized with big raises or exciting rewards. Rather, there are more practical, effective ways to generate higher levels of productivity. To keep it short and sweet, here are a few points to note to increase employee productivity:
- Encourage employees to set achievable goals. This allows employees to follow an established system of performance analysis and be held accountable to it.
- Emphasize open communication and be clear about the protocols. Employers and employees should have an open line of clear communication for sharing expectations.
- Ensure that employees have all the tools necessary for success. Provide them with proper, functioning technology and programs to decrease frustration and increase productivity. Employers should remember that investing in their employee’s success equates to investing in the success of their business.
According to the Harvard Business Review, the phrase “meaning at work” refers to a person’s experience of something meaningful—something of value—that work provides. Americans spend about 80,000 hours over the span of a 40-hour work week career—it stands to reason that they would hope to find meaning during those eighty-thousand hours.
Meaning and purpose are very similar components within the employee experience mix—arguably the biggest difference is in the recruiting process. Before employees even begin working at a company, employers and recruiters should emphasize searching for and onboarding individuals who are passionate about the company mission. Do prospective employee’s values align with the company’s mission and values? When they do, workers are more likely to recognize that their work has a deeper meaning.
Even further, each employee should feel that they are actively contributing to the company’s mission and values. Managers may consider asking for employee input or assistance as it relates to company mission and values. As aforementioned, when employees feel that their work is meaningful, they are more likely to feel engaged at work, leading to higher employee engagement.
The seventh and final element to the employee experience is connection; employers should strive to form connections with their employees and facilitate ways for employees to connect with one another. Now, if elements 1-6 have already been incorporated in the workplace, connection should follow suit, but here are a few additional steps employers can take to ensure healthy and happy connection in the workplace:
- Be transparent about values, procedures, protocols, etc.
- Communicate frequently via both professional and friendly channels.
- Remember feedback is an invaluable tool, deliver it and collect it often.
Most importantly, employers need to remember that their employees are people first. By nature of being human, we crave human connection, so fulfilling that need at work is crucial to keeping employees happy and effective at work.
Wrapping Up Retention Strategies
Throughout this unprecedented Great Resignation, corporations are learning that individuals value respect, growth, and relationships over a paycheck. Life is worth more than a dollar amount in a bank account. Because of this, it is crucial that companies adapt to a new standard—a standard where employees are treated as people, instead of parts of a machine.
It’s time to elevate the employee experience. Engaged employees are enthusiastic and highly involved in their work. They drive high performance and move businesses forward. The seven elements of the employee experience described today are the building blocks for not only better employee retention rates, but also higher levels of effectiveness and productivity at work. Those workers who have chosen to stay and those who may be returning to the workforce deserve to be granted the opportunities to be engaged and successful at work. On the other hand, without implementing these seven elements, companies will continue to see the current trend of resignations. So here’s the gist of it all: the Great Resignation has emphasized a demand for showing employees their value, and businesses will have to adapt to this demand to retain those who stayed.