Employees are extremely hard to find and keep in today’s world. Do you really know how yours are thinking and feeling?

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about “quiet quitting,” which can be described as the rising approach to not take your job too seriously. The phrase is generating millions of views on Tik Tok as some young professionals reject the idea of going above and beyond in their careers, labeling their lesser enthusiasm a form of “quitting.” It isn’t about getting off the company payroll, these employees say. In fact, the idea is to stay on it – but focus time on the things you do outside of the office. (WSJ Aug 12, 2022, by Lindsay Ellis and Angela Yang.)

This is just what employers want to hear in an already tight talent market, right? Most of us employing others remember our own young careers when the grind was glorified. You didn’t dare leave at 5 p.m. if you wanted to climb the ladder. Stay until 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. Ask the boss for extra projects. Show everyone that you were the kind of employee that deserved to be promoted. And if you were willing to put in that time, it usually paid off. But the offspring of that generation is fighting back and saying it may have paid off financially, but what about the sacrifices that were made? You missed dinner, you missed ball games, you stayed on the phone during family vacations. You weren’t engaged with me, you were engaged with work. The new generation of employees is willing to be engaged with work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but they demand time with family and friends outside of that. The pandemic has helped this trend, of course. Remote work meant that employees had extra time for family and they got a glimpse of what they had been missing.

So, how do we solve this problem of employee engagement? Perhaps in the same way we solve it when we see that customer satisfaction is down in our business. When we start to see sales decline, we become introspective. We ask what are we doing wrong? Are we bringing value to our consumer? Is our competition outsmarting us? If employees seem less engaged, we should ask those same types of questions.

A mentor of mine recently told me that pre-pandemic, he decided to survey his employees to learn what was most valuable to them in their job. Was it money, benefits, time off, flexibility, free uniforms, incentives? The survey was revealing. His staff cared less about a 20-minute paid break and more about a 30-minute unpaid break. What he thought was most important to them wasn’t necessarily so and by changing things up, he was able to show them the value in being employed with his organization – value that they might not find if they left and went somewhere else to work. The fact that he listened to his employees created loyalty and made the team stronger. He showed his employees that he was willing to meet their work expectations as long as they met those of the organization.

There’s a lesson there for anyone struggling to hire, engage and retain workers. In this post-pandemic time, employee expectations have risen. Employers have put on the gloves and are fighting other employers with unrealistic wages and benefits to get the staff they need. I don’t have the answer on how to reverse this approach, but I can tell you it’s contributing to the rising cost of everything. I can also suggest that maybe it’s time to get introspective. Survey your employees and find out what’s most important to them. Reinvent your human resource vibe to be a better fit for those you’re trying to attract. Make sure you’ve created a shared vision and that your employees know why a particular job is important and how it helps meet the company’s goals. Show appreciation when goals are met. Celebrate work-life balance and time with family. Create corporate social policies that make your employees proud that they work for you. The list of things you can do could be any of those or none at all, but you won’t know until you survey your employees.

— Michelle Rotellini is president and CEO of the Beckley Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce.


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