HRD Roundtable Report: Making it ‘Worth It’ – What We Need to Reward, Engage and Retain
We know the pandemic has caused many people to revaluate their careers and relationships with work and have been seeing the impact in global trends in resignations and vacancies. What steps is your organisation taking to understand the sentiment among your employees? The equation of work and reward that employees weigh out every day has shifted – what was once worth time, effort, and loyalty no longer balances out.
Do you have a good grip on what’s going into your people’s ‘worth it’ equations? What’s been added and what’s lost value?
Led by Debra Corey, Author, Speaker, and Consultant, DebCo HR, and supported by further insights from Helen Wilson, Director of Transformation, Microsoft UK, this discussion was conducted under Chatham House Rules. This report will contain the key discussion areas and all participants will be anonymised.
What does ‘worth it’ mean for your people?
This looks different for every organisation and every person within that organisation.
For some, the focus is currently on making it worth it is in making it worthwhile to start using shared workspaces again. Hybrid isn’t necessarily a new concept – many organisations had work from home options. However, now the contest is different, and people have spent a long time working from home. How can we best articulate and show the value in coming back – it’s in the connectivity with your teams, the variety in your day, the option for quiet focussed work that some might struggle to get at home.
Microsoft has tackled this by making team commitment plans part of the process. At the level where it matters (you and your direct work colleagues), how and when do you want to come together? What can we commit to as a small group?
Of course, hybrid isn’t the only conversation, and isn’t relevant for all organisations. For some it is simply, how do we make sure our people see value and fulfilment in coming into work every day? How can we make the experience positive and interesting?
The group also discussed the wider cultural aspect of ‘worth it’. Culture is something that needs cultivating – time, energy, and attention to make it grow. How do we do this in the new context for our people? For some organisations, this means being more open in what they stand for in their identity – who are we and what do we want to mean to the world beyond profit?
Where are we seeing some success?
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Job design is key! How can we update what the roles look like to ensure there are parts that aren’t just necessary, but truly appeal to people? We discussed the doughnut principle by Charles Handy – there must be the dough on the outside of things we need to do, but there should also be a sweet middle of something extra appealing. What do we know about what individual colleagues love about their jobs or additional interests that we can make a bigger part of the package?
One participant shared their experiences in an industry that was frontline during covid. Their colleagues were super engaged because the work was necessary and urgent, but it was a stressful, high workload period that they’re now seeing the effects from. They’re choosing to focus on almost re-contracting with people – this is why it’s worth being a part of this organisation, and this is how it meshes with your values. Another group member is looking at it from a similar angle and delving deeper for the individual into why are you here, what do you love about this work? Once we know the whys for people, we can start building and reengaging. Can we build personalised plans for people based on their individual whys?
Another participant shared how they have changed their focus recently, because of the changing needs of the business and their people. Pre-pandemic the focus was on standardising and making all the subsidiaries and teams function in the same way. Now there is more recognition of the need to be more localised. What works for one team, may not work for another and understanding that means understanding your business better.
When we talk about values, we also must remember the behaviours that come with it. When we’re making something ‘worth it’, we can’t just say we care, we must show it. How well do your values align with your organisation’s behaviours?
The ADKAR model is relevant here – Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement. We can’t skip any of the steps when taking people on the journey with us, with Desire being particularly important in this context.
What are we doing to listen better?
Pulse surveys were a common tool, and useful to checking in on individual, timely issues like coming back to work. They are less helpful however when we think about the big questions, like culture building, development etc.
Bringing managers and leaders into the conversation and encouraging them to take ownership within the process can have a big effect. For example, we heard how one organisation has set up their feedback so that managers can see the anonymous responses and form plans to tackle feedback based of that. There is also accountability up the chain of command – the managers manager can see when feedback hasn’t been acted upon.
One group member shared how they have chosen to reapproach how they listen to their employees entirely. They are a business with mostly older male leadership, but mostly younger female employees – it didn’t feel like they were going to be in good touch with what most of the employee base needs and wants. They’ve found that what people want, and need changes a lot – too frequently for annual surveys. They also found that too many open-ended questions didn’t really give them actionable information as answers became vague. So instead, they are experimenting with ‘would you rather’ style offerings. E.g., for wellbeing month, would you rather a meditation workshop, or a session on financial wellbeing?
For frontline workers, engagement can be even more difficult to manage. Tools like surveys tend not to hand strong uptakes, as people have less easy access. Or they may not feel like the changes they want to see will filter down from management level. One participant shared how they are trying to empower individual teams to own their engagement. Measurement takes place at a team level and should be seen as a benefit at that level as well – if we all own it, then we can improve and feel the impact of feedback better.
There’s always a trust element to listening. It’s not enough to just ask the question, you need to hear and implement something based on the answer. Some organisations are making the mistake of winding back the level of openness they had created during the pandemic. Explaining why a change or benefit can’t be made is always better than obscuring or ignoring the issue.
We’ve heard a lot in recent years about how timelines are shortening – what we used to do in a year, we now try to do in months. 3- or 5-year strategies are increasingly a thing of the past. We still need a direction to point people in and to give purpose, but to balance that with the agility to change and keep options open. Refreshing the plan will only help with engagement.
There’s also a freedom in working in a more experimental way. The group discussed the positives in not waiting until something was 100% perfect, but in publishing, then iterating based on feedback. Sometimes this is a bit of a disaster, but if action is taken to improve, that can be ok! The feedback process can also be a great way of growing engagement with colleagues – how can we improve? We’re in this together!
Updating our approach to wellbeing
Across the board, wellbeing was an engagement area that there is huge value in getting right. Removing the stigma of accessing resources is a key. Encouraging leaders to speak out about their own experiences and what they’ve found valuable can be very impactful. On the other hand, bringing in experts that can be seen to be independent and impartial can also help – there’s no stigma in taking their suggestions on board.
There’s also value in looking at how far the conversation has come! While there’s much to be done, the group discussed some initiatives that would never have happened a few years ago. Initiatives like focussing on female menopausal health, supporting women in that stage of their lives and making sure that managers also know how to approach it. Domestic violence stats also rose during the pandemic and opening that conversation and helping team members to access support is also a big step for many organisations.
Managers, as already mentioned, are key to an impactful wellbeing initiative but it can seem daunting to get involved. One participant shared how she found that sharing her own experiences in missing the signs of crisis in a colleague, drove home the importance of getting training, and that everyone makes mistakes sometimes.
Distilling things down to the ‘why’ was the common theme throughout the discussion. Why do people want to work in this field/industry/role? And then how can we articulate why they should want to work with us?
The why should also be considered in how we engage with people on this. Why are we asking these questions and in this format? What purpose does it serve? And then if people aren’t engaging, why? Is the form too long? Are we catching them at a bad time? Are they not seeing the impact of their engagement?
“During the discussion we spoke about how the concept of ‘worth it’ is in the limelight so much more than it ever was before. How it’s something our employees consider, and put high on their priority list, as they make decisions to join and stay with a company. And it’s something that we in HR are focusing on even more than before to make sure that we have the right ‘worth its’ at our company to meet our people’s changing and evolving needs.”
This was part of a four-part roundtable series will bring together senior HR leaders to discuss the most pertinent issues currently facing the HR function, identify opportunities and allow you to learn from the experience of your peers. Find out more information about each session here.