Are you ready for a change? Communication in the workplace is shifting and leaders must be prepared or face a backlash of employee angst, a loss of great staff and lower productivity.
According to Pew Research, the labor force participation rate in February 2021 was 55.9%, compared with 57.9% one year earlier. For men, the rate fell from 69.0% to 67.1% over this period. This shows us that number for both women and men in the workplace fell during the pandemic. However, collectively, Hispanic and Black women accounted for 46% of the total decrease among women but represent less than one-third of the female labor force in the U.S. This equates to even more competition for talent in the workforce. So, now what? How do we attract talent and retain people?
I’ll be the first to admit that we don’t know yet. We’re still in a pandemic and slowly moving out. Obviously, we’re not going to simply pick up where we left off in March of 2020. However, there are things that can be done.
1) Communication is key! The regular check-ins that we did last year and into 2021 must continue because:
People are stressed out, hopeful and worried about many things. These things are as individual as you and me. So, before you recalibrate your teams, you need to gather feedback on a regular basis. I suggest anonymous surveys, one on ones and team meetings. Asking staff which communications they like the most will assist in growing this information-sharing moving forward. And, we should continue this process on a regular basis and keep an eye on what remote-off site and in-office personnel are saying.
2) What you don’t know is hurting morale, reducing retention and creating animosity within your organization.
Employees have things to say, needs to be met and must have a safe and open workplace that encourages discussion, enables communication, and gives individuals a clear path to a person(s) that they can go to without fear of reprisal. Doing this has massive benefits and few negatives. Not doing so, will lead to an exodus of talent that will be massively disruptive to any organization
A partial list of what I heard at conferences I presented at in 2020-21:
- Employees are in need of more time to adjust to full-time work back in the office
- Some people are not going to get a vaccine or have received one and still do not feel comfortable working around a number of people
Here’s a recent stat concerning remote vs in-person work:
97% of employees surveyed by Buffer in 2021 said they’d prefer at least some portion of the week working remotely each week. Flexibility is essential and individuals have shown that they can handle it. And, it allows us to work from home, no commutes, work anywhere and more!
- Women and menopause (a newer and essential topic and growing in its importance every day!) What can be done to retain, support and work with women in their 40s and 50s who are essential to our organizations, leaders at every position and in need of our understanding and leaving the workforce in record numbers.
- Continued communication and discussion on workplace equality for all, gender inclusion and support of every generation and culture
3) Prioritizing one-on one meetings and small groups comes first as individuals have different needs, priorities and are seeking understanding without being made to feel like their concerns don’t matter. The ability to communicate with a manager about the last 16 months and its effects are essential. If you don’t train your leaders to encourage and support this need, it WILL lead to lower workplace productivity and staff looking for employment elsewhere. This is costly and often be avoided through discussion, understanding and treating each employee’s circumstances separately, not always collectively.
The list is longer, but you get the idea. And, I understand that some of these conversations can be challenging. However, moving forward toward 2022 and beyond we have a choice. Leadership can encourage open communications and the sharing of information on a regular basis, train management to be great listeners and offer up suggestions when needed and in doing so retain key talent, grow productivity and attract new candidates. Because word travels quickly and news of a great place to work is communicated eagerly!