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The Great Re-engagement: how to retain disconnected workers
Blog //12-08-2021

The Great Re-engagement: how to retain disconnected workers

by Alex Arundale, Chief People Officer, OneAdvanced

The number of employees quitting their jobs is rising. In fact, 40% of people want to change their jobs this year, according to the Microsoft Work Trend Index, with many feeling disconnected at work during the pandemic and prioritising their wellbeing. A significant exodus presents a potential crisis for businesses that are already struggling to get back on their feet after multiple lockdowns.

Take Apple, for example, which has seen employees launch a campaign to push back against Tim Cook’s plans for a widespread three-day a week return to the office by autumn. Some employees have reportedly already quit. The situation at Apple has important repercussions for businesses everywhere. There’s no doubt that employees working for other organisations will launch similar campaigns.

HR leaders therefore have an enormous job to do, in holding onto the best talent for the long term. The key is engagement, which means listening to employees and finding a solution that both works for them as well as the business and its customers. It’s also important to recognise that not all employees want the same thing. After all, they will be at different stages of their lives and they will all be living in different circumstances.

Here are four ways to re-engage with disconnected workers:

Give them personalised benefits

There are some benefits that will be valued across the board, such as additional holiday accrued for every year worked, or a working pattern that allows everybody to take Friday afternoons off during the summer months. It might be appropriate to create a range of employee-focused benefits for different demographic groups, allowing a pick ‘n’ mix approach that lets employees choose what is right for them at any given time. Specific perks, such as longer than standard maternity and paternity leave, may help retain people who are planning to start a family, but even these may be more widely appreciated. A younger person who doesn’t see themselves becoming a parent any time soon may still appreciate the potential benefit for their own future if they choose it. They will also recognise the positive approach in the company culture, as one that cares about its staff as human beings, with lives and concerns beyond the workplace.

Give them flexibility

Flexibility seems to be the HR buzz word of the year. Businesses that take a flexible approach about when and where their employees can work will reap the benefits in retaining high quality people as remote working has transformed the working lives of many. Some employees will have missed the daily routine of the workplace and will relish coming into a well-designed office building in a “buzzy” district. For them, being part of a dynamic and stimulating work environment is all part of learning, networking and pursuing a career, and they relish the exciting options for socialising after hours. While others will cherish the opportunity to work from home, at least part of the time, avoiding the stresses and cost of a taxing commute and using the time for the better work-life balance they achieved during lockdown. HR teams should therefore make sure employees have the tools and support to do this well, confident that their achievements and productivity are being noticed and will be rewarded with promotions and career progression on a par with office-based colleagues.

Encourage them to make a positive change

A company’s brand matters – for customers as well as for employees. These days, issues around the environment, sustainability and governance (ESG) need to be a genuine reflection of its commitment to these principles. Developing the way the organisation puts these into practice can be a productive attraction and retention strategy for great talent. People want to work for a brand they can be proud of and which they see represents their own values. Transparency in supply chain, recycling and sustainability practices, along with support for relevant good causes will help with re-engaging employees who are seeking a more meaningful connection with their employer. Getting teams involved in group volunteering and fundraising events for local charities is another way to foster engagement and help to support the building of a cohesive and loyal workforce that wears the company brand with pride.

Seek and celebrate cultural differences

When people see others like themselves in senior roles, it supports expectations for their own career progression and allows them to see a future for themselves within the organisation. Gender pay gap reporting is already mandatory, but some organisations are taking this further and exploring the diversity pay gap to reveal patterns about where women, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, black and other ethnic minorities are represented at different levels. Understanding current structures is the first step in implementing new and creative ways to drive positive change. Engaging with the workforce as part of this investigation offers reassurance to everybody that the organisation is serious about establishing meaningful diversity and inclusion. Different organisations will find they have different issues and priorities, so HR can use this information to shape policies that really matter to their own employees.

So, the message for organisations is loud and clear – ignore your employees at your peril. At a time when everyone needs to be pulling together to get businesses back on an even keel, employees need to know they are being listened to and their needs are being respected. Otherwise, chances are they will vote with their feet, leaving employers to bear the costs of losing experienced, skilled and talented employees while having to find, recruit and train replacements.

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Alex Arundale

Alex Arundale


Chief People Officer, OneAdvanced

Alex joined OneAdvanced in February 2016 with a track record in senior HR positions. She has been responsible for innovative strategies to lead the company’s talent management.

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