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What businesses can do to show employees they are valued

Posted by Kanika Sinha

May 10, 2022    |     5-minute read (978 words)

Employees continue to voluntarily quit their jobs in record numbers. More than 47 million workers in the U.S. handed over their resignations in 2021 owing to the pandemic. And millions more have chucked their jobs since the beginning of 2022, with exits edging up to a series high of 4.5 million in March, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And it does not end here. Some 44% of younger professionals from 25 to 35 years old plan to switch companies in the next 24 months, according to Fidelity Investments' 2022 Career Assessment Study. Further, Gartner predicts annual voluntary turnover for U.S. employees will jump by close to 20% this year compared to the prepandemic annual average, and this trend is likely to become a permanent aspect of the job market. 

Employees now desire and feel they deserve workplaces where they are respected and recognized for their ideas, talents and contributions not occasionally, but every day. 

Why it matters that employees feel they matter

Employee expectations are changing. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the entire work world. There has been a shift not only in the expectations of employers but also in what employees expect of their workplaces, co-workers and bosses.

Fed up with lousy cultures, old-school command-and-control leadership practices and bad bosses in the organization, they are not hesitant to walk away. Many are recognizing that they have a voice and other opportunities worth pursuing.

A September 2021 McKinsey study that probed why so many U.S. employees were willing to resign found the following three factors as reasons for quitting:

• Don’t feel valued by their organization …cited by 54% of employees.
• Don’t feel valued by their managers …cited by 52% of employees.
• Don’t feel a sense of belonging at work ... cited by 51% of employees.

A separate study by Gartner found that employees want acknowledgment and to feel valued, trusted and empowered at work.

The Great Resignation is showing no sign of slowing down. The 2022 Engagement and Retention Report from Achievers Workforce Institute found that the Great Resignation is far from over. Of the 5,500 employees surveyed in December 2021 and January 2022, 66% reported that they plan to job hunt in 2022.

Appreciation improves productivity and boosts retention. When employees feel valued at work, they’re more likely to remain loyal to the organization — even if it’s not perfect. A sense of appreciation also leads to increased job satisfaction and higher morale, which ultimately translates to improved performance and reduced turnover. 

The Achievers Workforce Institute report also found that employees who feel heard and valued at work have better morale and performance. Additionally, research published in The Journal of Applied Science suggests that teams perform better when their members believe their co-workers respect and appreciate them.

Clearly, businesses have an incentive to ensure employees feel appreciated and valued. And those who do so now are likely to thrive even in the midst of the ongoing crisis in job churn. 

How can employers build a culture of appreciation

What most employers don’t realize is that making employees feel appreciated isn’t particularly complicated. In fact, it mostly comes down to a lot of simple and pragmatic practices. Here are a few strategies that businesses can consider.  

Touch base early and regularly. While regularly taking time to say morning “hello” or check in with the employees might seem like a needless waste of managers’ time or an unnecessary drain on productivity, these small interactions are actually valuable points of connection for employees. They not only help prevent employees from feeling ignored or invisible but can also prove to be as meaningful as a formal recognition. In fact, a simple greeting from managers can build employee trust and help boost engagement

Managers should work toward creating routines that allow employees to share stories about what they’re doing or working on — this will not only help them feel recognized but also help the leaders stay in the loop on what’s happening within the organization.

Offer flexibility. Be it giving the option to work remotely or even simply suggesting someone in the team to come in late the day after working extra hours, allowing flexible work schedules is often interpreted as an important indicator of trust and recognition by employees. Besides, with most employees now seeking a better work-life balance, it is a good practice for businesses to make work permanently flexible for employees in terms of schedule and/or location.

Show your gratitude more often. Taking a few minutes to express gratitude for the contributions of employees can have a tremendous impact. A 2010 study found that when employees experience gratitude from a manager, they feel valued and are more productive.

Managers should try to build this practice into their regular routines, perhaps by spending the first 15-20 minutes of their every week writing a personal thank-you or appreciation note or giving shout-outs briefly acknowledging the accomplishments of individual team members during team meetings. 

Address growth opportunities. After dealing with more than two years of uncertainty, employees are anxious to know what the future holds for their careers. Taking time to explicitly discuss career goals and growth potential; or providing upskilling opportunities and stretch assignments is interpreted by employees as evidence that they’re valued, according to research published by Harvard Business Review. Conversely, when managers neglect to address people’s development, employees take it as a sign that they are overlooked and forgotten. 

Identifying and closing pay gaps. A more complex and costly approach to making employees feel recognized is identifying and closing pay gaps — by gender, race, ethnicity, etc. Though this is likely to take time, effort and funding, it is a powerful way to express that everyone is equally valued in the organization.

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