Today’s employees are seeking connection and meaning in their work lives
In a post-pandemic workplace, organizations are being challenged to rethink their employee branding. The pandemic caused many workers to reexamine work in relation to their personal lives. This, combined with a tight labor market, is forcing employers to shift priorities in how they attract and retain employees. A recent report by Gem found that four out of ten recruiting organizations are focusing on the employee value proposition (EVP) in this hiring cycle while
waiting for the economy to bounce back.
What is the Employee Value Proposition?
To understand what attracts talent to your organization, it’s useful to focus on the four areas that comprise the employee value proposition.
- Material aspects – pay, benefits, workplace amenities, flexible work schedules and perks.
- Growth and development opportunities – career paths, skill development, training rotational assignments
- Community and connection – the employee feels like part of a team, a sense of belonging and inclusion, able to be their authentic selves
and feel heard, valued and seen by management and peers
- Purpose and meaning – employees feel a connection to the work that they do, that it has greater meaning and that their values align with the organization’s purpose.
Traditionally, organizations have focused on the first two areas, especially pay. But a retention bonus or even a raise have short-term impact. For today’s workforce this is often not enough to keep employees or attract talent. Increasingly, workers want meaning and connection, in addition
to competitive compensation and growth opportunities.
Best Practices: How to Support Community and Connection
What does it mean to feel connected at work and what is the impact? In a study of over 12,000 respondents in the U.S., the ADP Research Institute developed a valid instrument, the Connection XPerience Score, to measure a person’s feelings of being seen, heard and valued in the workplace. The study found that employees who felt strongly connected at work are 75 times more likely to be fully engaged, seven times more likely to have no intent to leave and four times more likely to be a member of a team than those who do not feel connected.
Connection has become a little more challenging because of flexible working arrangements like remote and hybrid. Indeed, for office-based workers flexibility has become a major factor in the job offer process. Organizations have to keep people feeling connected even though they may be
working offsite. It means making a concerted effort to create a sense of community within a remote world. Employers who are doing this well follow these best practices.
- Support for managers and leaders. Companies need to provide training to help leaders manage in a hybrid or remote workplace. Many managers who are comfortable in an onsite environment struggle to transfer those skills when managing employees working offsite. The emphasis must be on building connections, not just getting the work done. If a manager has never met the employee in-person, they must work even harder at building a foundation of trust and sense of connection, both personally and with the team.
- Onboarding is crucial. This traditional HR process must be redesigned in a hybrid/remote workplace to accommodate the distance factor. Managers need to assimilate the worker not just in their role, but in the relationships with other employees both within and outside their work team
- The importance of how we do the work. Understandably, managers are focused on tactics – goals, objectives, individual and team performance. But to get that work done requires connection and community, a sense of belonging and understanding of where
one fits in the big picture. That’s why good managers build time into their interactions for non-tactical discussions to help people understand each other and facilitate collaboration. It can be as simple as starting a meeting with small talk instead of just jumping into the
agenda. Or be work-related but strengthening connection, for example, asking, “What did you like that we accomplished this past week? What frustrated you about the work that we did this past week?” The goal is to prompt people to step back from the tactical and reflect on the experience of how they collaborate or how they’re making decisions as a group.
- Understand the employee. For an employee to be authentic, to bring their whole selves to work and feel seen, heard and valued, the manager must do some homework first. To better understand your employee, consider finding the answers to these questions:
- What motivates the person? Why are they here in this position?
- What is their favorite kind of work?
- Do they like rules and structure, or do they need more freedom and flexibility?
- Do they prefer working in a team or independently?
- Are they more task- or people-oriented?
- How do they prefer to receive feedback?
- What have past managers done that they liked or didn’t like and would prefer you not do?
Best Practices: How to Support Purpose and Meaning
Corporate ethics and values have become central to retaining good employees. According to Gallup research, Gen Z and millennials, in particular, want their employer to value diversity, equity and inclusion and to exhibit ethical and transparent leadership. If they don’t see this, they’re willing
to walk or disengage. In short, employees want to work for an organization where they feel they have a connection to the work that they do, and it has meaning for them.
- Revisit, redefine and recommunicate corporate values.
With all the upheaval over the past three years, it’s critical that companies are clear about their values and how they guide the work. That’s why many organizations in the past year are either redefining their
corporate values or recommunicating them to employees.
- Connection to values is an everyday conversation. Successful employers know that values are a part of everyday business. Making those values clear helps employees understand how they impact the business and makes it easier to see meaning for themselves. That means those values must be woven into everyday activities, not something for an offsite retreat. Ask yourself, what makes work meaningful here? This should be the foundation of everything that you do and how you communicate. For example, in a team meeting or one-on-one you could ask:
- Which of our values do you feel you modeled well this past month?
- Which of the values was difficult to connect to or realize in your work?
- How could we do a better job of reinforcing these values in our day-to-day work?
- Employee resource groups. Also known as affinity groups, these bring together people of similar background for social support. This enables them to express who they are and discuss their role in the organization. Many ERGs also look at how their unique perspective can impact the business.
- Volunteer work. Many employers encourage and give workers time to devote to causes that are important to them. This makes a strong statement essentially saying, “We want you to be yourself and supporting a cause that you feel passionate about is who you are. And we welcome that expression and work.” This makes employees feel more connected to the organization and creates a sense of meaning and purpose.
Employers must reevaluate their employee value proposition to make sure it still speaks to today’s labor force. Building connection and community, and helping employees feel purpose and meaning in their work is a win/win. It strengthens engagement, reduces turnover and brings creativity and energy to the organization.