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CEO & Founder of BrightPlan and a former executive at Cisco, is a longtime Silicon Valley innovator and business leader.
As the pandemic lingers, significant business challenges persist. In the midst of navigating remote and hybrid workplaces and the continued health, economic and financial uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, employee stress continues to be high. Attracting and retaining talent is tougher than it has ever been. Workers are quitting at high rates and candidates are ghosting interviews. The lack of qualified candidates and a highly competitive market pose significant business challenges.
Perhaps a contributing factor in the war for talent is the lack of employee engagement and mounting stress. A recent Gallup poll revealed that only 36% of employees surveyed report feeling engaged at work.
And while the racial justice movement brought much-needed attention to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, there’s still more work to do.
Yet, it’s not all bad. Many companies have made positive strides to address some of these challenges. As the world embraces 2022, business leaders must continue to prioritize their employees’ well-being, which will ultimately have positive impacts on the health of the business. Here’s how:
One: Promote a culture of care that puts the employee experience first.
Employee experience is critical when it comes to a company’s bottom line — happy employees lead to happy customers. Yet as the war for talent rages on, many companies are challenged with keeping employees satisfied and productive.
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Business leaders must prioritize creating an employee-centric culture and leverage strategies, such as:
Listening. Leverage 1:1s, surveys or impromptu check-ins to find out what struggles your employees are facing and how you may be able to support them. Are they satisfied with their work environment? Do they have the right resources and benefits in place?
Taking action. Now that you’ve gathered the feedback, focus on implementing changes. How can you show employees that you hear them? Share regular company updates that directly correlate to what you’re hearing: “Several employees have expressed a desire for X, which is why I’m excited to announce the implementation of Y.”
Being a role model of your company’s employee experience and culture. You’ve taken action, but how can you, as a leader, walk the talk? Employees will follow your lead, so lead by example.
Two: Prioritize holistic wellness to drive engagement and business success.
Today’s work and living environment is more stressful than ever. Companies like Nike, LinkedIn and Bumble did something this year that’s quite novel: they gave employees an extended and sporadic week off to focus on their mental health.
Financial stress is also high. My company conducted a survey of 1,500 knowledge workers and found 65% of respondents report being stressed about finances. This, in turn, can impact overall employee well-being. A study found that there is an association between high financial debt and higher diastolic blood pressure in young adults.
Here’s how you can address the holistic well-being of your people:
Educate your leaders. Empower them to be stewards of employee wellness and to support their team’s well-being.
Offer benefits. Benefits should enable the holistic well-being of employees physically, mentally and financially. Employee wellness is no longer nice to have — it’s a business imperative.
Provide options. Flexible benefits options can address the individual needs of a diverse set of employees. Let employees choose what is most important to them through a menu of options, whether it’s housecleaning, childcare or therapy sessions.
Three: Walk the talk with DEI.
Amid the pandemic, DEI conversations were brought to the forefront, adding complex and contentious issues for companies to manage.
PwC recently surveyed 128 financial executives at Fortune 1000 and private companies; 60% said they plan to advance DEI efforts and more than half (57%) are making investments in DEI training.
To take deeper action, focus on DEI initiatives as part of your C-suite agenda. Inclusion and belonging efforts that are driven from the top are most effective, but not all leaders realize that DEI should be part of their role.
Let’s look at the CFO, who in many workplaces is the steward of the company, communicating the brand and mission to investors. How can the CFO take a bigger responsibility in owning DEI initiatives? Some examples include:
• Selecting diverse vendors and suppliers
• Working with people of color and women-owned private equity or VC firms
• Investing in implementing practices that erase systematic or unconscious biases that make it harder for people from diverse backgrounds to succeed
The CFO is just one example – ultimately, all company leaders must model the change we want to see. Walking the talk means showing support for existing company initiatives and leaving space to create new ones. To drive effective change, hold your people — and yourself — accountable for creating a more inclusive culture.
The challenges related to the employee experience, holistic well-being, DEI and attracting and retaining talent are surmountable with the right strategy in place. Forward-thinking C-suite and business leaders need to prioritize these focus areas as they have a direct impact on the business.
While 2021 has indeed been a rocky year for the workplace, 2022 brings new opportunities to evolve the workplace for the better. It’s more important than ever for companies to ensure that every employee feels valued, heard and respected — not only because it positively impacts the business, but because it’s the right thing to do.