Expressed opinions Entrepreneur Contributors are their own.
The last two years have been marked as a time of great concern for business leaders. We had to pivot in the hybrid workplace, navigate the psychological and logical effects of the epidemic, and now we see an increase in employee resignations re-evaluating their priorities.
Clearly, these same factors have increased the pressure on workers. So if your employees are less busy than usual, don’t panic right now for the panic button. These are different times, and metrics like busyness (and the old way of measuring them) may not be the best indicator of where your workforce is at the moment.
There are other, more stressful issues to focus on that can give you insight into where the problems are – and how to fix them – before they bubble to the surface.
Related: Here’s what’s behind the great resignation and how employers can be prepared
Find the metrics that are important
The way we have traditionally measured employee engagement is misleading. It was a mistake to think that an annual survey would suffice for an accurate reading of the engagement, and the epidemic showed just how short-sighted that approach was.
Things have changed dramatically over the last few years, and we’re finally examining the reasons why Really Affects employees’ feelings. For example, we know employees appreciate greater flexibility, autonomy, and efficiency in working from home, and most knowledgeable employees say that flexibility is more important than salary or other benefits.
But many employers are stubbornly tracking engagement as if nothing has changed – and finding disturbing results. A Gallup survey found that in 2021, employee engagement decreased year after year for the first time in a decade, with only 34% of employees reporting that they were employed.
This may sound scary, but when we think of high and low busyness, it is important to consider what we are comparing it to. Surveys show that the busyness was not so great as to start, often with only one-third of the staff hovering around. The “record drop” of engagement makes a good headline, but it really represents a marginal fall.
It is similar to inflation. Every year the price of things is higher but the growth is so low that we rarely notice day by day. Suddenly though, of all the disturbances, it is much more noticeable.
Instead of relying on annual surveys, specific data can give you better insights. Find what I call “hot spots” – your problem area. Drill down to the departmental level to gain insight into where your employees are falling apart. What pleases an engineer will not necessarily satisfy an employee in sales and a healthy relationship with managers is important.
Bottom line is: make it a habit to listen continuously without having to do one survey a year. Ask your team less, more strategic questions more often. That way, you’ll get real-time feedback and be able to resolve isolation before it becomes a real problem.
Related: Why Active Hearing is a critical skill for founders and entrepreneurs
Identify and differentiate what drives your team
Another problem with surveys once a year? They treat employees like monoliths. We need to go deeper for proper analysis which keeps various employees tap-in. I believe there are three main factors that determine engagement: salary, experience and mission.
Salary Classic External Motivation – Some employees are motivated only by money.
Experience Drives employees who respond to issues such as learning opportunities, peer relationships, company culture and even working in a small or large team.
Mission Inspires people aligned with your organization’s higher purpose beyond profit and growth.
While the epidemic did not have a measurable impact on salaries, it did have a huge impact on experience and mission. People’s perceptions of work were disrupted due to health protocols in the workplace, remote work or changes in company motives. Not surprisingly, about two-thirds of employees say they are re-evaluating their work – only 15% of frontline managers and frontline employees say they find job objectives compared to 85% of high-ups. And this is despite the fact that more and more people are prioritizing the purpose of their work.
This is not new, I have seen many people who have decades of experience struggle with their purpose. One way to deal with this is to lean towards change. Changing someone’s job can actually clarify the point of view of employees.
To that end, our company internally encourages workers’ movements. One of our software developers is now doing customer support and engagement. A software developer has become a pre-sales engineer, and there is a writer who is now a product manager. Sometimes the best way to revive busyness is to get people out of their comfort zone and introduce a new challenge.
Put people before the process
I have worked in my life where I felt isolated. Although as a workaholic, I was frustrated but still productive. A big inspiration killer for me is when companies get so caught up in their own processes that they forget about people.
It is easy for leaders to be so process-oriented that they lose sight of how real people work. If a company has always done ABC to go to D, they don’t want to hear that employees B and C are considered incompetent and unpleasant. In other words: some leaders cannot handle the truth.
Related: Today’s offices should reflect the need for staff transfers
If employers really want to keep busy, they need to keep people in front and at the center of their decision making. This can mean finding ways to phase out B and C and incorporating employee feedback into finding solutions.
When leaders stop listening to their employees, the problem of busyness increases. Feedback not only helps us refine our system and identify problems, it also releases the energy that we can put into things that will actually improve engagement.
After all, in an age where employee experience is reversed and where even working employees are resigning in groups, it is important to remember that everyone is adapting to a new normal – leaders and employees alike.
More than ever, leaders must take the time to understand how business decisions affect employees and create a new normal that is better than the ones we left behind.
Related: Five Ways to Improve Company Culture