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Ruder Finn CEO shares tips for keeping talent engaged in the ‘new normal’

by | Jan 18, 2022 | Public Relations

With employee turnover on the rise amidst the Great Resignation, business leaders need to double-down on what incentivizes their talent in the long-term. The labor and skills shortage is now so severe that according to Deloitte, CEOs rank it as the number one issue expected to influence or disrupt their business strategy within the next 12 months.

Unfortunately for business leaders, there is no linear path to a solution, and certainly no “one-size-fits all” approach—boosted compensation and pandemic bonuses can only go so far. However, with a holistic reevaluation of the workplace, employers can better understand how to address the “why” behind employee satisfaction (or perhaps more importantly, their dissatisfaction).

More profound than higher wages and hybrid work models, business leaders can expect to see three drivers in 2022 of the talent pool’s agenda: emphasis on culture, pursuit of purpose, and opportunities for continuous learning. Ultimately, employees want to root themselves somewhere with a consistent and connected work culture, while feeling that their voice matters and their potential trajectory for growth is clear.

Caring culture

A drastic disconnect exists between employee’s and employer’s relational perception, as McKinsey highlighted that the top cited factor for quitting is workers feeling undervalued by their organization. In this new paradigm of hybrid work, prioritizing employee mental health is an increasingly critical ingredient to cultivating a human-centric culture, especially given several recent surveys that point to employers’ seemingly lack of support or indifference to mental wellbeing as being a strong indicator of burnout. Investing in access to wellness-related platforms is a positive step in the right direction, with companies like JPMorgan, Starbucks and Adobe among organizations who are encouraging employees to utilize a range of in-person and digital mental health services.

Pursuit of purpose

Equally as important as feeling valued by their organization, employees want to feel that the work that they do makes a meaningful contribution to society. As we know, personal connection to one’s workplace is intrinsically tied to alignment with the purpose of the company.

Taking a page from Unilever’s play book, the company instituted “Discover your Purpose” workshops as part of a surround-sound employee initiative that connects company and employee values. Unilever team members are called upon to dig deeper into their passions or in other words, “what gets them out of bed each morning,” and are then provided with the tools and resources. Unilever’s purpose workshops have helped contribute to 49% of employees feeling more motivated and 40% affirming that they are more likely to stick with the company.

Learning ladder

As workers continue to reflect on what defines a meaningful and fulfilling career, a new growth mindset has emerged, with priorities shifting farther away from one’s present situation to what their future aspirations hold. Basically, the long-dreaded interview question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” suddenly doesn’t seem so obscure. In a recent survey by Bankrate, career development was cited as a main factor of why 55 percent of employees plan to look for a new job within the next year, an alarming insight that goes to show, fear of stagnancy as a motive for career changes should not be overlooked. That being said, a core emphasis on how organizations strive to retrain and upskill employees establishes a clear pathway to maximized retention and engagement.

Earlier this year, software company SAP had its first “People Day”. All 100,000 SAP employees were encouraged to focus on their development instead of their routine work and across the company, team members attended sessions geared toward development goals and learning.

It’s also safe to say that technology will have a major footprint in the future of employee training and advancement, especially as the way of work becomes increasingly digitized in our hybrid reality. Companies such as Salesforce are empowering those within and outside of the organization to acquire knowledge in areas of technology, business and soft skills with Trailhead, a free online learning platform. This is just one example of the many companies that are capitalizing on emerging technologies to promote creative and innovative employee learning experiences.

The Great Resignation, while daunting, provides an opportunity for leaders to gain a competitive edge in the war for talent. Although, it’s important to bear in mind that fostering a culture of satisfaction cannot be solely achieved with an extra day off or a bonus here and there. Recognizing that compensation goes far beyond transactional tokens of appreciation, leaders need to identify the organizational cracks and action systemic changes, with increased emphasis on company culture, purpose and positive learning. How employee opinions, ideas and skillsets are championed inspires a sense of belonging and community. It is only when we empathize with and meet employees’ needs that we can anticipate seeing more companies thrive in a post-pandemic workplace.

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Kathy Bloomgarden
Dr. Kathy Bloomgarden is CEO of Ruder Finn Inc., one of the world's largest independent public relations and creative agencies, founded by PR industry pioneer and legend David Finn, with offices throughout the United States, the UK, and offices across the Asia Pacific region. Ruder Finn has been awarded America’s Best PR Agency 2021 by Forbes, Bulldog Reporter’s Most Innovative Agency Award and Large Agency of the Year by PR News. PR News named Kathy both 2021 CEO of the Year and a Top Women in PR Changemaker.

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