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Prioritising employee engagement in 2023 will be the key to navigating the challenges ahead

by uma
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Thrive.App CEO and Co Founder James Scott shares his reflections on 2022, why he believes employee engagement is more important than ever before, and top tips for how businesses can support employees in 2023.

As we look towards the new year, there are opportunities to seize and lessons to be learned. For businesses, 2022 saw the continued increase of remote working, and the many benefits that this structure has on both business productivity and staff wellbeing. It also saw the final step in the return of normality, when the last of the COVID-19 travel restrictions were lifted in March.

On the flip side, 2022 has been one of the most challenging, and 2023 is set to be just as tough with the ongoing war on Ukraine causing a major cost of living crisis across the world. Businesses and individuals are feeling the pinch and there is a rising apprehension about what the coming months have in store.

For business owners, the bottom line is simple – if your employees are happy, supported and engaged with their work, you will see better results overall. Especially during challenging times, it is important to re-evaluate and think about what changes to make in order to improve.

Here are three of my top reflections on the past year, and things that I hope to see from businesses that will have a positive impact on employee engagement as we move into the new year.

Return to the office: How to make hybrid work

Hybrid working is here to stay, and there is no doubt about that. The ways of working need to remain flexible, even though many businesses have demanded that employees return to the office for a set number of working days, and in some cases every day.

The number of job advertisements that mention remote working are still higher than pre-pandemic levels, and the ability to remote work is one of the top reasons why people are looking to change jobs.

 Now that restrictions have eased, if businesses do decide to implement compulsory office days, setting these up as a trial and opening lines of communication is the best way to keep employees engaged. Make it clear that you are open to feedback, nothing is permanent, and that way employees will be more forthcoming.

Naturally, there are business needs as to why companies want people together in person, and with a trial you are giving people a safe space to feedback on different ways of working and showing that you are open to reviewing it after a set amount of time – and valuing employees’ feedback, which makes it easier for employees to feel part of that journey. By listening to employee feedback from the trial period, enables you to create the best and most effective ways of working and adapting that to work for both the organisation and employee needs. And you won’t then have to make a U-turn if people are not happy with the ways of working with a full-blown company roll-out.

If the genuine reasons for working in the office are there, then your employees will realise and want to be a part of it. Think about what value your employees will get from working in the office. This goes beyond treats such as doughnuts and beer. Good intentions bring people in, as well as purpose, and if the genuine reasons are there, your employees will be more understanding and willing to make changes to their routine to accommodate. It is up to the company to create the right environment for effective in-office work.

Quiet quitting: it’s nothing new

We have seen and heard a lot this year about quiet quitting – employees doing the minimum requirements of one’s job and putting in no more time, effort, or enthusiasm than absolutely necessary. Quiet quitting has become a buzz word because it hasn’t been quiet. Ironically, it’s the people on social media talking about quiet quitting that has made it into a buzzword – they are loudly quitting.

However, I don’t believe that this is a new phenomenon. It’s just a new label for something that has always happened, and the pandemic highlighted it due to an increase in people feeling disengaged with their work and re-evaluating what they want from work. The difference is, if people genuinely connect with their work, they won’t resent putting in the effort.

It’s the quiet majority that businesses need to be aware of. More people are having trouble connecting with their work and finding their purpose, so it is down to employers to listen to employees, create a channel of communication and find out what they really want to achieve from their work, and how to make that happen for them.”

Quiet quitting is not actually about quitting; it is about people just doing the job they are paid to do and not working unpaid overtime or taking on tasks beyond their remit unwillingly. You could argue it’s called having a work-life balance, which is something everybody should strive towards. Companies should be encouraging employees to do the work they are meant to do, and to ensure they are clocking off at the end of the day and have the flexibility to have a life around their work.

Historically, certain industries have gotten into the habit that if employees bust a gut, you might get a promotion, but for thousands they are just taken advantage of. There are less and less people willing to put themselves up for that. Younger people are quick to move around if the purpose is not right or they don’t feel valued.  For years the average duration in a job has been falling – I predict an after effect of the pandemic and quiet quitting will be a further plunge followed by a rise driven by the recession making people think twice.  Therefore, it is important for businesses to put their own proposition first, and make sure they are walking the walk instead of talking the talk. If your working hours are 9-5, do the best you can to ensure that this is the reality for your employees.

Find out what is important to your employees – if you can get to the bottom of what will encourage them to stay with you for the next 5,10 years; Is it flexibility, pay, changing shift patterns, work life balance?  Finding this out will help you to make good decisions that will improve overall employee engagement. Don’t be afraid to ask your employees about their genuine grievances, as it is often the smallest things that tip the balance and end up to be the reason that someone decides to leave.

Cost of living: Support for employees

There is no denying that the next fyear and beyond are going to be extremely challenging, with the costs of essentials such as heating and food increasing rapidly. It is vital that employers communicate with employees and find out how they can support, but without patronising people. 

For example, businesses can do things that have good intentions and will genuinely help employees. These things could be as simple as reminding them of the workplace benefits, they are already entitled to, starting up a group chat so employees can share tips for batch cooking to save on cooking bills, or set up new schemes like advanced salaries to reduce the need for employees to take out payday loans. 

There is no sugar coating it – 2023 is set to have a challenging start, and so it is vital to be prepared to make sacrifices and changes to adapt to the changing landscape. 

Companies should be considering addressing what their employee concerns are now and how they can address them ahead of time to help ease the burden. I hope to see many businesses introducing new ways to ease the pressure for employees, which in turn will ensure they are less stressed and feel supported and happy at work. Ultimately, if employees are happier and more engaged in their role, their work will be better for it. Employees are often the first touchpoint that a customer has with a brand, so taking care of them first should be a top priority for businesses as we move into the new year and beyond.

 

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