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First published on Forbes, 09/12/21
Everyone’s talking about the Great Resignation and the pressing need to hire. But what about the employees who have decided to stay? Far less attention, if any, is being given to this loyal cohort of ‘remainers’ who are helping businesses stay afloat. This is a serious oversight that could, if left unchecked, drive even more people to quit.
It’s the perfect storm. People are leaving jobs in their millions and there simply aren’t enough quality candidates available to take their place. The result is that the workers left behind are having to pick up the slack and take on more responsibilities than ever before. It’s not unusual to hear of people working 14-hour days, seven days a week. But it simply isn’t sustainable for staff to give their best when they’re overtired and overworked. Something has got to give. Employers, it’s time to step up.
Make End-Of-Year Appraisals Count
Recruiting new blood is vital for growth but it shouldn’t be at the expense of existing employees. Ensuring current staff are nurtured, supported and have everything they need to feel motivated to stay should be a priority. Is the compensation package you’re offering competitive? Are the training and development opportunities you’re providing enough to ward off the approaches of headhunters? These are the questions you need to ask as a matter of urgency, whether as part of a so-called stay interview or end-of-year appraisal. Speak to employees one-on-one and find what they enjoy about their job, what could be improved and what you can do to ensure they’re enthusiastic ‘remainers’. The key is to listen to what they have to say and be prepared to act on their feedback.
Be Flexible on Flexibility
Your working arrangements also have an impact on how employees feel, with research showing that employers stand to gain a lot in terms of commitment and loyalty by empowering employees to work in the way they prefer. With greater autonomy over their working week, people say they feel more trusted to do their job effectively, they’re more motivated to do a better-quality job and more likely to go the extra mile.
We already know that people want and expect flexibility, and many businesses have responded by introducing a hybrid model with a set number of days when employees are expected to be in the office. However, now is the time to dispense with set-ups that dictate where and when employees work. If your aim is to keep workers on side, let them decide what flexible looks like for them. If you don’t, your competitors will.
Communicate Often And Openly
One of the issues with people working remotely is that it’s more difficult to spot the signs of stress and anxiety. That’s why it’s so important to check in with each team member on a regular basis. After more than 20 months of pandemic-induced uncertainty, not to mention expanded workloads due to staff shortages, it’s very likely that people will be feeling the strain. Your aim should be to nip problems in the bud before they have a chance to develop into burnout.
Letting employees know you have their back can make a positive difference, with Gallup research showing that employees who strongly agree that they feel supported by their manager are about 70% less likely to experience burnout on a regular basis. Creating an open and judgement-free environment can also help by giving people the courage to admit when they’re struggling and ask for help.
It’s also important to set boundaries and encourage employees to look after themselves. They may think that they can take on endless responsibilities and consistently work long hours without a break, but that isn’t good for anyone. When people are tired and over-stretched, they’re less productive, more likely to make mistakes and more likely to get sick. It’s up to leaders to encourage healthy behavior. I firmly believe that people need to take their annual leave and enjoy it to the full – and that mean switching off and recharging without checking emails or being contacted by their team. I therefore ask everyone to provide a detailed handover before heading off on vacation so that I can manage their workload when they’re away.
Prioritize Mental Wellbeing
Ultimately, the only way to truly ease the pressure on existing employees is to recruit and quickly train up new talent, which is easier said than done in the current climate. Until then, businesses need to recognize the excellent job that these employees are doing in challenging circumstances and the toll that may be taking on their mental wellbeing. If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that being open and honest about mental health is a good thing. If people feel that they can share their issues and concerns, they’re one step closer to getting the support they need.
As for organizations, nurturing your current workforce makes absolute business sense. Happy, healthy employees are more productive and provide a strong foundation for your future success, creating a core team that future hires will relish being part of.