When Employees Thrive, Business Flourishes

Lynne Griffiths

Months into hybrid work, not everyone agrees on how it’s going. Employees and employers can be divided. Many employees have embraced flexible work and its benefits and many are rejecting a return to hustle culture. At the same time, some (including leaders) yearn for the pre-pandemic office  – human interaction! With the talent marketplace remaining incredibly tight, it is the job of every leader to balance employee interests with the success of the organisation. Thriving employees are what will give organisations a competitive advantage in today’s dynamic economic environment. So what are the key focus areas for thriving employees?

Productivity Paranoia

People are working more than ever, while leaders are questioning if their employees are being productive. Whilst data analysis shows that activity is high, it’s the impact of work that is arguably the more important measurement. Productivity paranoia amongst leaders can lead to an undermining of trust in the employer/employee relationship. Clear communication, setting and agreeing expectations and measurement (shared, agreed and context understood) are needed.

Leaders need to create clarity and purpose for their people, aligning work with the company mission and team goals. And defining what work doesn’t matter is just as important as defining what does. Many leaders and managers are missing the old visual cues of what it means to be productive because they can’t “see” who is hard at work by walking around the office (but isn’t the actual work being done more important than looking like you’re hard at work?). And as virtual employees feel the pressure to “prove” they’re working, digital overwhelm is soaring. Leaders need to shift focus from worrying about whether their people are working enough to helping them focus on the work that’s most important.

Close the feedback loop

Showing employees that you care requires creating a continuous feedback loop—listening and taking action consistently. In an era of ongoing volatility – timely, actionable employee insights are critical to gaining and maintaining a competitive edge. To ensure that decisions are driven by the most up-to-date information, leaders need to consistently take a pulse on how their employees are doing. Closing the feedback loop is key to retaining talent. Employees who feel their companies use employee feedback to drive change are more satisfied and engaged, compared to those who believe their companies don’t drive change. To build trust and participation in feedback systems, leaders should regularly share what they’re hearing, how they’re responding, and why.

Re-recruit your employees

Treat your people as if they are new recruits – invest a little extra time in making them feel wanted and appreciated, as if you were attempting to bring them on board for the first time.

Social Connection Is Worth the Commute

People come in for each other to recapture what they miss: the social connection of being with other people, however, they now expect flexibility and autonomy around how, when, and where they work. Make office time count – schedule face to face meetings and catch ups. There’s no point in employees coming into the office to just do more Zoom/Team calls! Make sure that the “team” is at the centre of office presence, building activity to make the most out of team time. Ask the team what they feel would be most beneficial from their office time and close that feedback loop.

Younger people are especially keen to use the office to establish themselves as part of their workplace community and feel more connected to their colleagues. Younger generations are particularly looking to connect with senior leadership and their direct managers.

Use in-person time to help employees rebuild team bonds and networks.

Communication – Digital and Other

The office can’t be the only answer—technology plays a critical role in creating connection wherever, whenever, and however people work. Build a digital employee experience to help employees stay connected to each other, to leadership, and to the company culture no matter where they’re working.

And communication is crucial to keeping everyone engaged and informed: effective communication is among the most critical skills needed in the year ahead. And communication will need to be authentic, not just informative. Employees value authenticity as a key quality a manager can have in supporting them to do their best work.

Learning & Development

Now is the time for every organisation to re-recruit, re-onboard, and re-energise employees. The best leaders will prioritise learning and development to help both people and the business grow. Employees are hungry for growth opportunities. The connection between learning and retention is clear – employees tend to stay at their company longer if they benefit from learning and development support. So learning and development can provide organisations with a huge retention tool, or the exact opposite.

The Takeaway

The changes that have swept the work world over the past few years are not temporary. Flexibility is a feature, not a fad. And pre-Pandemic leadership practices simply won’t cut it for a digitally connected, distributed workforce. Effective leaders, equipped (and able) to deal with today’s workplace challenges are your key to nurturing thriving employees. And now, more than ever, positive business outcomes depend on positive people outcomes.