Who wants a better employee experience in 2022? Almost everyone, and especially HR professionals.

After a surreal employee experience in 2020 and an uncertain one in 2021, it’s time for a change. Time for an improvement. Time for stability.

More than 90% of employers plan to make enhancing the employee experience a top priority in 2022, according to research from Willis Towers Watson. That’s a good idea after many companies and their employees strived, but didn’t exactly thrive, since the pandemic.

“The role of the leader has changed and will continue to change,” says Jennifer Kraszewski, VP of Human Resources at Paycom. “As a manager in the current environment, it’s imperative to make an intentional effort to create a bond with your employees, allowing them to feel certainty, significance, connection and ultimately, empowerment.”

In the new workplace, employees won’t be looking for the perks that made some companies uber-attractive in the past decade – such as stocked break rooms, catered happy hours, on-site game rooms, and dry cleaning services.

Not now. An enhanced employee experience will take a more holistic approach this year. So here are eight ways you can make the employee experience better in 2022.

Show more empathy

Perhaps the best thing to do now is start from a place of empathy. When you approach the employee experience from their point of view, you’ll likely come up with impactful ways to engage them again.

“Leading with empathy means understanding and accepting that people are not always operating at their very best,” says Kathleen Quinn Votaw, CEO of TalenTrust. “Issues from home affect work lives. Working within and around that reality is the best way to create a place where people want to come to work.”

Quinn Votaw offers these tips for all leaders. So you’ll likely want to pass them along to your front-line managers, too.

  • Be authentic. Take extra steps to ask questions to show you care about and are interested in what will make employees’ experiences better.
  • Add a personal touch. Consistently communicate with a personal touch – specific employee praise, genuine concern for well-being – to build morale and increases engagement. 
  • Make time to connect. Give employees time and opportunities to connect personally at least weekly. Ask them to cultivate ideas for better experiences during the social time – and bring them to you.
  • Respect boundaries. Don’t assume everyone’s definition of a great employee experience involves experiencing everything with everyone! Find out where employees want the line drawn between life and work.

Go to the source

The reasons employees leave and the reasons employers think they leave don’t line up, according to a Joblist survey.

For instance, more than 70% of employees say their companies can prevent turnover by improving benefits. Yet, just 42% of employers thought benefits were an issue. Another disparity: Nearly 60% of employees would stay more loyal if the company offered unscheduled raises or promotions. Meanwhile, less than 40% of employers have done that.

You don’t necessarily have to serve up better benefits and pay to improve the employee experience. But you do want to find – through surveys, town hall meetings, focus groups, etc. – what would make employees’ experiences better. Then determine what’s possible – and explain what’s not and why.

Make value matter

The workplace isn’t that much different than any place employees do business. They talk about the stores and restaurants where they felt they were valued.

To improve the employee experience, you might consider – and treat – them as customers in 2022 and beyond.

“It can be something as simple as setting up consistent one-on-one time with employees and giving them the space to ask questions, discuss their development, and gauge progress,” says Kraszewski. “Let them lead the conversation. The key is to not only address professional topics but also to get a measure of how they are feeling personally.”

Improve engagement

Increasing engagement won’t just improve the experience in 2022.

“Highly engaged teams experience greater profitability, a reduction in absenteeism, and decreased turnover,” says Dr. Natalie Baumgartner, Chief Workforce Scientist at the Achievers Workforce Institute. “To foster an environment of engagement, start with creating a culture of recognition.”

The key nowadays: Give everyone opportunities and tools to recognize and reward others in the organization. If you just wait for scheduled ceremonies, leadership’s time, and big prizes to come in, you’ll miss organic chances to boost morale and improve culture.

“Consider developing a recognition strategy to provide employees with a dedicated channel to acknowledge one another, whether it’s through written kudos or physical rewards,” Baumgartner suggests. “This allows team members to give more frequent and meaningful feedback, even when physically distant.”

Maintain a remote option

Like it or not, many employees now expect their work experience to be not at work. Nearly 65% of employees say flexible scheduling and remote work options will improve their experience and loyalty, the Joblist survey also found.

While you might not be able to offer fully remote roles, can you offer more hybrid options?

To do that, you might work with front-line managers to:

  • separate roles that must be done on-site all the time (high-physical-touch duties)
  • find the duties in each role that can be done effectively while remote
  • determine the percentage of time people in each role need to be on-site versus remote to do the work (for instance, 25% remote and 75% on-site per week), and
  • offer employees hybrid options based on the ratios.

Offer more learning opportunities

Many employees cite opportunities to grow as a reason to stay at their job – or a reason to go after another. Of course, you want to be on the reason-to-stay end of that in 2022.

But just offering employees a splattering of learning opportunities won’t cut it. To improve the experience, you want to give them time and resources to learn in areas that will expand their careers.

The first step is to help employees establish a career path. When they have an idea of where they want to go, they can choose the training that will help them get there.

Then, lead them to self-directed learning, webinars, in-person events, schooling, and company training to stay on the path. Or head in a new direction if or when that happens.

Focus on company culture

Look around. Are people happy to be with each other, engaged in their work, concerned about the company and its success? Those are critical factors in positive company culture.

The better a company’s culture, the better the employee experience. Often, the best way to improve company culture is to remove negative barriers to it.

You could watch for signs you have a negative workplace culture, but it would be better to survey employees to find out if these conditions exist (and affect their engagement):

  • gossip and social cliques
  • frequent miscommunication
  • aggressive and/or passive-aggressive behavior
  • dictatorial management techniques
  • excessive absenteeism
  • excessive employee complaints
  • imbalanced/favoritism management
  • employee exhaustion and lack of work/life balance
  • unrealistic workloads, and
  • high turnover.

Those are signs you likely need to make top-level decisions to reboot culture with employee input.

Increase the sense of belonging

People stay where they feel they belong. And if you aren’t in a position to increase pay, technology, or perks, you can almost always do something to help employees feel like they belong.

“With intentional inclusion initiatives, employees can maintain their initial feeling of inclusion throughout their career. Specific programs employees can implement include a mentorship program, company-wide employee resource groups, and scheduled check-ins to foster their sense of belonging,” says Baumgartner.

But you can’t stop there. HR pros and front-line leaders want to do a regular pulse check on all of their efforts to improve the employee experience.

“There is no finish line for this initiative; instead, it is an ongoing journey that will change with employees’ needs. It is going to take time and effort but when employees feel a sense of belonging they rarely think about looking for a new job, are more enthusiastic at work, have higher job satisfaction and are more engaged, making the work worth it,” Baumgartner says.

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