In the last few years, the whole world has experienced an event at the exact same time; the pandemic gave every country a crisis, and we all watched on as everyone managed it in differing ways.
Some countries offered varying support packages. Some employers gave their staff the opportunity to work from home while others were unable to. There was the mass realization that commuting wasn’t always necessary. Either way, one of the many ripple effects of Covid-19 led to a laser-beam focus on the world of work like never before.
Employees realized their worth, and there has been a huge transformation in mindset; many employees are speaking up more about the issues that matter most to them. They are being clear about their needs and wants. If their current employer doesn’t meet those needs, they are finding a new one that does.
The ‘Great Resignation’
Many employees want to work at a company that aligns with their values and ethics while also respecting their work-life balance. The pandemic proved how fragile life is and how quickly everything can change. As such, many people want a job that can happily coexist alongside their personal life—not something that competes with it.
According to Workplace Intelligence, “Since April 2021, more than 15 million people have left their jobs in what is being called the “Great Resignation.” All signs point to the quit rate continuing to accelerate in 2022, and 55% of workplace professionals say they expect employee turnover to increase.”
These factors have led to companies addressing their working culture as they scramble to retain their talent. But in my view, it has never been easier to find out what employees want: We have an impassioned workforce who are all loudly saying what they need from their employer. The question is, what are you going to do about it?
How are companies tackling the issues?
But these things aren’t enough. According to research by Oracle, 88% of workers feel their definition of “success” has changed, and they’re now prioritizing work-life balance, mental health and having a meaningful job over a steady paycheck.
Many HR and employee experience professionals are putting championing wellness in the workplace as a strategic priority for 2022, and for important reasons too. The last couple of years have put a spotlight on the importance of mental and physical wellness. A multi-year pandemic has made employees and employers alike realize that a healthy workforce is not important from a moral standpoint but also from a financial standpoint.
Research from a mental health charity showed that “FTSE 100 companies that prioritize employee engagement and well-being outperform the rest of the FTSE 100 by 10%.” They go on to say that companies who support staff well-being “reap the benefits through enhanced morale, loyalty, commitment, innovation, productivity and profitability. Open and supportive workplaces benefit everyone—employees, employers and the bottom line.”
I think the overwhelming return on all of this research is that well-being is the number one issue that companies need to address in order to thrive. Employees who aren’t happy may want to work less, see fewer reasons to be loyal to the company and no longer see a salary as a valuable return, if the sacrifice is their mental health.
In light of all this, I think well-being and company culture initiatives must be at the top of every company’s list if they want to continue being successful.
These initiatives aren’t just empty gestures, like putting some money behind the bar at the holiday party; it’s a complete overhaul of the company culture. What are your values as a company, your ethics? In order to have a happy workforce, start by examining what it is you’re offering. If you have a strong set of values, during the recruitment process, you will likely find the people applying will want to work for you because of those, and they are much more likely to fit in with the rest of the company and be happy with the culture because you’ve already signposted what it is you expect.
Employees don’t want grand gestures; they want trust until there is a reason to question it. They want flexibility so that if they have a childcare issue, they can pick up the phone and let management know without fear of judgment. And they want, basically, to work under the proviso that they are human and sometimes life happens, and it’s okay for that to take priority sometimes.
I’ve found the only way to achieve this successfully, though, is to start from the top and work down—no more closed doors and “big boss” cultures of fear. It is time for the era of empathetic leadership, from the top to the bottom of the ladder, and if a company doesn’t learn to adapt, people will remove themselves from choppy waters to smoother seas.
So, now is the time to ask yourself. How are you creating a company culture that values staff and prioritizes employee well-being and happiness?