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How to combat The Deluge of Unhappy Workers

Much has been said, written, discussed, about how difficult things have been for workers and businesses recently. However, this period of intense change also poses an incredible opportunity for businesses, offering options to overhaul how things are done, and ensure businesses can become magnets for talent.

Firstup’s recent research, The Deluge of Unhappy Workers, made sombre reading, with employees feeling undervalued, and uniformed. With over 50% of those surveyed  feeling that their role was not valued by their employer, the results were both fascinating and alarming.

While these numbers were alarming, it gives organisations an insight into what they need to do today to leverage their workforce, and to keep employees happy. Now there is a real opportunity for leadership teams to really look at the way they are engaging with their workforce and transform – to ensure they become an employer of choice.

So what does a culture which both attracts and retains top talent look like?

As with so many things, getting the basics right is the first step in achieving success. What this means for businesses is alignment. Alignment with strategy, across the business, and in communications. This requires real conviction and role modelling from leaders, in order to bring that journey to life in a compelling way. Taking the time to ensure this level of alignment will then cascade, and impact, every other element of an organisation’s internal engagement.

A sense of ownership throughout the organisation plays a huge part in how valuable employees feel. In order for the whole business to be aligned with an organisation’s strategy, everyone – from the shop floor to the C-Suite, should feel that they have a contribution towards strategy. Unfortunately, strategies are often created in a boardroom with little buy-in or engagement from other levels of the business. Taking the time to engage workers from every level of business in strategy development will ensure that people feel part of the journey and, more importantly, feel they can influence this. This will have an incredible impact on the energy and commitment to deliver the strategy across the whole business.

Supporting middle management
With 38% of workers wanting better communications between employers and employees, it is clear that, at present, communications aren’t always reaching every level of the business – particularly the frontline. Understandably, this has a detrimental impact on an employee’s ability to understand where the company is headed, and how they contribute to that goal. Importantly, the research tells us that employees will feel more valued if they feel seen and heard by the leadership team.

In small businesses, both of these matters are easier to handle in a direct way – with channels of communication being shortened and individual recognition simpler, but larger organisations necessitate a more well thought out approach.

An often-overlooked asset in this area are team leaders. These individuals are often the ones on the ground, conveying the organisational message and receiving information from the workforce. This level of management has the capacity to be both enablers and engagers.

By ensuring that these people are equipped to be fantastic communicators, making sure that they are cascading information and taking the time to understand from them how workers want to be heard, this will ensure that those on the shop floor feel visible in their day-to-day role and have an appreciation of how they contribute to the overall business objectives.

Technology to support productivity
To establish a culture that employees want to be a part of you must make life easier for them. That means making tasks more efficient, freeing up time, and building trust. It is vital that business leaders critically assess the blockers and barriers that are preventing people from doing their job to the best of their ability and take steps to make these processes easier by providing workers with the best possible tools and apps to do their jobs. In addition to boosting productivity, demonstrating this level of understanding of what employees need, and being prepared to invest in it, will go a long way in boosting feelings of worth to the organisation.

Roadmap for the future
With so many employees seemingly disengaged and contemplating leaving their jobs, it’s easy to become discouraged. However, this also means that there is a huge amount of talent with itchy feet, and a massive opportunity for businesses to take steps to ensure they are the ones attracting top talent and creating a culture where people don’t want to leave.

Going forward, senior leaders need to ensure that they are taking heed of data insights  and using it as a roadmap for the future. Employees have given a very clear indication of what they want and need to feel valued in their roles, and it is now down to those at the top to deliver this.

Ignoring the signs is not an option for those businesses that want to stay ahead of the game. Employee expectations of feeling valued, having a purpose, and of being engaged, are only going to increase, particularly as younger generations (who have grown up expecting personalised two-way engagement thanks to social media) enter the workforce.

Finally, it is vital to remember that employee engagement is a journey. There is no end destination – the finish line will continually move and change. This presents an exciting opportunity for leaders and employees to build a sense of cultural and behavioural change as they embark on this journey together.