As we wind down the final weeks of 2021 and look toward the new year, many of us are wondering the same thing: “What lies ahead?” While none of us can predict the future, one item should be at the top of every company's to-do list: employee care.

Why? Your employees want a better work experience. And if they can’t get it from you, they’ll go somewhere else. We all saw this happen this year with The Great Resignation, where 15 million American workers voluntarily left their jobs.

The long months of the pandemic planted the seeds of employee flight. As employees got a taste of working remotely with a more flexible schedule and increased autonomy, many began to reevaluate their aspirations. The suffering brought on by the pandemic, and the extreme isolation of widespread shut-downs served as stark reminders that life is short and relationships — with co-workers, friends, family, employers and even their work itself — are essential to their quality of life. Because of this, the environmental and relational aspects of a job now outpace pay incentives for many employees.

That’s why, if you’re going to attract top performers and compete for talent, you have to strategically prioritize offering people a work experience they actually want. And for many, that means a hybrid one. With 74% of CFOs expecting to shift at least a portion of their workforce to permanently remote status, it’s resoundingly clear that hybrid work is the future in many industries.

So, how do we change with the times without turning into a fragmented, disjointed, siloed workforce? Here are four keys to creating an inclusive, connected hybrid workforce:

1. Nurture Connection and Inclusion Through Recognition

Belonging is a basic human need, and workers are increasingly looking to their work environments to provide it. Societally, fewer people are finding connection in neighborhoods and faith communities than they used to. Instead we’re finding connection in colleagues, and personal purpose in the company mission.

A culture of gratitude helps to build these bonds. As leaders, it’s important that we encourage recognition that flows in all directions: top-down, bottom-up and peer-to-peer. Saying “thank you” confirms to workers that their contribution was seen and their personhood is highly valued.

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2. Encourage Performance Management Grounded in Empathy

Teams whose managers lead from a place of empathy and put employees’ needs first are more innovative, better-engaged, more productive, and less prone to becoming embroiled in conflict.

Encourage managers to adopt a coaching mindset, and to maintain a steady rhythm of one-on-ones with their reports. Performance management should be an ongoing exercise rather than a once or twice a year event. This level of continuity encourages managers to become coaches and helps them build strong relationships, spot difficulties early, learn about employee’s interests and offer support.

Learning Opportunities

3. Provide Generous Opportunities for Growth

Top performers are driven to achieve their full potential. To create intrinsic motivation, make sure to express a sincere interest in personal career development.

Nearly two out of three workers say when deciding between similar jobs, the one with stronger professional development possibilities would win. And more than half of employees say their company doesn’t offer them sufficient growth opportunities to make them stay. If you want to keep your best employees in this competitive talent market, lean into mentorships, opportunities to develop new skills and conversations about emerging interests.

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4. Supply Whole-Person Care

Sixty percent of employees say mental health benefits will influence their next job choice. Yet an equal number believe their employer prioritizes profits over people, which doesn’t bode well for those organizations when it comes to recruiting and retaining a talented workforce. That’s why employee well-being must be a priority for business leaders in 2022.

Employees are fleeing environments they experience as merely transactional, in favor of workplaces where physical wellness, emotional and mental health, community connection, career growth, financial resilience and a sense of purpose-filled work are prioritized. If you’re looking to expand benefits to support whole-person care, a few things to look at are increasing support for child care, access to therapeutic services, offering financial resilience classes, or updating your PTO policies.

Companies that strategically prioritize creating an experience for their employees — in the same way they create an experience for their customers — may very well find that The Great Resignation presents opportunities, rather than obstacles. When we view employee experience through the lens of offering care, workers are more likely to see it as authentic. In that kind of environment, inclusion, connection, thriving productivity, healthy morale and retention are natural outcomes.

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