by Mark Scullard, Wiley’s Senior Director of Innovation and Research
A staggering number of people continue to leave their jobs, resulting in the perfect storm of staffing shortages and remaining employees being expected to pick up the slack. Current data from The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that over 4.5 million quit their jobs in March. What is the impact on those who stay? According to Gallup, almost two-thirds of employees are disengaged in their current job.
It should come as no surprise then that nearly half of managers from a previous Wiley survey reported having work related stress; with 25% saying this was due to staffing shortages and quickly shifting priorities in the organization. On top of that, 50% of managers reported leadership changes in the last year, adding to the strain. While these numbers are alarming, an opportunity exists for organizations to retain and engage their employees by investing in employee experience.
Why focus on the employee experience?
First impressions matter. Initial interactions are a key predictor of retention. SHRM found that roughly 1 in 5 employees will leave their position within the first 90 days. Think about it: which onboarding process would you rather experience? One focusing on compliance, policies, and paperwork? Or onboarding that also incorporates an exploration of the workplace culture, vision for the future, and opportunities for growth? There’s no contest: a comprehensive onboarding process that prioritizes the employee is an opportunity for organizations to empower employees to be successful in their role. When a company invests in its employees, they feel more connected to the work and business outcomes.
While a comprehensive onboarding process addresses retention and engagement with new employees, organizations still face the challenge of maintaining engagement to keep current employees.
Where should organizations prioritize efforts to keep current employees?
To answer that question, Wiley Workplace Research surveyed 5,000 respondents about their thoughts on leadership, the employee experience, and organizational priorities. Interestingly, three key common themes emerged about where organizations should focus priorities and thoughts on leadership. Respondents said organizations and leadership should focus on effective communication, access to support, and a positive work culture.
It’s easy for people to say communication is critical to success, but when we don’t specify how or what to communicate, we lose people. Our current survey found that 82% of individual contributors and 86% of leaders feel confident in their ability to communicate effectively. Despite feeling confident in their ability to communicate effectively, respondents shared a need for clear and direct ways to streamline processes and systems, clarification of roles and expectations, and awareness of opportunities for development. One way organizations can improve effective communication is to ask employees how they want information shared. Learning if town halls, emails, meetings, a central communication hub, or a combination of those are the best ways to address communication concerns within an organization. Additionally, organizations who embrace a culture where employees feel safe to have open and honest conversations will improve communication.
Employees want to feel that their organization values and cares about them. Employers should provide opportunities to communicate with leadership and access to resources necessary for personal and professional success. We found a one-size fits all approach isn’t effective for retaining or engaging employees, so organizations should tailor support to meet the needs of individuals or groups. Two ways to support employees are to give feedback and opportunities to learn new skills. Our survey found that only 9% of respondents get regular feedback. Likewise, only 3% of respondents said they’ve had the opportunity to learn a new skill in the last month. Based on these numbers, it comes as no surprise that employees don’t feel like they are supported. By learning what employees need to feel supported, organizations can tailor support to better meet the needs of their employees.
Our respondents shared they want organizations to focus on creating a culture that promotes a healthy work-life balance, encourages the development of positive relationships, and creates a work environment that is both psychologically and physically safe. While this may seem daunting, organizations have an opportunity to promote a positive and inclusive culture that fosters collaboration and empowers employees to be the best version of themselves. Organizations can positively affect culture with regular recognition of employees. While 79% of respondents said they are confident in their ability to recognize others for their work, only 7% said they receive recognition on a regular basis. Clearly there is a disconnect between confidence in the ability to recognize others and doing it. Given how few employees receive recognition, organizations have an opportunity to positively change culture by regularly recognizing employees for their work.
What do employees want?
When it comes to the goals, aspirations, and expectations of your employees, priorities do and should shift over time. Changes, both personal and professional, are inevitable. Organizations need to acknowledge that a one-size fits all approach to the employee experience does not promote engagement and retention. Companies must be proactive and consider how to adapt and flex the employee experience to meet the current and ever-changing needs of their employees. One way that organizations have responded is by incorporating wellness benefits into the employee experience. While well intended, it may not be what employees want. When asked to rate aspects of the employee experience, our respondents didn’t see wellness benefits as a big factor. In fact, 63% of respondents ranked wellness benefits at the bottom of importance.
What came out on top? Culture, with 34% of respondents sharing that this is the most important thing to their experience. Employees want their organization and leaders to build a positive culture where everyone is empowered to unlock their potential. Employees are less concerned about where they work, PTO, or wellness benefits because at the end of the day, a toxic work culture will always negatively influence their engagement, satisfaction, and ultimately their decision to stay. In fact, 96% responded that when they feel valued by their organization, they are more productive; 87% say they feel less stressed; and 96% more likely to remain at their organization. To keep and engage employees, organizations must examine their current organizational culture and make critical changes where needed. Organizations that foster a positive culture are more likely to keep employees who are connected to the work and success of the organization.
The best investment a business can make
The best investment that a business can make is in their employees. Successful organizations prioritize the creation of a positive, collaborative, and inclusive work culture that’s focused on the employee experience. The payoff to this investment is a workforce that feels valued, connected, and supported, while encouraging them to actively contribute to business outcomes.