How to avoid the Hidden Resignation and maximize employee engagement
The Great Resignation and increased employee turnover continue to dominate headlines. But what about the employees who haven’t exited their organizations?
The truth is that many employees who remained at their organizations are feeling burned out and disengaged, and this phenomenon is now being called the Hidden Resignation. These employees are still working — but not as efficiently or productively as they could be. With 68% of employees reporting that too many distractions and notifications restrict their productivity, it’s not hard to see why workers are feeling this way.
Related: ‘Find the signal within the noise:’ Staving off employee burnout
But as rates of burnout continue to climb, HR leaders are struggling to keep employees engaged without also overwhelming them. To mitigate the Hidden Resignation and increase employee engagement, HR leaders need to optimize their learning and development offerings, provide timely communications and build a flexible, people-first culture.
Root causes of disengagement
For the first time in a decade, Gallup found that employee engagement declined in 2021 — only a third of employees (34%) said they were engaged and 16% said they were actively disengaged in their work and workplace. Managers in particular saw a seven-point decline in engagement. This is an alarming trend. But to improve it, HR leaders need to more fully understand the root causes of disengagement.
A loss of human connection: Sixty-nine percent of employees don’t feel connected to their coworkers. And more than two-thirds (67%) agree it’s very difficult to create and maintain meaningful connections with coworkers virtually. Unhappy and disconnected employees often struggle to produce their best work.
A lack of work-life balance: Employees’ current workloads and stress levels are causing them to work even more — 46% of employees say they need nights and weekends to think strategically about their jobs because they’re overwhelmed during the workday. For managers, this number rises to 55%.
No access to development opportunities: Nine in 10 employees say they want more learning and development opportunities from their organizations. Without upskilling and reskilling programs, organizations risk boring their employees, leaving their education behind and ultimately losing them to companies that offer such programs.
Too many notifications and information: There’s one thing employees are not lacking: notifications. Employees are suffering from notification and information overload — and it’s impacting their ability to work. In fact, 60% of managers say information overload keeps them from doing their job efficiently — which then impacts their direct reports who don’t feel as engaged in their work.
4 steps for mitigating disengagement and boosting productivity
To improve productivity across your organization, apply human-centered behavioral design principles to your retention and engagement strategies — i.e., connect, nudge and engage your people in a seamless and human-centric way. Personal connections and meaningful experiences can help employees feel more invested in their roles.
Here are several steps you can take to minimize feelings of disengagement and overwhelm.
1. Foster human connection.
Nurturing human connections is vital to combating burnout at work. A human-centric culture that values interaction and recognition needs to be part of your organization’s DNA. For example, consistently celebrate employees’ successes and accomplishments, and motivate employees to do the same for each other. You can also encourage employees to build personal connections with coworkers by starting a mentorship or buddy program. By prioritizing employee engagement and happiness, you’ll inspire your workers to bring their best selves to work.
2. Invest in training informed by behavioral design.
Employees want to learn and grow throughout their careers — but in a way that’s convenient for them. By providing engaging and accessible training programs, you can inspire employees to take action and improve their skill sets. Learning programs based on behavioral design principles are a great way to personalize and deliver relevant content that doesn’t overwhelm employees. Don’t forget to pay attention to managers as well — they need just as much coaching and guidance as new hires and entry-level employees. Give managers the tools they need to better support themselves and their direct hires, and you’ll see an increase in engagement across the board.
3. Be mindful of internal communications and dispersion of information.
To avoid overwhelming employees, ensure they have access to the information they need — and only the information they need. When onboarding a new hire, create a roadmap of the information they need to learn and when they need to learn it. Timely communication is also key to reducing information overload. Don’t bombard employees with notifications. For example, when prompting employees to take action on HR tasks, use timely, bite-sized nudges to encourage them — and keep the reminders to a minimum.
4. Stay flexible and agile.
Meet employees where they are. Their desires and needs will change over time and your organization must be agile and ready to respond when they do. Your engagement and retention strategies should aim for progress rather than perfection. Conduct regular surveys to gather feedback from employees on how they’re feeling and how you can better support them so they can do their best work. Flexibility and encouragement are critical in improving employee engagement.
Re-engage employees with a people-first culture
Don’t let your employees become statistics in the Hidden Resignation. To drive productivity and minimize disengagement, make an effort to reduce information overload and more effectively communicate with employees. Create a flexible, people-first culture dedicated to employee development and you’ll see your workers re-engage with their work and purpose.
Laura Lee Gentry is chief people officer of Enboarder.