The global pandemic has created a new outlook for the future of work. Not only has it challenged existing employee value propositions, but it has also transformed the role of business leaders and how they approach innovation and success in the workplace. Meanwhile, work culture has become, and is still, imperative to building employee morale, fostering creativity, and ensuring employee loyalty.
As work patterns shifted, organisations had to rely on their workforce to restructure business outcomes and alter how they deliver services in order to stay afloat in a competitive market. The impact on employee wellbeing, as a result, has been significant.
“The concept of belonging has always been important for businesses, but the topic really came into light during the pandemic,” says Achievers’ chief workforce scientist, Natalie Baumgartner.
“Employers are now looking at whether their workforce feel as though they’re thriving in the workplace, not just from a cognitive perspective, but also from a personal standpoint, to understand if they feel a sense of personal belonging and whether they can resonate with the new working environment.”
Investing in personal development
The shift in work/life balance has left employees re-evaluating what they both want and need from their job to feel fulfilled and challenged. According to new research from Achievers, two-thirds (66 percent) of employees across the globe considered a job hunt in 2022.
“This spike in turnover and the isolation of remote work has contributed to a weaker sense of belonging for many employees,” says Baumgartner.
Achiever’s survey also noted half of employees believe their organisations’ business culture has deteriorated during the pandemic, placing blame on a lack of communication and meaningful connection.
In response to this, organisations have found new ways of investing in personal development and looked to new strategies to boost employee engagement and wellbeing outcomes.
“The lack of belonging is a huge threat to organisations as it could push workers out the door to pursue new job opportunities with the hope of finding workplaces they feel valued and supported in,” adds Baumgartner.
“It’s now vital for businesses to prioritise building effective communication methods to understand the factors that most contribute to what really matters to their employees.”
Ensuring recognition is meaningful
Achievers Workforce Institutes’ latest Engagement and Retention Report highlights that when queried, the most common response for boosting employee morale in their workplace was for more direct recognition from their manager.
In addition, less than a quarter (23 percent) of employees feel a sense of belonging in the workplace, with just over half saying they felt included, valued, and supported at work.
According to Baumgartner, for recognition to be meaningful, it must be intentional. “It should have the right impact to create an environment that sparks both creativity and inclusion at the same time. Employees should feel as though they are in the right place doing the right things,” she says.
Companies can build meaningful ways of improving collaboration and engagement in the workplace by fostering open communications between managers and employees around well-being, as well as how to overcome challenges in order to enhance feelings of value.
Those managers who encourage open dialogues and provide organisational support to connect with their employees will be more effective in their goals in creating a collaborative and engaged workforce.
“Organisations should aim for best practices of providing frequent recognition methods, for example at least once a month or every few weeks per employee,” says Baumgartner. “Frequency and being meaningful in your approach are the two most important factors to ensure appreciation and help build a culture of belonging.”
Baumgartner adds businesses should take a holistic approach to investing in personal development, in order to better understand what employees need to feel supported, understood and ultimately valued.
“Organisations must also make sure that they rely on employee feedback to ensure they provide the right opportunities tailored to their workforce,” she says.
Fostering an inclusive culture that ensures employees feel valued
Developing an inclusive culture that promotes diversity and opposing opinion will also help build a workplace that sparks conversations on new topics, while also helping to build a community on shared values.
Having a strong culture of belonging, built on a foundation of communication will also help employee retention and ensure that employees feel recognised and supported in their roles in the long term.
“The business model that focuses purely on economic outcome is incredibly outdated and one that no longer serves today’s working world,” says Baumgartner.
“Organisations need to rethink how they can champion employee engagement and their culture in order to shift the disruption caused by the pandemic into opportunity and company-wide success.”
Having the ability to benchmark company policies through HR data will also allow businesses to get a detailed understanding of where they stand, what they need to improve on, and how to move forward.
“Research shows that when employers were asked how to increase engagement in the workplace, the number-one answer was to improve company culture,” says Baumgartner.
“As we are continuing to see throughout our research, building an inclusive culture is a team effort and one that requires ongoing discussions to understand where to invest and where to prioritise time and resources.”
Organisations are required to pay more attention to their staff, which has placed a greater onus on leadership teams to consistently show they value employees.
People are currently staying in their jobs because they feel meaningfully supported and valued. Businesses that can create this type of workplace culture will stand out against their competition amid this period of uncertainty.
“The biggest predictors of building an inclusive culture include leadership involvement and open communication,” says Baumgartner. “Those that get this process right will help nurture their workforce and have more engaged employees with lower turnover rates.”