Build Engagement With Trust and a People-First Approach

HR departments today are constantly faced with a growing number of challenges as the workplace demographic changes and employees’ needs span across five generations. As the nature of work evolves, HR leaders are shifting their priorities to learn the ins and outs of a new generation of professionals to meet the workforce’s changing needs.

To do this, it’s vital to first understand where the industry is now to anticipate the challenges and opportunities of the future. That’s why a recent report dived into the views of HR leaders to get the inside scoop from those on the front lines.

The recent survey of 123 HR leaders and practitioners by Achievers, my company, shows that while they are generally great at supporting a healthy work-life balance and promoting the mission of the organization, there are some obstacles still holding them back from reaching optimal business success. Let’s take a closer look.

Importance of trust

Trust is a key performance motivator for employees – and for good reason. If an employee doesn’t trust leadership, they are highly unlikely to put effort (particularly discretionary effort) into hitting their goals in order to move the business forward. Data from the 2019 Fortune 100 Best Trends shows that employees are five times more likely to want to work at an organization for a long time if they perceive management to be trustworthy. A workforce that trusts and respects its leaders is more dedicated to the business and, ths, performs better.

Unfortunately, 79% of HR leaders today believe their workforce does not trust their leadership. According to our recent report, Empowerment and Trust: The Keys to Employee Engagement, only one in five HR and engagement leaders agree that their employees deeply trust their company leaders. This wide-reaching lack of trust has a tremendous impact on retention and culture. In fact, 59% of employees say that their feelings of distrust towards leadership has resulted in leaving an organization, according to a survey cited by  Ken Blanchard Companies research.

The most recent Edelman Trust Barometer says employees have more trust in their employer than HR might suspect: “Globally, 75 percent of people trust ‘my employer’ to do what is right.”

Leaders are responsible for setting the tone of an organization’s culture, so it makes sense that trust in leadership will follow if they promote a collaborative environment that fosters engagement and mutual respect.

Few have a feedback system

An employee’s experience is determined by the value, recognition and respect they receive at work. People intrinsically want to come to work and make a great impact. Individuals become enthusiastic about their jobs and stay committed when they have positive feelings toward their colleagues and feel their work is recognized by leaders and peers.

Unfortunately, however, our Achievers’ survey found only 22% of HR leaders feel they have an effective system in place to foster a culture of feedback, lending to the growing number of disengaged employees that cost companies billions of dollars per year. Having a culture of feedback – that promotes continuous, always-on communication – results in a better employee experience, which then positively impacts overall talent metrics like productivity, retention and engagement.

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Empowered employees are dedicated employees. They have the resources and tools that allow them to feel they are a vital part of an organization, which leads them to be not only more productive, but also invested in being advocates of the brand and culture. Employees who have access to communication channels to provide feedback and elevate issues to managers early-on also fuel the feedback loop, promoting a collaborative and inclusive work environment.

However, many organizations are lacking in the two-way communication department with one in seven having no formal way to listen to employees. Instead, companies still spread news through email blasts or by hanging posters in the breakroom. Lack of comprehensive systems result in a deficit of information being shared but, perhaps even more importantly, employees feeling unheard. Organizations need to empower the voice of the employee to derive meaningful feedback that reflects the actual needs and wants of the workforce.

Build a people-first culture

The future of employee engagement and feedback is bright as organizations continue to adopt an employee-first culture, but there are still challenges to work through before reaching optimal success. For an organization to overcome today’s engagement and trust challenges, HR leaders need to introduce systems for employee communication that resonate with all generations.

However, as new generations join the workforce, HR leaders need to be cognizant of their lives as consumers and meet them with technology that supports their success. Millennials and Generation Z are digital natives and by 2024, will make up more than half of the workforce. According to 42% of the HR professionals in our Achievers’ survey, engagement and feedback programs will only be effective if they match the preferences and values of the employees they serve.

Today’s digital landscape allows consumers to customize and tailor their online presence and communication preferences. As such, HR leaders need to be able to address the evolving workforce and offer the same digital experience in the workplace that employees are used to as consumers. It’s clear that adapting to meet the needs of the changing workforce is the key to remaining competitive and fostering a positive and valuable employee experience.

Natalie Baumgartner, Ph.D. is the Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers, an employee engagement platform specifically designed to align everyone with business objectives and company values, driven by recognizing shared victories every day. She has spent her career translating engagement and culture research into technology that improves the lives of every employee.

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