OPINION23 February 2022

Why kindness counts: EX takes centre stage

Opinion Wellbeing

Employee experience will come to the fore this year, as businesses seek ways to retain staff amid the ‘great resignation’, as Josh Shames from Hall & Partners explains.

Piece of folded paper on top of a laptop, dived into sections, with the words, Work, Life & Balance

In what has been dubbed as ‘the great resignation’, business leaders are now being forced to prioritise employee experience (EX) as reports of almost one in four workers expected to leave and change their job over the upcoming months. Following the pandemonium caused by the pandemic, workers are reassessing their work/life balance and prioritising the things in life that mean most to them.

Often, we’re given the impression that to be successful in business, leaders must be cold, domineering and hyper-competitive, which can often lead to an unhappy and unproductive workplace environment. However, this can have serious consequences for staff as EX takes centre stage and becomes the new challenge for management hoping to retain their staff in 2022.

It’s hardly surprising that the levels of work-related stress, depression and anxiety have risen, given everything that’s happened in the past two years. According to the latest Labour Force Survey from 2020/21, more than 822,000 cases were reported, which accounts for 50% of all work-related ill health. These rates are higher than 2018/19 pre-Coronavirus levels.

Customer experience (CX) has, in the past, been the main focus for many managers, but as we should expect to see EX being prioritised this year. This will create both challenges and opportunities for business leaders. They will need to be more creative in their approach towards figuring out ways of how best to recruit and retain staff. 

Research clearly shows that employees that are happy and engaged with their company are more productive and less likely to leave an organisation. We know from our own research – Kind leadership during a crisis and beyond – that kindness has a positive impact on organisational culture and performance. Organisations that value kindness will come through a crisis more successfully. But all too often this in not high on business leaders’ priority list.

These are the key business trends that we can expect to see in 2022:

  • The workers are not OK – Mental health will become the most important employee engagement metric for businesses and brands.
  • Managers will have to think like marketers – This is particularly true when it comes to surprising and delighting employees. Incentives, perks, and package (including healthcare and mental health support) will become more important than ever for a hybrid-workforce.
  •  Reverse firing – It will become more common for employees to fire employers over their lack of purpose and un-ethical practises. It’s time for businesses to walk the talk and practise what they preach. Employees will re-establish boundaries and balance in the pursuit of a better post-Covid quality of life.
  • Keep us in the picture – The global workforce has been clear that they want to be better informed and have a clearer oversight of their organisation’s direction, values and overall purpose, particularly during a crisis. Many people are facing indefinite job insecurity as the threat of a deeper global recession looms. Companies will therefore need to step up and communicate with greater clarity on business continuity and long-term recovery strategies to invoke confidence and engage their employees.
  • Software for soft skills – With remote and hybrid work the way for many, technology will allow for greater collaboration and simulated “office” environments. Currently, we’re walking the strategic tight rope, balancing remote working with the value of face-to-face. Expect to see more ways of how we reimagine watercooler conversations and the power of networking and using technology to better engage with junior workforces and support on-the-job training.

These elements will play a crucial role in both attracting and retaining future talent in our global workforce, at all levels of seniority and job roles. Organisations will need to move quickly to embed a kindness-centric approach over the next few months, but with the understanding that this needs to be a more permanent shift to fully resonate with its post-pandemic workforce.

Josh Shames is managing partner at Hall & Partners.