Workforce Engagement 2023

As buzz phrases like Quiet Quitting & Quiet Firing float in the ether while concerns around Return to Office loom, the need to dispel opinion has given way to a direct need for solutions (not speculation).

What solutions will actually work in my organization? Again, the Human Resource landscape is clouded with an eye on trends and a whole lot of technology, but connection to relevance remains unsolved.

It may be time to turn the microscope away from the world writ large and refocus internally. Maybe your organization is seeing stability as management has adapted to the new way of career advancement... does this mean you are immune to mass resignation? It could be your workforce engagement budgets are plentiful... does this mean you need to rush out to overhaul your HR Tech Stack?

I have a few thoughts that might help renew focus on problem solving specific to your organization.

Numbers Lie

It is common place to site surveys and research projects to generalize the state of the workforce but I don't always believe every statistic I read. For instance, there is no way 7 out of 10 people are dissatisfied with their job.... and even if they are, does that necessarily correlate to your workforce? Where these survey results tend to be used as a strategic warning by some consultants, I see it as an extraordinary opportunity. If you are telling me I can crush the war on talent if only 4 out of 10 people in my company are engaged:

  1. The bar is set painfully low
  2. Even a little bit of focus on culture and recognition would solve the problem

The great resignation was driven by a similar mindset. Coming out of the pandemic, employees felt a sense of individual empowerment (which should always be the case). Millions of people quit their jobs looking for greener pastures based on blog posts, buzz words and statistics from research projects that may not have represented their professional best interest. What was thought to be "power to the people" ended up being a reflection on leaving a stable occupation for an over-promised future.

You can find a study to validate any decision you'd like to formulate. But, what genuinely matters is what exists in your organization. Want your employees to be engaged and productive? Try this:

  • Recognize achievements instead of chastising failures.
  • Be deliberate in helping employees understand their career path.
  • Be transparent in encouraging feedback (and action plan accordingly).
  • Allow people to fail and succeed based on what you have taught them without looking over their shoulder every minute.

2023 is near. Employee empowerment is built on trust and belief!

Are We Over-Complicating Solutions?

There are Human Capital solutions that address only a micro-element of development. Other solutions are so capability robust that executing tasks requires far too much user effort. The holy grail is a simplified solution that hits all workforce elements without requiring 20 hours a week to administer.

One undeniable workforce statistic is that bad bosses drive away great talent. It's a common trend to deify middle managers as such. What if it's not their fault?

Say a person is leading a team of 10 people. They have revenue targets to hit, goals for the team and a whole lot of hours spent playing armchair psychologist. Add systems that are too time consuming to navigate and you get a bunch of overworked people who are set up to fail. There are a million articles on employee mental health that ignore the stress middle managers endure daily while carrying the well-being of 10 others along with them.

Forecasts that take nine drop downs to understand are inefficient. Performance management systems that exist in 15 different live screens only create greater confusion. Approving 18 forms to fairly compensate an individual takes time away from core revenue focus. 55 days of training are not necessary to make an employee market ready.

There are many Managers that are ill-equipped to guide the current workforce.... they will be gone soon... for the rest, let's try to deploy technical tools that make leading easier!

Data vs Action Planning

Remember when Big Data and Machine Learning were the fancy terms of the day? This was back when we had tools to gather information but we weren't quite sure how to put collected data into action. Too often, the presumption is that having the tools will solve the problem. We tend to think we can flash a shiny nickel and call ourselves progressive when data capture is only a starting point.

If you survey your audience but do not take action where feedback is given, you are missing the point of the exercise (and often deterring people from answering with candor in future surveys). If you collect data but do not take the time to apply strategic adjustments where trends are indicated, you are simply collecting for the sake of checking a box. In this same vein, each department needs to have technology that scales to their core measures of success; this will amplify adoption and engagement through actionable relevance.

There is nothing more rewarding than an employee returning from a conference with a bunch of fresh ideas, new vendor relationships and suggested new deployments. More important is an understanding of how new tech can actually help solve issues specific to the business being conducted by your company.

We've made it through a global pandemic. The hiring and firing may steady as we navigate calendar Q4 of 2022. A new year brings new possibility. The challenge before us is differentiating between marketing and essential usage. How much money will be wasted by companies buying technical suites that look cool but prove non-essential to business practice? How many legacy systems will continue to take up space on the roadmap without allowing for a bridge to the future? Is integration key or can one system do it all? Is our new comprehensive solution easy enough for users to navigate or will we continue to ask them to visit 48 different sites on a daily basis?

So much to ponder. Can we simplify what we genuinely need to solve the business problems of today (and tomorrow)? There will always be a ton of cool tools, finding out why they matter is a whole different adventure. Strap on your pack and get ready to climb the mountain!

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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