by Jason Miller
Something happened in 2020 besides a global pandemic that sent the world reeling. The very idea of work and what it looked like changed, and even as we emerge from the COVID-19 era, things are not returning to pre-pandemic norms. Most leaders face a “new normal” when it comes to the management and engagement of employees.
A part of this is a workforce that is at least partially remote. This work from anywhere revolution has pluses and minuses: many employees are more productive at home or when they have a choice about where they work. Still others are anxious to return to the office and some kind of new normal. But remote and hybrid workers create a challenge for leaders who need to keep workers engaged and happy.
And it’s a vital task. A recent survey by Microsoft revealed that 41% of employees plan to change jobs this year, and 46% of those plan a radical career change. It’s being labeled “resignation-gate” and it stands to disrupt all kinds of businesses. To determine how employees feel, and what they need to feel engaged, Promoleaf, in conjunction with Censuswide, surveyed 1,012 remote workers in the United States. Here is what we found out:
Engagement vs. Appreciation
The first revelation came when we asked remote employees how engaged or not engaged they felt with their current employer:
- 79% felt at least somewhat engaged,
- 15% didn’t feel very engaged
- 6% didn’t feel engaged at all.
However, when asked if they felt their employer should be doing more to show appreciation to remote workers, of those who said they felt “very engaged” over 57% said employers should definitely be doing more, and another 21% felt they should possibly be doing more. Regardless of how engaged they felt, a majority felt employers should be doing more.
Clearly engagement and appreciation are not the same thing from an employee perspective. So what is the answer? Should leaders simply be in touch more often, with daily check-ins? Would that make employees feel more appreciated?
Contact vs. Engagement and Appreciation
The quick answer is no, contact does not equal either engagement or appreciation. When asked what caused them to feel unappreciated by their employer, 30% said they felt micromanaged, and an equal percentage felt contact with their supervisors was too infrequent.
Clearly, engagement and appreciation go beyond contact, and in fact the amount of contact needed may vary by employee. So if more contact isn’t the answer to engagement, and engagement is not the same as appreciation, what do employees want?
What Employees Want
There are two parts to this answer. One relates to the things they need to do their jobs, and the other relates to “perks” that show leadership is thinking of them.
Surprisingly, 42% of those in the Microsoft survey say they don’t have the office supplies they need to work from home, and 10% even lack adequate internet service to do their jobs.
Our respondents revealed the things they want the most:
- Company-provided internet service,
- A company laptop
- Their phone bill to be covered
- A comfortable chair.
Some employers are doing well in this area, offering standing desks, multiple monitors (a proven boost to productivity), and other comforts to remote workers in the same way they would if the employee was in the office.
But when asked the most successful ways employers could show appreciation beyond basic office needs, the top four choices were lunches, small gifts like apparel and drinkware, free online learning, and virtual happy hours and events. To feel truly appreciated, employees need their wants and needs to be met.
What are the consequences if your employees feel unappreciated? Over 41% are more likely to ask for a raise, 33% or our respondents applied for new jobs, and 12% left the company they were working for. Mental health issues, declines in productivity, and even a negative impact on culture all stem from employees feeling underappreciated.
The Coming Second Wave of Resignation-gate
The number of employees who are actively seeking other jobs and even those who plan major career changes should be concerning to leaders at best. The job shift has just begun, and many workers feel remote work is a vital part of self-care, as it has enabled them to move to more affordable housing markets, spend more time with children, spouses, and pets, and achieve a better work/life balance.
Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, shared some tips for leaders with The Boston Globe. There are two different groups of workers, he told them.
The first group is those who have been simply biding their time throughout 2020 due to the uncertainty in the job market. “[These are] people who would have quit last year and are now enacting their plans to leave. Those people, you probably can’t retain,” Klotz says.
But for those who are burnt out, or who have experienced an epiphany and are looking for more meaningful work, there are things employers can do:
- Give employees a break if they need it.
- Show appreciation through organizational support and meaningful gifts.
- Don’t be afraid of conversations about pay, appreciation, and resignation. Learn what your employees want by asking them.
Resignation-gate doesn’t have to be a disaster. Yes, the current market gives employees power and leverage. But it’s an opportunity for you as a leader to shine by enabling your employees to be the best they can be, right where they are.
For more on being a more engaging remote leader, check out The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.
About the author
Jason Miller is an entrepreneur and CEO of Promoleaf who has founded several companies in
the advertising specialty industry. He enjoys skiing, mountain biking, and spending time with his
wife and two sons.