Optimizing the Employee Experience to Overcome the Great Resignation
We have written extensively about the Great Resignation that is currently top-of-mind for many business leaders. However, this shift in the workplace is clearly part of a larger trend, and a worker’s decision to resign from or stay at an employer is only one piece of the puzzle. Gartner describes this trend as a “liminal moment” for society, in which people are reevaluating elements of their entire lives including their personal values, relationships, and careers. As such, perhaps a more accurate term would be the “Great Reflection.”
How Are Employees’ Values Evolving?
From research conducted throughout the pandemic, McKinsey shows that as workers reflect on their core values, they zero in on job opportunities and career paths that prioritize trust, purpose, social cohesion, collaboration, growth, and flexibility. Additionally, a recent Ipsos report revealed that 88% of Americans agree that a sense of belonging at work boosts productivity.
Furthermore, a recent Gallup poll shows that, after compensation, the top motivators when looking for a new job are work-life balance and personal wellbeing. Flexibility is critical piece of this puzzle. Resource 1 recently surveyed our LinkedIn followers and found similar results: 57% of survey respondents said allowing flexible or hybrid schedules is the best way to reengage employees, while 34% chose raises and bonuses.
Ultimately, people everywhere are reflecting on their lives, values, and overall purpose. Job seekers’ expectations have evolved, and their decisions to accept a job offer—and refer that employer to others—will depend on how well a company meets these expectations.
Are Employers Living Up to Employee Expectations?
Many workplace experts have rebranded the Great Resignation with labels like the “Great Reflection,” the “Great Reshuffle,” the “Great Realization” or the “Great Reprioritization.” Regardless of the term, resignations are a central indicator of this trend, which indicates that employers are failing to meet worker expectations. Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index agrees, identifying a significant gap between employee expectations and leadership priorities. In fact, 54% of managers report that company leaders are out of touch with employees.
Furthermore, a Willis Towers Watson survey revealed that 43% of employers say that the pandemic and related actions taken by the company negatively impacted employees. The survey also showed that while 26% of employers have no defined employee experience strategy, just 9% say their employee experience strategy both integrates with business strategy and leverages technology for a transformative effect. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) concurs that technology is a critical piece of the picture. With the rise of hybrid and remote work, as well as digital transformation in general, the technology a company has in place makes a massive impact on employee experience and, ultimately, a company’s bottom line.
For employers who are not living up to employee expectations, the cost is high. According to Willis Towers Watson, companies with transformative employee experiences report 2.7 times higher productivity and 90% lower annual turnover than industry peers. They also consistently report higher gross profit margins. The SHRM article also indicates that employee experience has become a key factor of organizational success in recent years. Over time, leading firms have come to understand that employees are their most critical asset to serving today’s customers and adapting to tomorrow’s landscape.
The Employee Experience is Multi-Faceted
It has been established that prioritizing the employee experience benefits not just employees but also the company as a whole. However, the makeup of today’s workforce looks very different than in previous years.
Today’s workforce is increasingly referred to as an ecosystem, comprised of full-time, part-time, and contract-based workers. Their work can be done remotely, in the office, or a combination of both—and from different locations, at different times, and by a wide range of people. There is no “cookie cutter” work model for any company.
Furthermore, every individual has their own motivations, resources, and life situations, while each company also has its own unique structure, culture, and initiatives. As such, employee experience strategies cannot be boxed into a one-size-fits-all approach. In order to address the needs of all workers, surveying your employees is the number one place to start.
Optimizing the Employee Experience
Although today’s workforce is built upon a wide variety of employment models, workers of all types—from full-time or contract-based to remote, hybrid, or on-site—still share the same “want” from employers: flexibility. For leaders who set out to optimize their employee experience, first ask how you can remove any environmental constraints from your workers’ lives. If your employees work in the office full time, consider the benefits of a hybrid arrangement.
For those who already have hybrid or remote arrangements in place, the question is more central to communication and operational efficiency. Flexible arrangements can sour quickly if workers lack the tools and technology needed to complete their jobs, expectations are unclear, or collaboration is hindered.
Some employees continue working onsite full-time, but there are still other ways employers can be more flexible. Rather than location-based flexibility, time-based flexibility can also improve worker satisfaction. This may include introducing project-based or part-time working models, a four-day workweek, or even employee-directed work schedules. The broader takeaway is that flexible arrangements, no matter their form, give workers a sense of control over their jobs, empowering them to work at their most productive state.
If your talent ecosystem includes a mix of buy, build, and borrow strategies, remember that these groups possess different needs and motivations. As a leader, it is imperative to keep these differences in mind, mitigating tensions and leveraging strategic opportunities as they arise. For example, specialized contract employees can provide expert guidance and skills on a project, but full-time employees may view this as a threat to their internal advancement. One way to prevent this, according to the Harvard Business Review, is pairing up contractors and internal employees to help strengthen their technical capabilities. This gives internal employees the chance to expand their expertise and allows contractors to grow their professional network and familiarity with coworkers.
On the other hand, while contract-based employees operate with more freedom and flexibility than their full-time counterparts, this often comes at the expense of employee benefits like healthcare. Mercer’s 2022 Talent Trends Report shows that while six in ten executives expect gig work to substantially replace full-time employees at their company in the next three years, fewer than 20% are reviewing their gig workers’ terms and benefits. If your company is unable to offer benefits to contract-based employees, it is essential to work with a staffing provider that does.
Instituting flexibility in company culture is another important factor to consider. This can be as small as offering a company-wide mental health day or establishing an open-door policy for employee concerns. Regardless of what approach you decide to take, it is important to realize that effective change is not a one-and-done process. It will require ongoing maintenance, tweaking, and even some experimenting along the way.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, optimizing employee experience requires a profound shift in leadership mentality. As McKinsey reports, companies must learn to put workers first and acknowledge their role in the employee journey. After all, every current employee is also a potential future customer, business partner, referral source, or boomerang employee. Acknowledging the deep impact of employee experience is paramount to making a lasting change that will benefit both your employees and your business as a whole.
How is your company responding to this trend in the evolving employee experience? If, like many companies seeking IT professionals, you are challenged by the turbulent employment market, contingent workers can be the optimal choice to backfill openings, fulfill project needs, and bypass time-consuming recruitment processes.