How HR Can Help Employers Retain And Engage Employees

HR MagazineLife got put on hold for most people in 2020 and has continued into 2021, naturally allowing time for people to contemplate their personal and professional lives. Many employers and business owners are having a challenging time finding staff to fulfill open jobs and on the flipside, 48% of U.S. employees are either actively looking for new jobs or casually keeping an eye out for better opportunities as a result of life changes and even moving to different locations allowing for ‘remote’ work environment.

The American workforce is large and complex, and multiple factors affect individual decisions, so there are no simple answers. But we do know that the pandemic put an enormous strain on workers, significantly increasing anxiety levels. People who live alone may feel isolated while working remotely. Many parents have 3 tips to follow been impacted by the shortage of childcare, and those with children in school have had to supervise remote schooling and juggle family responsibilities while trying to get their work done all at once.

That’s a lot of stress, so it’s not surprising that as the pandemic dragged on, people began to rethink the role work plays in their lives. But a Gallup study identified a specific root cause for the number of employees who are changing jobs: lack of engagement. Most employees say they’re not engaged or, worse, they are actively disengaged. That means HR professionals need a plan to manage evolving workforce expectations and address engagement issues. Below are three things you can do to support your remote employees and keep a well engaged team during this time.

Be Flexible to Help Employees Optimize Their Work-Life Blend

The work-from-home experiment that’s been taking place for the past year and a half is going to have a lasting effect, even after the pandemic is finally behind us. In every industry where it’s possible to work remotely, employers will have to either give employees that option at least part of the time — or watch their best talent walk out the door. The hype about the new hybrid workplace is real too.

Increasing compensation will go only so far in addressing employee restlessness. The youngest generation of employees are highly mobile, and while they are motivated by money like everyone else, they crave flexibility. Now that they’ve had a taste of it, there’s no going back. Employers who offer a hybrid arrangement and flexible work hours, so that employees have greater control, will find it easier to attract the best and brightest and, critically, keep them on board.

That said, it’s important to note that it’s not just Gen Z workers who demand flexibility. Millennials, Gen X and others may also decide to leave companies that don’t offer a hybrid arrangement to take a job with a competitor that gives them more control over their schedule. Flexibility is quickly becoming table stakes in a tight labor market, and businesses that don’t conform to new expectations will experience costly turnover, lose institutional knowledge and find it harder to compete.

Elevate Engagement to Keep Employees Connected

In addition to setting up hybrid work arrangements, HR teams can help their companies keep their How HR Can Help Employers Retain And Engage Employees best people on board by starting and/or building out programs put in place earlier in the pandemic to address employee engagement. Holding one-on-one check-ins with employees at least quarterly (more often if possible) is a good way to elevate engagement. Less formal activities like virtual happy hours, trivia contests, escape rooms, scavenger hunts, etc., can also be a wonderful way to create a sense of camaraderie and keep employees connected to each other — and to the company.

Recognition programs can also improve engagement. Formal recognition from company leaders can help employees stay motivated. Kudos on Slack channels are a quick and effective way to thank employees for a job well done, and as an added benefit, public recognition for excellent work helps coworkers better understand how their colleagues contribute to company success, which can encourage closer ties and inspire collaboration.

As just about everyone in HR learned during the pandemic if they didn’t know it before, constant communication is essential to connecting remote teams and maintaining a healthy company culture. It’s especially critical for new employees who need to integrate into the company’s culture. In addition to check-ins, HR can create other opportunities to bring employees together and offer professional development at the same time through activities like lunch and learn events.

HR’s High EQ Helps Keep Employees Engaged

Well before the pandemic hit, the role of HR had evolved. Contrary to the outdated stereotype of the “HR lady” calling people into her office to fire them, today’s HR professionals must have empathy, emotional intelligence and a broad skillset to align people with company objectives. There’s some truth to the sayings on HR-targeted coffee mugs that describe the role as “lawyer, therapist, event planner, teacher and peacemaker.”

HR professionals needed all those skills and more to help their companies pivot successfully during the economic uncertainty and significant health risks that marked the pandemic’s early stages. They’ll need those qualities again in the days ahead to help employees and the company navigate a transformed workplace. Engagement is the key, and HR professionals who can keep employees emotionally connected can help their company retain top talent and keep employees happy.