The word of 2023 is polycrisis, according to research giant Ipsos Karian and Box.
Speaking at experience management (XM) giant Qualtrics’ X4 conference in London, Ipsos CEO of international James Tarbit shared that “coming out the pandemic, going into an energy crisis caused by geopolitical instability, going into a cost of living crisis” has created this set of crises that is bigger than the sum of its individual parts.
This means “times of change, times of uncertainty and times of ambiguity”, and a significant amount of stress and anxiety for employees.
In an exclusive UNLEASH interview at X4 in London, Qualtrics’ chief customer officer Donnchadh Casey agrees that employees are “concerned about their future”.
This begs the question, what must HR do to alleviate this uncertainty and re-engage employees?
Tackle uncertainty head on
“No-one has lived through what we’re experiencing now in terms of inflationary pressures, cost of living crisis, the war for talent and [skills gaps]… The great thing is that employee listening can lead you to the answers to a lot of these questions”, noted Michael Cox, head of people analytics for Europe at Nestle, during a X4 breakout session.
While it is essential that employers ask their own people about their unique, Qualtrics has done some of the leg work here.
It has surveyed 30,000 workers globally about their experiences at work, and recommends that employers start by providing to workers that their jobs are safe.
Organizations also “have to instill more confidence in employees that they have a strong future as an employer”, according to Casey.
Casey continues: “Everybody wants to talk about how [ChatGPT] will disrupt industries”, so employers need to “get ahead of the messaging with their employees, and say, look, we’re really strongly positioned for the future. You backed the right horse”.
If employers fail to provide this reassurance around job and employer stability, even if the employee is happy in their job and at that company, they may decide they are “better off somewhere else”, and look for a new opportunity.
This is particularly the case if other employers can offer them stability, as well as better work-life balance and work that is more closely aligned with their values.
“Meaningful work is coming back in”, individuals want to work somewhere that is a “force for good in the world”.
Qualtrics’ survey of 28,000 global employees found that when organizations shared their values, and actively demonstrated their commitments, this led to higher engagement (27%), longer tenure (23%), and lower rates of burnout (17%).
Managers need more support
While HR plays a huge role in having productive conversations with employees about job stability, work-life balance and values, managers are actually on the frontline, states Casey.
Employees are going to them first when looking for guidance and support, and managers are “feeling the pinch”. They need more support from HR – remember, manager disengagement can have a huge negative impact on their team’s experience at work.
During a breakout session at X4 in London, HSBC’s global head employee listening Neil Campbell agreed that managers are feeling the squeeze – and HR teams need to step up to support them.
Data and technology are essential here. However, the rewards can only be reaped if organizations rely on the right tools and use them in the right way.
Data needs to be put in the hands of teams and managers, so they are equipped to “drive change through the organization”, noted HSBC’s Campbell.
“We often say that you can have the best technology in the world, that is not going to make a listening culture. You need to have people who are empowered to take action on that feedback. You need to engage those middle managers, and just make it easy for them”.
For Campbell, Qualtrics’ new Manager Assist product has been a game changer – it is “really clean, easy to understand and very much designed with the frontline manager in mind”.
Ultimately, having the right HR tech isn’t just a boom for manager engagement, it is essential to how HR will solve its other challenges – whether that’s working models, burnout, work-life balance, or sky-high attrition.
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