The Return of Talent: Five Ways Employee Experience Will Drive Market Recovery

As the Senior Team at Rota collaborated on formulating our 2021 strategy, we read that 80% of CEOs are concerned about their ability to access skilled labour in the future. It got us to even deeper thinking about how Rota, and other businesses should adapt to return to a talent-focused approach in 2021.

No one can blame businesses for not predicting 2020: the challenges last year threw up took virtually every sector off guard, and few have emerged unscathed.  

But with a quarter of UK workers actively considering a career change in 2021 and further fallout from COVID-19 and Brexit still to come, HR teams simply responding to events is no longer enough.

Instead, 2021 must be a year of decisive action, where organisations return to being truly talent driven and leaders take responsibility for engaging with top talent and convincing them to stick it out.

Doing so will require a radical rethink of the role employee experience plays within organisations, and in this article we’re going to look at five ways businesses can respond to the events of 2020 to create a more engaged, motivated and ultimately effective workforce.  

1.         Embrace Flexibility

2020 demanded a new level of flexibility and sustained responsiveness from employees, with an almost-overnight embrace of remote working and a new level of job precarity in many particularly vulnerable sectors, such as hospitality.

2021 must see an acknowledgement and improvement of this effort, with employers rewarding workers with a new level of flexibility and freedom. This might mean allowing employees more control over the shifts they work; it might simply mean allowing greater freedom about where and when work gets done.

According to Workest’s State of Flexibility surveys, 77% of workers consider flexibility a key consideration when appraising a job offer, yet 53% of organisations have no official policies regarding workplace flexibility.

Increased autonomy will pay dividends in employee engagement, improving both retention and overall performance. Perhaps most importantly though, it will enable workers to better manage their work-life balance and prioritise mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

2.       Prioritise Wellbeing

Work-related burnout increased by 24% in 2020, following years of increasing concern over employee mental health.  The upshot is that top talent is increasingly unlikely to compromise on wellbeing in 2021, meaning organisations need to make a concerted effort to improve their workplace offering.  

While there is a large industry of engagement/wellbeing gurus, products and programmes aimed at providing more positive wellness benefits, it is important that leaders don’t overlook smaller aspects of workplace culture which contribute hugely to overall employee wellbeing.

In industries that operate on a shift-basis, for example, uncertainty and miscommunication can be disproportionately damaging, creating stress and tension amongst teams. Correcting this can have an outsized impact on overall morale.

Ultimately, leaders & HR Departments should be looking not just to prioritise wellbeing but also actively signal that intent; without clear messaging, efforts to improve the workplace will simply not have the desired impact.

3.       Communicate Transparency

Relations between senior management and employees were strained throughout 2020, with responses to the pandemic being heavily scrutinised by the latter. A major challenge for companies in 2021 is to win the trust of their workers, and the best way to do this is through transparent communication.

Transparency during COVID-19 has been shown to increase employee engagement by 85%: it encourages a sense of joint ownership and mutual respect. By the same token, a lack of transparency has been shown to increase the likelihood of talent exiting the organization by a whopping 87%.

While transparency in-itself can be challenging, it’s also important for leaders to note that their communication method needs to improve in-line with this increase in transparency. While 77% of employees open internal emails, only 37% actually read the message, assuming that corporate communications are not of interest to them.

Employers should look to engage workers at the level workers feel most natural. Rather than sending broad, corporate-seeming communications, there should be an effort to make communication feel personal and honest, and a large part of this will be about increasing the digital footprint of your business.

4.       Increase Digital engagement

Digital work was widely adopted during 2020, with an increased normalisation throughout a huge variety of sectors. This has, however, created a whole new set of challenges for leaders.

Often, employees are expected to navigate a large number of disparate data sources and communication platforms in order to keep pace with work. This creates unnecessary complexity and can cause productivity to dip up by as much as 80% due to the phenomenon of context-switching.

Organisations should look to simplify and centralise as much of their staff communications as possible, making it easier for workers to stay on top of their messages and up to date with changes.

By making the digital workplace easier and more intuitive for workers to navigate and contribute to, the rate of engagement will increase and overall employee experience will improve immeasurably.

5.       Demonstrate Values

2020 was a year of growing social tension, and employees increasingly expect their employers to stand for something. This doesn’t mean every business has to become a hub of social justice activism; it simply means value-driven businesses will have greater access to talent and see higher levels of individual engagement.

The point here is not to cynically adopt values as an HR tool; it is to allow the existing values within your organisation a louder voice, in order to expand and improve your workplace culture. The values an organisation stands for must be aligned with its existing brand and culture, and must fundamentally emulate organically from your staff.

This may be the toughest aspect of employee experience we’ve discussed, but it may also be the most powerful. With research consistently demonstrating the importance of values and social beliefs in millennial’s career choices, building an internal brand around authentic beliefs may be the key to enticing the next generation of talented workers.

Rota helps people-driven organisations to build, manage & engage their entire workforce all in one place. Our leading technology brings your internal & external staffing processes together to ensure the very best outcomes for you and your teams using data driven insights. If you’re looking to learn more click here.


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