The COVID-19 pandemic separated employers into two categories: those that tried their best to take care of their team members, and those that didn’t. While many people in remote-compatible jobs were allowed to work from home, many others were not. And while some were given leeway to adjust to homeschooling their children, take care of sick family members, or combat burnout, some had to go on with business as usual. 

As we continue into the “Great Resignation,” companies that prioritize their team members will have a competitive advantage in the “next normal.” Here are a few things employers can do to create a more employee-centric atmosphere. 

Focus on health and wellness

The pandemic led to an increased focus on health and wellness. Many are trying to prevent or fight the novel coronavirus. And some have also been dealing with mental health issues as a result of the changes they’ve faced in their lives. In fact, 89 percent of workers report experiencing burnout over the past year due to heavy workloads, poor workplace cultures, and distressing world events.

Those same workers say flexible work hours, mental health resources, paid sick leave, a wellness program, and four-day workweeks would all help alleviate burnout. Remote work can also lead to lower rates of burnout. These benefits, in turn, can lead to happier, more productive team members that feel valued by your organization.

Consider which benefits you can offer your team members to support health and wellness, and update your policies to document changes. This might include changes to your paid time off policy, remote work policy, or even a volunteer time off policy.

Recognize team members

One in five workers say feeling underappreciated for their contributions is hindering their engagement at work, and two in five say their manager is just “okay” at recognizing their work. On the flip side, one in five workers say their top reason for staying in a current role is recognition. If retention and engagement are priorities for your organization this year, employee recognition should be a key part of your strategy.

Create a culture of recognition in which all team members are encouraged to recognize one another. Managers and other company leaders should amplify recognition during one-on-ones, team meetings, and company-wide communications.

Recognition should also be input into your performance management system year-round, so it’s readily available for regular performance reviews. This can help your managers avoid recency bias, where they only recall feedback from recent months, rather than the entire time period being reviewed.

Encourage professional growth 

Eighty percent of workers planning to look for new jobs this year say they are concerned about their career growth, compared to 49 percent of all workers. But they shouldn’t have to leave in order to reach their career goals. 

Prioritize your team members by encouraging their professional growth. Create employee development plans during your employee onboarding process, set short-term goals, and review progress during regular one-on-ones. A modern learning management system can provide personalized learning solutions for different team member learning styles, no matter where the team member is located. Then, when the time is right, promote your team members into higher job levels and create a new development plan for their next step.

Stay in touch with their needs

Prioritizing team members might look different for each person. For one, it might mean allowing him to leave the office by 3pm to pick up a child from school. For another, it might mean sponsoring her to attend a conference to learn and network with peers. And for another, it could simply mean saying “thank you” for a job well done.

Stay in touch with your team members’ needs through regular surveys and make changes as necessary to create a better overall experience. It’s also important to give managers the autonomy to negotiate reasonable accommodations with their reports, so they can make decisions to prioritize their own team members. This will help you provide each team member with what they need to feel taken care of, valued, and balanced.

Final thoughts

To truly prioritize your team members, you will need to put them at the center of everything you do. Every decision should consider the impact it will have on your team. A high level of transparency and an invitation for feedback can encourage team members to speak up if they disagree with a decision. It’s important to take all feedback seriously, but it’s also okay to disagree with that feedback and commit to the decision. What might be best for one team member may not be best for the entire team, and what might be ideal in the short-term may not be a good long-term solution. Explain decisions to team members so they trust that their best interests are always taken into account—even if they disagree with the decisions themselves.


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How HR Can Prioritize Team Members in the “Next Normal”