Posted July 12, 2021 by Mark Perna
People are craving a more meaningful, flexible and fulfilling experience at work. And 25% are ready to leave their current jobs to find it, if they have to. Mark’s article, “‘Valued And Seen’: Why Belonging Is The Most Essential Feeling At Work,” published at Forbes.com on June 15, 2021.
As offices begin to reopen and life returns to some state of normalcy, many employees are rethinking what exactly they want out of their jobs. In many ways, the pandemic shed light on areas where people were dissatisfied at a hidden level—while also making clear the changes they’d like to see.
This new clarity may explain why an astounding 25% of employees are considering quitting and changing jobs in the coming years. With many employers already struggling to attract and retain their best talent, this massive shift could literally make or break a company’s fortunes.
This alarming trend is why companies must increasingly look for ways to “meet employees where they’re at,” says Jennifer Shappley, the VP of Global Talent Acquisition at LinkedIn.
In particular, she points to three areas—diversity and inclusion initiatives to create a sense of belonging at work; flexible work arrangements; and ongoing reskilling and upskilling opportunities for workers to advance their careers—where employers can improve their ability to attract and retain top talent.
The isolation many people experienced during the lockdowns revealed just how essential it is for employees to feel a strong sense of belonging at work. A recent Employee Well-being Report by Glint found that belonging jumped up four positions year over year to become the second most important driver of a great work culture.
“Today’s employees see ‘work’ as much more than just a paycheck,” says Shappley. “They want to work at a company that makes them feel valued and seen, where they can bring their whole selves to work.”
That’s why diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts must be key goals for leaders. “Belonging at work should feel no different than anywhere else—it should feel free, genuine, and authentic,” says Shappley. “A sense of belonging can generate a real feeling of joy—joy that you are being allowed to be your authentic self.”
Augmenting that sense of belonging, especially for employees working remotely, can present an extra challenge. Alongside company-wide efforts toward diversity and inclusion, Shappley recommends that leaders make time for regular, one-on-one check-ins and meaningful dialogue to ensure that all employees feel supported.
“Burnout levels are higher than ever before,” says Shappley, “and people are craving flexibility.” While burnout is a challenge that predates COVID, the pandemic has certainly accelerated that trend. And many workers see flexibility as the answer. In fact, LinkedIn research shows that working professionals now value flexibility over salary, benefits or culture.
“Creating a flexible workplace is more critical than ever for employers,” says Shappley, who defines flexibility as allowing people to work remotely, in-person or a mix based on individual needs. “To source, hire and engage top talent, flexibility must be top of mind to employers.”
Flexibility also extends beyond the schedule to the onsite experience, where employees now look for new ways of engaging and working together. With this in mind, LinkedIn is currently piloting a number of programs, tools and layouts in its onsite workplace, such as reimagined conference rooms with new technologies and furniture that enable better collaboration between in-person and remote employees. “Our vision for a more flexible future informs how we’re approaching our offices from a workplace design and experience perspective,” says Shappley.
We now live in an era where employees expect employers to afford them the opportunity to advance their knowledge while on the job. LinkedIn research provided by Glint, for instance, found that 97% of employees reported they want to expand or at least continue the amount of time they spend learning at work.
To help meet this need, companies should integrate learning into the flow of work. “Encourage employees to block out calendar time for learning each week or month,” says Shappley, “and leaders should do the same. If managers have dedicated learning time, employees will be more likely to follow suit.”
Another tip Shappley shares is that companies should also make sure that learning is on-demand. LinkedIn Learning and other online learning platforms allow employees to learn what, how and when they want throughout the day.
As we move forward into a post-pandemic world, employers must show employees that they see and value them not just as work-producing robots, but as individuals who are essential, respected and heard. Meeting employees where they’re at will retain and attract the kind of top talent to set companies apart in a competitive marketplace.
Valuing and seeing employees all starts with listening. Employees have evolving desires and needs in the areas of belonging, flexibility and learning new skills on the job. “We don’t have all of the answers right now,” says Shappley, “but as we navigate the return to office and plan for a more flexible future, listening to our employees will be key to helping us get it right.”