In our season one finale, as we begin a New Year, we take a moment to look back at 2022. What were the biggest takeaways in the realm of company culture and employee engagement?
We also look forward, analyzing and predicting how to best approach ongoing employee engagement trends that you may see pop up around your company campfire in 2023.
Helping Beth break it all down are amazing members of the Up Your Culture team, Engagement Specialists: Deborah Fulghum, Mindy Murphy, Kate Rehling, and Kelly George.
Together, they make so many fantastic points, such as:
- When leaders put people first, businesses really start to grow
- How building trust through integrity bolsters engagement in hybrid and remote environments
- Why retention is still your best recruitment strategy
- And, lastly, how developing your employees begins with hiring the right people
2022 Takeaways from Deborah Fulghum
“I'd say that one of the things that our whole team learned this year is how important people are to the success of a company,” Deborah says. “You know, so many companies go into a year thinking, ‘Here's our budget. Here's what we need to do.’ Let's drive people instead of ‘let's put people first.’”
“We've worked with a bunch of clients this year who really had that ‘people first’ mindset, and because they changed that narrative, and a few of the leaders were very much ‘business and numbers,’ but when they went that direction, we saw a big change in their market.”
“We saw a big change with their people. We saw engagement numbers rise in their markets, and we know that when leaders put people first, business starts to grow.”
Additional Stand-Out Trends from 2022:
- Motivating Vision: “People want to have a vision that motivates them...So it's not just that we've communicated a vision, but how does it motivate employees? What part do they play in that? Beth has a great visual of this, stoking a company fire. And if you're motivated by a company vision, then you want to be putting those logs on the fire. You want to be part of that. You want to watch it grow and flourish.”
- Core Values: “We've helped so many companies explore and create their core values. And those core values really express how a company achieves success... And one of the things that stood out to me in the ENGAGE 2022 report was that only 57% of those surveyed could; they weren't sure if they had a set of core values. Or they couldn't even recite them. They didn't know what they were. When people are living by [their core values], they recognize them, they make decisions, ‘how does this align to our core values?’ And that's so important.
- People Development: “Development is such a big deal to people. They don't just want to sit in the role and do a job and show up nine to five; they want to grow. And how do we find that out? We need to ask, right? We need to sit down with people, uncover what their goals are, how we can contribute to those goals, and how we can map out plans for their growth...And I think that's such an important thing.”
How to Foster Culture in Hybrid/Remote Spaces Throughout the Year from Mindy Murphy
“In hybrid or remote work environments, people can easily feel like good communication is lacking,” Mindy says. “So, I would say, make sure you're still sharing information and keeping people in the loop, but also asking for feedback from your employees.”
“One of the things that we measure in the ENGAGE 2022 survey is, ‘do you feel there's open and honest, two-way communication?’ So, not just sharing information and discussing important changes and telling people, but also getting their feedback, asking for their thoughts, how do they feel about it?”
“And I think too, because everybody's different, asking each employee about their communication style, asking them how they want to learn about important information and changes, you know, by phone, text, email, video, meeting in person, etc.”
“Do they want the highlights and bullet points, or do they want to have an in-depth conversation and have the opportunity to ask questions?”
Additional Tips for Fostering Culture in Hybrid/Remote Spaces:
- Increase Collaboration: “I would say collaboration and bringing people together is really important and so much more challenging in a hybrid work situation. So, giving people opportunities to collaborate and work together on projects and tasks, giving people the opportunity to learn from one another. When people are in that hybrid work environment, they may feel disconnected from their coworkers easily. Looking for opportunities to schedule time for relationship building is really important.”
- Communicate Company Vision Often: “I feel like when you're working in a hybrid situation, sharing the company's vision often is really important. So, settling on a clear and concise way of describing the vision, communicating it to your teams often, and then continuing to reinforce it. It just really reminds people of the destination they're working towards, where they're headed and why, what they're working together to achieve.”
- Build Trust: “I think the best thing that you can do in any work environment to create a great culture is to build trust with your people by operating with integrity. So, always doing what you say you're going to do, not making promises you can't keep, and really giving people ownership over their work.”
Tips for Attracting Top Talent in 2023 from Kate Rehling
Kate says, “First, I would really recommend people take the time to evaluate their employer brand.”
“So, really from the outside looking in, what's your company's identity? What's your reputation as an employer? And genuinely ask yourself, ‘what are people seeing?’”
“I think we can all think of companies that we've come into contact with, we've worked with, maybe even places we've visited, and we've walked out and ‘thought, wow, that is not a place that I could see myself working for, people I could see myself working with.’”
“And that's how job candidates are thinking as well. Quality employees really want to work for quality employers, so how are you putting yourself out there?”
“Really make sure your employer brand is ‘people first', that you're known for those relationships, that people who come into contact with you walk away thinking, ‘I would love to do business with them again.’”
