Besides the proliferation of Zoom, the coronavirus pandemic has introduced or reintroduced a bevy of topics, such as “the great resignation,” “quiet quitting,” “flex schedules” and “work-life balance,” that have occupied the national workforce discourse.
These very consequential matters have brought into focus a new paradigm in workplace relations and radically changed the list of requirements for businesses or organizations seeking the vaunted title of “Top Workplace.”
Must-haves atop the strategy of today’s best places to work include: hiring and retaining the brightest and best people; sustaining competitive compensation and benefits programs; investing in training and development; committing to health and wellness; advancing diversity, equity and inclusion; encouraging innovation; empowering workers; and supporting work-life balance.
Moreover, today’s top workplaces have inspirational, confident leaders who are comfortable being vulnerable, lean in to show empathy, thrive in the ambiguity of interpersonal relations, and understand the “human” in human resources — fully embracing the basic truth that people are people. Leaders at these workplaces know your name and take an interest in you beyond your job description. They allow you to shine in a collaborative, cohesive and creative culture where your actions matter. Their drive for productivity is balanced by a thoughtful application of clemency. And everyone has opportunities to make a difference and an impact.
As a human resources professional, I recognize that personnel want higher salaries but that, as people, we want to be treated fairly with civility and respect. We want to be affiliated with an organization where leaders value their staff for who they are and not entirely for what they do.
Employers who create “top” workplaces effectively balance the perception of their workforce as human “doers” and human beings. People most often resign from an organization because of poor treatment by their supervisor, not because of money. In fact, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 57% of Americans quit their jobs in 2021 because they felt disrespected at work — with 35% of those surveyed citing this as a major reason for quitting.
For most employers, the resources to attain that coveted approval rating of “Top Workplace” can be found within the walls of the organization. In many instances, the onus is on leadership, management and supervisory staff to shape the workforce environment, directly impact the day-to-day work experience, and empower workers not only to perform but also to progress professionally. It’s through this holistic approach that employers establish a culture that encourages staff to bring their whole selves to work.
The focus today is squarely on industry’s greatest capital: its people. Top Workplaces recognize this very important detail and are not simply talking the talk; they are actively meeting the needs of their workforce. To further illustrate this, you may have noticed that I never used the word “employee” before now. That was intentional. We must have the mindset that our employees are people first, who are balancing child care and/or elder care, volunteering their time at a church or community center, and desiring constructive engagement from leadership.
During these ever-changing times, organizations must continuously invest in people. Listen to them. “Lean in” and tap into their creativity. More than ever, there is a greater need to connect with one another in a cohesive and collaborative way. Leverage technology to your advantage: Not every conversation has to be in person or on-site. Be willing to part with old, outdated habits and rules, and embrace the diversity of new ideas and concepts that are taking shape in today’s labor environment.
Top Workplaces talk the talk and walk the walk. Proudly support your employees as people. Trust them. Show that you care for them. Creating an environment that empowers, is inclusive and places equal emphasis on “who” (i.e., people) and “what” (i.e., production) can become contagious; believe me, people take notice. Take a renewed interest in your organizational culture and you will not only attract the best people at your organization, you will retain them as well.
Remember, people make Top Workplaces.
Shawn Celio is director of HR partnerships & employee and labor relations at Morgan State University.