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Is Your Company Communicating Care?

Why Care Is Important and How to Communicate It to Employees



 

Trying to keep up with the headlines about what employees want is enough to give anyone whiplash. They want higher pay! No, they want a four-day workweek! Scratch that, they actually want better benefits, personal purpose, and maybe pet insurance.


Is your head spinning yet? If so, I’ve got good news.

For companies who are truly looking to improve employee engagement and well-being, it comes down to one thing: making sure employees feel cared for.

Now, I’m not talking just about creating a warm, fuzzy work environment (although if that’s your thing, great.) The goal here is to foster a mutually beneficial relationship that leads to long-term success. Because as it turns out, when employees feel cared about, it leads to better talent management and business outcomes – the ultimate win-win.


What do we mean when we talk about care?

Maybe you’re thinking, “But my company keeps people happy by paying them well,” or “It’s our great benefits that keep our people loyal, plus we have a foosball table!” And that could be partly true. Because while fair compensation and benefits are important (the jury’s out on foosball tables, sorry) they’re only part of the equation.


A recent MetLife survey found that care boils down to the core elements of purposeful work, flexibility and work-life balance, a social and supportive culture, career development and training, and wellness programs and benefits.

On its face this might feel like a lot of things to tackle, but in more (sort of?) good news, for many companies there’s almost nowhere to go but up. Case in point, a recent Gallup report found only 24% of employees strongly agree their organization cares about their wellbeing.


Yikes.


Employee disconnection is only growing, with: 77% of U.S. employees either quiet quitting or actively disengaged at work. This is a depressing statistic, to be sure, but for companies who choose to focus on showing employees they care about their well-being, it also points to a clear competitive advantage.


Why is care so important?

While the response to this question may seem obvious – who doesn’t want to feel cared about? -- the true answer has many layers.


MetLife’s research is a good starting point. It finds that companies who demonstrate care have healthier, happier, more loyal, and higher-performing employees. They also realize better talent management outcomes, something not to be taken for granted in a time of economic uncertainty. On the flip side, employees who feel cared for benefit from feeling holistically healthy across social, financial, physical, and mental dimensions.


In other words, employee care delivers a result that both employers and workers want.


How can your company communicate care?

Fortunately, there are lots of ways companies can show employees their well-being matters. The trick is finding the right combination of things to make them feel holistically cared for across multiple dimensions that fit your company’s culture.


While different companies will go about this in different ways, below is a sampling of potential care strategies to get the process started. It’s a long list, but it’s by no means a “check every box” exercise. The best way to get started is to hone in on a small handful that resonate with you and that feel actionable in your circumstances.


Ensure fair compensation

This is table stakes, period. Being paid a fair wage for your work is foundational to any discussion of employee well-being. While this doesn’t mean it’s the most important factor, it must be present before any other forward-looking discussion about care can take place.


Define your purpose

Employees want to feel their work is meaningful, so give them a clearly defined organizational purpose that’s broadly communicated internally and externally. Ensuring that this purpose is consistently communicated at all levels of the organization lets people know you’re all working toward the same goal, even if that work looks different in different parts of the company.


Align processes, systems, and behaviors to your purpose and values

Threading your purpose through formal processes like performance and compensation reinforces the common goal and encourages workers to incorporate purpose and values into their day-to-day activities and behaviors. And, making purpose and values concrete in this way helps workers see that it’s more than just words on a wall somewhere.


Address culture both formally and informally

Employees express a strong desire for a supportive culture. Setting cultural norms at the top of the organization can bring culture to life and make it consistent throughout the organization. Formally, creating special recognition programs for employees who are “culture carriers” can signal the value you place on culture. At the informal level, charge managers with speaking about culture in their own ways that link back to the goals of their teams, and encourage employees to recognize culture-aligned behaviors.


Monitor & mitigate stress and burnout

Consider a proactive approach to well-being, such as using data to track warning signs of burnout, like lack of PTO usage or email volume after hours. Managers should also be informally monitoring for stress and burnout by regularly checking in with employees on their workloads and mindsets. Perhaps most importantly, get in the habit of practicing these behaviors before you’re in triage mode!


Understand that flexibility is not one-size-fits all

Many workers have now had a taste of flexible work, and their desire for it remains strong even as return-to-office policies go into effect. With oversight, allow managers to develop work routines for their teams based on customer and business needs. Understand that these routines may look different across the organization and even within teams. Also, your team may not want the same kind of flexibility as you, so personalizing arrangements through one-on-one conversations is important.


Promote internal mobility

Employees want room to grow and advance, and it can be demoralizing to see prime opportunities go to outside candidates. Seek out internal talent moves by clearly communicating internal job openings, and offer targeted access to exposure opportunities such as job swaps, mentoring, or shadowing.


Expand formal and informal learning opportunities

Making learning available for everyone, including front-line workers, communicates that you’re willing to invest in their growth. In addition, creating inclusive development programs ensures diverse employees are building their skills and seeing a future at the company. Ensure workers understand that the learning and growth happening in an informal opportunity–like a stretch assignment–is an intentional part of their development.


Enhance communication about existing benefits

Many companies have great benefits in place that are underutilized. Look at uptake rates for things like 401(k), financial education, health perks, employee counseling, and others. Leverage town halls, team huddles, or company newsletters to make sure workers know what’s available to them. Ensure employees have a hub they visit to easily find benefit information when needed.


Final Thoughts

When designing care strategies, perfection is not the goal. Start small if you need to, and give yourself room to change and improve along the way. And, crucially, when it comes to care, your intentions matter as much as your efforts. Employees can easily identify what’s just lip service. But if you set new policies and benefits from a place of genuine care, more than likely they’ll respond with loyalty and engagement. Interested in learning more about building human cultures? Send me a note at Katherine@worksproutpartners.com.

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