There are many reasons why employees are distracted and disengaged. From research showing that “office workers [can] only focus on average for three minutes” to studies reporting that 90% of employees feel their work-life balance is getting worse, the collective stress felt in the workforce is well documented. A recent Gallup report confirmed that employee engagement has now declined for the second year in a row. And that’s following a decade-long year-over-year rise. While it’s no secret that disruption in work and in life has occurred, the mystery remains: How do we connect with our people again? Here’s what we recommend.
1. Improve Happiness by Setting Clear Expectations Around Work and Well-Being
All employees want to know what their employer really wants. And all employers want employees who are ready, willing, and able to do their jobs. The road to both engagement and increased productivity can often feel counterintuitive, but here’s how it works: If your employees are able to take care of themselves, they’ll be able to take care of your business. While it may feel strange to encourage disengaged employees to disconnect further, research shows that you can’t outwork burnout. And it’s hard to be happy when well-being is low.
Support your people and their well-being needs by promoting time off, flexible schedules, and other well-being benefits. It’s not enough to tell people about what’s offered. You need to show them how to use it. Challenge leadership to model how they take care of their own well-being by using time off or flexible schedules. Give your people permission to take breaks throughout the day, block time for exercise, and sign off at the end of the workday, and have leaders do the same.
When employees take time for outside-of-work obligations or interests, they’re more likely to feel happy. And happiness pays off: Happy employees are 13% more productive and have been shown to raise sales by 37%. How’s that for something to smile about?
2. Create a Connection Between Your Mission or Purpose and Your People
Whether your company or organization is curing cancer, developing new technology, or maintaining existing infrastructure, the work your people do each day serves a purpose. To help your people understand that they’re valued contributors to the mission, you’ll need to make the connection for them. Include your mission or purpose on your benefits site. Craft a dialogue around the work they do and the support and resources the organization provides. BeiGene, a biotech company that specializes in the development of drugs for cancer and a Segal Benz client, connects their mission to their people before day 1. Here’s what that sounds like on their recruiting site:
|“Let’s Cure Cancer Together. We don’t just practice life-changing science, we create it. And we do it by innovating tomorrow’s life-saving cures. As a BeiGene employee, you would help deliver on our commitment to make new medicines more accessible—and more affordable—to billions more people around the world. Cancer has no borders. Neither do we.”|
BeiGene furthers the connection, when it comes to introducing their benefits, with a simple statement:
|“Innovative careers. Passionate people. Our premium benefits are designed to help you and your family thrive—physically, emotionally, and financially.”|
And they back it up throughout their communications with affirmations like, “We work every day to make people healthier, and that starts with our employees.”
When the language you use to describe your company or organization, its mission and purpose, and your benefits come together and align, it creates a clear connection between who your company or organization is and how you value your people.
3. What You Water, Grows
Highlighting learning, development, and growth opportunities creates a virtuous cycle of increased motivation, performance, confidence, and morale, while also decreasing absenteeism, turnover, and complaints. You may think that’s separate from health and wellness. But your people are not seeing it that way. Your employees view what’s provided holistically, and we’re seeing a big trend toward expanding benefits communications to be more total-package- or total-rewards-focused.
It’s easy to start communicating about these benefits. Start by adding tuition reimbursement programs or education-related use cases for lifestyle spending account dollars to your routine communications. If you have a benefits site, fold these into your current lineup. Sending out regular emails? Make education a focus in a future communication.
4. Show That You Care
Only 58% of employees feel cared for at work most of the time, and 42% don’t feel cared for at all. Show your people that you care by making the intentions of your benefits and well-being programs clear. This can be done in a multitude of ways: communications from leadership, updated language on existing websites, or motivating managers to have meaningful conversations with their direct reports. But one of the simplest and most effective approaches is to highlight the benefits, support, and resources your employees have on an ongoing basis.
You may feel that the information has been shared already. Is there such a thing as overcommunicating? Not really. Your people have busy lives and need repeated nudges toward what’s offered. Research by Google has shown that people need to interact for 7 hours, across 11 touchpoints in 4 separate locations before they make a purchase. In benefits, your people need time and a variety of information before they act and start using their support. Make your resources accessible by promoting benefits in many ways.
Start by addressing a specific need. Create a campaign around employee well-being or caregiving benefits. Partner with employee resource groups (ERGs) to ensure that your messages are meeting the right people at the right moment.
Employee engagement might feel like a big topic to tackle and broader than your focus on benefits, but there’s a direct correlation between engaged employees and improved health outcomes. Focusing on just one of the areas above can make a big difference in the lives of your people both at and outside of work. Best of all, the difference you make in just one employee is contagious. Increased well-being leads to better health, better work, and a better environment for all.
We’re proud to work with organizations that value their people. If you want to learn more, we’d love to talk.