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The ‘retention game’ - what really motivates employees in 2022?

Understanding evolving employee needs holds the key to retaining and re-energising the post-pandemic workforce

by Tom Hadley, Business Coach and Chair of BFI’s Employee Retention Workshop

With the great post-pandemic ‘reset’ in motion, employers and business leaders across the globe are honing-in on the following core question: What really motivates employees in 2022? This underpins evolving approaches to recruitment, retention, organisational culture and performance management. And the building block for organisations looking to make real change happen in all these areas is finding effective ways of tracking evolving employee needs and expectations.

So, what does good look like and what innovations are we starting to see in terms employee engagement and getting to grips with post-pandemic zeitgeist? Based on my global projects with organisations like the World Employment Confederation and the International Labour Organization (ILO), here are just some of the ways forward:

1. Looking beyond data 

Staff surveys, especially ‘pulse’ surveys that provide regular updates on employee sentiment, have their place. But organisations are complementing this with qualitative insight based on more in-depth dialogue. What does this look like in practice? Some employers are using external facilitation and a ‘focus group’ approach, others are simply ring-fencing time in regular team meetings to stimulate open and honest debate. Whatever the methodology, getting proper conversations started is key to understanding how people are feeling – and why.

2. Implementing people management 2.0

Linked to the above, organisations are simultaneously accelerating new management cultures, involving more regular one-to-one conversations and a coaching approach to staff development and wellbeing. Leadership and management skills needs are evolving which also has implications how we recruit and nurture the next generation of managers and leaders. It is also about recalibrating where managers spend their time and energy; more of this precious commodity needs to be ring-fenced for internal staff-facing activities if we want to get to know our colleagues a bit better and comprehend what matters most to them.

3. Co-creating a new approach to flexibility, wellbeing and purpose

Greater flexibility is a given and just under 50% of all workers would move to an organisation for better wellbeing, according to a recent Manpower report. There is also a heightened focus on a values-driven agenda, trust and empathetic leadership. The challenge for employers is to be clear on what this looks like in practice and on how to make lasting change happen. The solution? How about co-creating strategic plans and implementation activities with the wider workforce? Let’s make change happen together!

4. Recognising specific challenges

The pandemic impacted disproportionately on different sectors and on different parts of the workforce. For example, McKinsey’s annual Women in the Workplace research shows that 42% of women report being burnt-out – higher than the percentage of men. New initiatives linked to engagement and retention are reflecting the need for targeted action and are complementing ongoing D&I initiatives. What does this look like in practice? Again, being employee-led is the way forward, in this case through the creation of worker forums.

5. Going back to basics 

This is a good time to drive rampant innovation and many of the employers I speak to are doing just that. But others are taking a breath and going back to basics: Are our job descriptions up-to-date and do they reflect the work that is actually being done or needs to be done? Is the physical workplace up to scratch? Do we have the infrastructure and management capability that we need? What quick ins could we instigate to bring our people together to boost cohesion and collective energy? I’ll be unpacking a bag-full of case studies on all of these areas at the end of the month.

Purpose - 64% of employees want their work to improve society

To conclude, a final thought on that other current buzz-word: Purpose. Manpower’s ‘Great Realisation’ report shows that 64% of employees want their daily work to help improve society.

Increasingly, it is not just about what you do as an organisation, it is about who you are. This is key to driving active engagement and organisational energy; it is also key to winning the retention game. Plenty to zoom in on and discuss on March 31st! See you then.

To register for the next Employee Retention Workshop on Thursday, 22nd September '22 please go to the following link.