New ways to support employees.

You’ve likely seen the recent studies proclaiming that over 40% of employees are considering leaving their current company. It’s the kind of thing that keeps leaders up at night. Pair that with changing employee expectations and an increasingly competitive labor market, and it can become overwhelming. It’s not all about salaries and benefits. So take a deep breath and take stock of your employer brand. It can go a long way to retaining and recruiting the right team members.

Your employer brand is not something you can change overnight, but every manager can make a difference with their team starting tomorrow. We recently broke it down into a few key actionable takeaways for our managers. If you feel stuck or overwhelmed, these are a few simple places to start.

Employee expectations of their employer have changed. New trends and attitudes typically attributable to generational differences have been accelerated by the pandemic. Harvard Business Journal says, “the relationships between employees and their managers have started to shift to be more emotional and supportive. Knowledge workers now expect their managers to be part of their support system to help them improve their life experience, rather than just their employee experience.” They also suggest that we are in “a new era of management where it’s less important to see what employees are doing and more important to understand how they feel.”

Prioritize deeper conversations.

Making time to talk one-on-one with a team member, and taking the initiative to set that conversation up, shows that you care about them beyond the job. Your time is valuable, and by asking them to spend time with you, you are showing them that they are valuable.

  • Ask team members what they are passionate about and what gives them a sense of purpose, even if it’s not work related.
  • Think through ways the company can support your team members to do more of what they are passionate about.
  • Talk about ways to better align their passions or purpose to the work they are doing.

Help team members navigate the return to work.

A Wall Street Journal survey found that 82% of those who used to work in the office but shifted to working from home during the pandemic are anxious about returning to the office. A follow-up survey found that re-entry anxiety decreases employees’ work engagement, while increasing their intentions to quit.

They encourage asking employees to share their “highlight reel moments” from the pandemic — times when employees felt they were working at their peak: “research shows that when people are asked to highlight their strengths, they go on to deliver higher levels of performance.”

Don’t be shy about asking about struggles and feelings. And keep an open mind.

With more employees looking to their employers for emotional support, it is OK to respectfully ask employees if there is anything they are struggling with or how they have been feeling lately. This is not an invitation to dive into all the personal details of their lives, but a way to show that you care about their overall well-being.

If they don’t share anything or say “nothing,” that is fine, don’t pry. But for some employees, it might just be the invitation they have been waiting for to open up to you.

If they do share, make sure you are really listening, not simply peppering them with questions or quickly jumping to solutions. Practice empathy. Your team members’ struggles likely differ from yours. So make sure you are not judging them, and keep these conversations confidential. If you have questions about how to handle a situation, reach out to your company’s HR representative.

Share feedback and bring ideas to the table.

If employees share feedback that could help the organization do better, share that feedback with leadership — even if it’s hard for them to hear. If a company is committed to supporting its employees holistically, they should be open to taking action based on employee feedback.

Ongoing conversations with employees can uncover systemic issues, generate ideas to improve workflow and help improve work life for others. said, “Leaders and organizations that lean into the discomfort of change and set aside outdated norms and assumptions about work are going to not only attract and retain top talent, but thrive.”

Help team members see the path forward.

Let team members know that you are committed to supporting them throughout each season.

You don’t have to have all the answers. Supporting your team can be as simple as checking in to see how they are really doing. Demonstrate their value to the company by working with your HR team to build a clear growth plan to take their career to the next level. If they need help beyond what you can offer, or the issue is serious, put them in touch with your HR department, which can help them navigate options and insurance coverage for counseling or other support tools.

Forbes sums it up nicely: “We are in the business of supporting people so they become their full selves. Sometimes we will reap the fruit of that investment directly as employees grow and mature in their capacity and effectiveness, often playing pivotal roles in the company’s future.”

Michelle Hill, SVP/Director of Operations

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