Boost Employee Engagement to Decrease Employee Turnover and Improve Retention:

‘The Great Resignation’ and Disengaged Employees

With the pandemic came the “Great Resignation.” It’s estimated over 30 million people voluntarily left their jobs in 2021. An Inc article discusses the top five reasons people left their jobs. And it wasn’t for money.

Toxic work cultures were the number one reason for which employees left their jobs, closely followed by job insecurity and reorganization, innovation, failure to recognize performance, and, finally, unsafe work conditions and a poor response to Covid-19. The way organizations react during crises defines them – their culture and values.

Many organizations went through drastic changes during the pandemic. Disruption causes unrest. But it can also give your organization a much-needed reboot. How can you regain the trust of employees (if it’s been lost) and improve employee engagement? There’s a lot of work and reckoning to do, so it’s a good time to get to it.

1. Inequitable organizations, ones that don’t provide opportunities for all people, organizations that lack solid DEI strategies and initiatives, are toxic. Lack of diversity is a primary cause of discrimination, which is often built into the organization’s culture. Build consensus about the need for true diversity. This takes skill, as beliefs, not reality, are what determine how open employees, frontline managers, and middle management are to becoming a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization. Consensus takes numbers, data, metrics, and clear objectives.

2. Harassment is in violation of the law. By embracing equity, your organization needs to have clear anti-harassment policies that are enforced. Policies should be posted on a number of platforms (the organization’s website, brochures, bulletin boards and more). Every employee should go through anti-harassment, diversity training. Organization-wide, there must be clarity on what harassment looks and sounds like. Behavior expectations must be clear. Most importantly, senior leaders set the tone. Hold everyone accountable. How “safe” is your organization? Conduct a DEI survey.

3. Restructuring your organization might have saved it. However, it’s possible that it might have crushed your employee morale and engagement. Change was inevitable, but demoralizing employees wasn’t.
a. Communicate. Keep employees informed and be up-front about the financial health of your organization. When employees don’t know what’s going on, they’ll jump to the worst-case scenario. Communicate company goals and how the changes made to the organization will help reach those goals.
b. Support employees through change. This can mean many things. Have one-on-one meetings. Provide necessary skills training, cross-department training and more. If you have to let an employee go because of restructuring – not because of their skills or behaviors – it’s key to provide them with good references and their rightful severance.
c. Involve employees in the planning and execution of key organization changes. Bring them on board to be part of what this new organization looks like, the changed roles and responsibilities of each collaborator.

4. Put the brakes on the innovation train. Innovation is great until it isn’t. We’re not talking about technology replacing people at work, but the idea that there’s always something better around the corner – an improved process, better way of reporting, a new gadget etc. Innovation can be alluring … and exhausting. Employees were slammed in 2020, playing catch up, reinventing the way their workplaces would reach new customers. They met the challenge. Give them space to breathe now, so they can get their groundings and work toward a better tomorrow at a less frenetic pace.

5. Recognize your employees’ work. This continues to be a big problem when it comes to employee engagement, and it really shouldn’t be. Honestly. Yet a Gloat survey found that over 30% of employees feel undervalued. This number was higher for black and LatinX workers. Listen to your employees to understand their needs. Celebrate your collaborators achievements and work. Say, “Thank you.” And mean it. Cultivate a culture of gratitude.

6. Take care of your employees’ health and wellbeing. Wellness should be one of your key strategies, including reducing stress and improving mental health. Moreso, take the CDC recommended steps to mitigate the risk of your employees getting sick. It’s pretty basic.

Organizations are feeling the bleed and turnover is high worldwide. Regain the trust of your employees, attract top talent, and lead into a better future. Employee engagement should be your organization’s top strategic priority.

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