After another challenging year, leading to staff burnout, the Great Resignation, and vital DE&I initiatives losing impetus, employers must use 2022 to make a fresh start,  says Grace Mole. She says 2022 should be about reconnecting with and rejuvenating jaded teams.

What does reconnecting with teams mean?

But many people worry that the shift to hybrid working has left managers unable to see their line managers and teams’ skills and their achievements. This separation is “masking” employees’ feelings and uncertainties, in particular, the urge to rethink their lives and family’s lifestyle or whether they want to stay in their job.  

Reconnecting with valued people needs to go deeper than 1-2-1s, bonuses, and some nice wellbeing ideas. HR teams need to draw on insights from the months of upheaval and managers avoiding defaulting to previous assumptions – for example, that people will simply come back to the office once the pandemic plays out, or the brutal notion that tough conditions forge stronger team spirit.  

Instead, HR teams need to revisit company values, mission & vision, giving their firms the opportunity to identify where ‘resets’ need to be made in their organisations.  

 

Here are four benefits from a well-planned reset: 

First, a reset will convince burnt-out line managers and teams to stay in their job and re-engage with the company’s mission. The Great Resignation may be an overblown label for people getting itchy feet but with the UK’s job availability hitting one million for the first time and the number of people not working since the pandemic nearing 600,000, we are seeing widespread disenchantment with work, people suffering from long-term Covid and stress issues, or at the least, pausing their career.  

In these conditions, companies need to quickly survey employees using data-driven people and culture platforms to determine if their workforce feels disengaged from the company mission and values and identify how these principles can be updated.

This type of consultation and values reset can be quickly implemented and will boost employees’ trust and confidence in the organisation if it leads to identifiable changes.  

 

Case study

A UK exam provider transformed its working model based on a flexible working strategy that did away with rules on core hours and locations, with employees empowered to trial solutions that would work for them. It used pulse surveys to gauge the new arrangements’ impacts and continued them during the pandemic to ensure colleagues were engaged and their wellbeing assured.

There’s growing evidence that companies that retain employees’ confidence perform better, are more successful at getting funding, and enjoy better team retention and performance. 

Second, a reconnection is essential if organisations want to attract and retain new talent, to whom fairness, diversity and inclusivity policies are a given. Successive surveys show that managers are failing to monitor pay gaps adversely affecting minority ethnic groups and drive DEI programmes: recent Chartered Management Institute data said that only one in three UK organisations is taking such action.

Too often, employers assume that people walk out over pay when years of research by employee experience experts has found people leave because they feel excluded from company decision-making, are denied career progression, or find their job isn’t what it was cracked up to be. 

Thirdly, resetting will do away with complacent “out of sight, out of mind” attitudes which assume that remote workers in particular can be plugged into existing working models and adapt to an emerging mid-pandemic landscape. Instead, employers need to ensure that remote workers, especially women, gain equal work and career opportunities.  

 

What does the Resolution Foundation say?

In its research on the UK workplace mid-pandemic, the Resolution Foundation found that as high-performing employees “renew their preferences about where they live and work”. As a result, companies might need to review job roles and reallocate them across teams. If talented line managers that nurture up-and-coming teams leave, junior colleagues could follow them, and the organisation could lose two generations of talent.  

More worryingly, many studies have shown that many people are still excluded from remote work and career opportunities. CIPD research earlier this year revealed that a staggering 46% of UK employees had no access to flexible working arrangements. The Resolution Foundation’s report highlighted that working mothers have significantly lower expectations of hybrid working prospects than childless women: the opportunity for managers to create more inclusive workplaces is clear. 

A fourth reason for revisiting values is to help company leaders better understand and engage all the different age groups now active in the workforce: from ‘builders’ and 60s baby boomers to Generations X, Y and Z. While older cohorts were recruited to a physical office that everyone commuted to with benefits like travel expenses geared to it, newer joiners’ roles blend office and virtual working and feature greater individual agency and flexibility of work conditions.

A reset could involve a restatement of common values and scope for rationalising disparate benefits for people that joined at different times. Resetting helps leaders to better inspire, harness the different skill sets, and gain continued high performance from different age groups and wide-ranging work experiences. 

If 2021 was stabilisation year, employers need to use 2022 to ask if their mission and values still inspire teams and have them pulling in the same direction. The year ahead offers companies opportunities to reconnect with and reinspire high-performing employees and teams.