With a strengthening global economy, employers are more optimistic about hiring than in years past. Yet, emerging technology, competition and changing skills needs are leaving employers with unfilled roles, threatening productivity, efficiency and future growth.
These factors have pushed talent shortages to their highest level since 2006. According to the Manpower 2018 Talent Shortage Survey, 45% of organisations globally say they can’t find the skills they need, up from 40% in 2017 and the highest level in over a decade. As a result, retaining employees is critical and to reduce attrition, it's essential to build a culture that not only emphasises employee engagement, but also creates an environment where people feel a sense of purpose and belonging.
Perks-heavy office environments like an in-office espresso bar and free lunches can help create a stronger working environment, sure, but without inspiring leaders and the right amount of attention to employee growth and development, employees may fail to believe in the long-term success of your organisation or in the opportunity for them to learn, grow, and advance their careers.
According to a Udemy survey, 42% of Millennials said learning and development opportunities were one of the most important benefits an employer could provide, second only to healthcare. Deloitte, meanwhile, has found that diversity, inclusion and flexibility are bigger factors than money when it comes to keeping workers for the long-term.
We see in our own employee comments that what keeps them excited about coming to work every day first and foremost is a strong sense of purpose. It's our job as leaders to understand, foster and maintain this feeling every day and to ensure employees will walk out the door at the end of the day excited to return tomorrow.
Focusing on the factors that motivate and engage your employees will help show you how to create a rich employee experience above and beyond perks. Start by understanding and addressing the key drivers of engagement for your team - a mix that's different for every team in the organisation, but will likely include factors like your company's culture and prospects for the future, confidence in the leadership team, and your team members' having a sense of purpose and excitement for their career and growth opportunities.
Every organisation is made up of a unique mix of people who are motivated by different things. By understanding what drives your people, and responding to their needs quickly and clearly, you can foster an environment of inclusion, trust and belonging, something that over the short and long term equally soon translates into higher performance and longer tenures.
Lead from a place of authenticity
To create an environment where employees feel connected to the vision, the most impactful leaders are masters at “keeping it real.” This is a key component of conscious leadership, as it’s leadership that focuses on bringing awareness, authenticity and compassion into a leadership role.
Conscious leaders are leaders people believe. They drive a sense of connection and clarity that helps teams engage and execute better, and bring their whole, authentic selves to work, leading from a place of trust, responsibility and curiosity.
These leaders also show their teams that they have faith in them by encouraging their autonomy. When you move away from a ‘command and control’ mindset, what you’re really doing is sending a signal that managers trust their employees. We've seen that showing our employees that they're valued and heard is a major reason that they not only stay on, but also choose to give high levels of commitment and discretionary effort.
Build a people-centric feedback model
Next, show employees that they're valued and heard by adopting a 'people-centric' model of gathering feedback regularly. In so doing you can create a rich picture of an employees’ experience, thus improving engagement and employee retention.
Gathering feedback from employees frequently is one of the most important things organisations can do to maintain engagement and make sure employees are motivated to stick around. Some have committed to listening to employees as often as once a month. Amazon famously solicits feedback from its employees every day in service of improving workplace culture.
Yet most organisations are failing to optimise this critical step. The majority gather employee feedback using a series of disconnected annual surveys, delivering a ‘survey-centric’ model of gathering feedback. Engagement surveys, exit and onboarding feedback, and manager and team effectiveness surveys all provide detailed information about the employee experience, but at most workplaces the data from these surveys quickly become stale and siloed, failing to paint a complete picture of why people are leaving, and how to help ensure they stay.
With a people-centric model of gathering feedback regularly that harnesses technology, all the information an individual provides during their tenure is connected. While maintaining confidentiality, the HR team has access to information about the impact of all elements of the journey over time, from onboarding, manager and team-centric experiences, all big indicators of an employee's likelihood to move on. Organisations that use this model are alerted to common warning signs of attrition, so they can pull the most effective levers to improve engagement and encourage employee retention.
In our experience, once leaders and managers get over the initial fear of hearing their employees' opinions regularly and seeing how engagement is connected to individual and company performance, they dive head-first into leading productive conversations about the environment they're creating on their teams. This proactive approach creates a feedback loop from manager to employee, spurring course-corrections and boosting transparency and authenticity.
Look for ways to help staff feel connected
A business is only as great as the people that work there, and you want to hire and retain employees who embody your mission and go above-and-beyond to help the company succeed.
Likewise, as a business owner or senior manager, you need to do the same. If you inspire people, co-create the right vision, embrace frequent feedback and lead from a place of authenticity, rest assured your employees truly will walk out the door tonight, excited to return tomorrow and achieve even more together with you.