Living with a pandemic, employers have had to rethink everything from the most basic of actions to the intricacies of their relationship with their employees.
The face of work has changed. Some businesses have abolished the traditional front line of welcome and access — the receptionist — as more workplaces have adopted a hybrid or remote working environment dependent upon more online than in-person interactions. While employers had been trending toward listening to employees and investing more in them, the pandemic and world affairs accelerated the process.
A Deloitte Global survey showed 86 percent of executives believe workers now have greater independence and influence over employers. Additionally, 44 percent of millennial and nearly half of Gen Z associates surveyed indicated they made choices about the type of work they would be willing to perform and what type of organizations they would join based on personal ethics. Seven in 10 employers said finding employees with the desired combination of technical prowess and human-relations savvy is a challenge. A study of Colorado human resource professionals concluded the majority found the increase in remote work to be a positive experience, with a third stating 40 percent or more of their staff would remain working remotely three days a week.
As a result, where employees may have previously been looked at as replaceable puzzle pieces, employers are being guided now to look at employees as partners in progress toward a shared purpose, bringing their “better together” strengths and talents to the forefront. Employees may help craft core values, demonstrate them and integrate them into the fabric of their organizational sense of ownership.
Instead of solely dictating the flow of work, employers are asking for employee input into improving workflow processes. Employees asking for years for the opportunity to work from home were suddenly governmentally mandated to do so, finding ways to make it work. Employees working remotely provided greater accountability for their actions, while employers were focused on performance results rather than workplace distractions and interactions. As the necessity and possibilities for remote work increased, so did the variety of talent accessible to step into those roles, as in-office attendance and interactions were not prominently part of the employment equation.
Some workplaces truly operate as a team. Mine does. Today, part of coaching by human resource professionals needs to be proactive care for the mental health of employees and teaching leaders how to keep an eye out for employees silently struggling with the lack of connection with the corporate culture. Employees want more tangible evidence of employers caring about them enough to foster connections, loyalty and shared purpose. There are ways to demonstrate employees — and their opinions — matter.
For example, if an organization offers an Employee Assistance Program, consider arranging for a counselor to provide a series of self-care sessions about dealing with stress, anxiety, self-care and other factors. Reinforce the message that it is OK to ask for help and explain and demonstrate the resources available to assist.
Consider involving employees from all levels in teams where the work will affect them rather than just issuing top-down mandates. Avoid facing the “How am I going to be able to do that?” questions from associates that can occur when assumptions are made by supervisors and others not actually performing the work.
Above all, employees are asking to be involved, heard and appreciated. Consider them as collaborators and co-creators. Express empathy and enable empowerment. Make your employees key stakeholders and grow together. ●
Michele Cuthbert is CEO and creator at Baker Creative