Additional Tips for Attracting Top Talent:
- Communicate Your Company’s Value Proposition: “I also think letting people know your employee value proposition and making sure candidates can easily access that. And by that, I mean letting people know what they gain from working for you. And not just the compensation, the traditional benefits package, but really what they can gain from your culture. Make sure your EVP includes your reason for being and your core values because working for a company with strong values is a really big benefit as well.”
- Candidate Experience: “I would also really take a close look at your candidate experience...I recently saw a study on LinkedIn that said four out of five people believe the experience they have as a candidate is a direct indicator of how much a company values its people. So if you're working hard to bring people in, make sure that you're making a solid first impression. Whether or not you choose to move forward with a candidate, people will share their experience with others, and you want to make sure that it's a positive one that they're sharing.”
- Recruitment Through Retainment: “Make sure that culture isn't just something you've talked with [candidates] about, it's something that you're physically doing, that you're showing them and that they're walking out feeling like, ‘wow, they are authentic. They are doing what they say they do’... And my last thing about that is, retention is still your best recruitment strategy. And the most effective way to make sure you're retaining your people is to ensure that you have high levels of engagement on your team.”
How to Develop Your People Year-Round from Kelly George
“So, when we conduct our annual engagement survey,” Kelly says. “One of the things that we have found is that 15% of people have gone more than a year without receiving any meaningful feedback from our manager. And that is just heartbreaking.”
“And as Deb alluded to earlier, we're all human, and we all crave feedback. We want to feel seen and heard. We want to feel valued and respected.”
“So, when we think about what we can do, you know, an annual performance review really isn't enough.”
“Giving that immediate and direct feedback is really, really important and has a powerful impact on engagement. So real-time coaching in the moment, sharing with that transparency that we were talking about earlier. Asking, ‘What's going well? Where are areas where people could have more support and growth?’”
Additional Tips for Developing Your People:
- Growth Guides: “One of the tools that we love using is the growth guide conversation. It's at least an annual conversation to understand what is motivating someone, what they value, how they want to be rewarded and recognized?”
- Finding the Right People for the Right Roles: “Some of this also begins with making sure we have the right people in the right roles. So that is one of the reasons we love our suite of talent assessments so that we can look at an individual's strengths and talents, get a sense of those, have clarity around those, helping the individual to have that as well. And [that way] they're in roles that they're well suited for, set up for success from the beginning.
- Understanding What Success Looks Like: “So, you're putting the right people in the right roles, you have that ongoing feedback, but how do you make sure people can have success? Part of that is understanding what success looks like in that role and helping people by saying, ‘this is the game. this is how we play, and here is what that's going to look like together and how we can achieve it.”
Lightning Round Wrap-Up
To wrap up the conversation, Beth posed two lightning-round questions to the Up Your Culture Team.
Each of their responses provides great insight to maximize company culture and employee engagement efforts throughout 2023.
Q: Looking ahead to 2023, what trends do you expect we will all see related to culture and engagement?
- Deborah: “I think putting culture in your plan for the year. It has to be there. I think it has to be a priority.”
- Mindy: “I think with more people understanding the importance of culture, and even if we're not all in the office together, we're still in hybrid situations, I think there's going to be more of a focus on improving soft skills, like better communication and leadership, which will help build stronger relationships that are really needed for high-performance teams.”
- Kate: “I think there will be more of a focus on that work-life blend versus work-life balance. So, we think of work-life balance as puzzle pieces. One puzzle piece is work, and then we're balancing that with our home life. But we can no longer do that, particularly in these hybrid and remote environments. So how are we blending the two together and really focusing on not just where people are working but how managers can support the wellbeing of their employees in that way.”
- Kelly: “I think working well is something we're looking at. We've had a lot of headwinds these past few years, certainly historically going through a global pandemic. I think we're working in different types of environments, hybrid, so just how can we take care of ourselves? How can we help support one another? And, you know, avoiding a lot of burnout that people have been talking about lately.”
Q: If you had to narrow it down to one piece of advice you would give to leaders who want to engage their employees in the new year, what would that one piece of advice be?
- Deborah: “Make time for your people. Spend time with them. Listen, don't talk. Listen to their goals, their dreams, their aspirations, and how they want to contribute to your company.”
- Mindy: “Focus on ongoing education, training, and development for employees. People usually don't want to stay in a role where they feel stagnant or that they've learned all that they need to learn. So, create a development plan for each employee.”
- Kate: “I would say maintain an open door and, with that, an open mind...be open to having those difficult conversations and be open to feedback from your people. Really listen to what they're saying.”
- Kelly: “Have those development and feedback conversations. They're so important. And the biggest thing is not just having them with your team, but making sure you're taking time to connect to your ‘why’ as a leader and a manager, and having them for yourself as well, because you're holding that purpose, you're holding that vision for your team.”
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