Over the past three years, employees felt a surge of empowerment not seen for years. They realized they could leave their current jobs for more flexible opportunities, better pay, and move beyond a long commute to the office. Quiet quitting was also on the rise, and we all read articles on mitigating these phenomena in our virtual-, hybrid- and in-person workplaces. I especially remember being touched by a blog that discussed advice on how to navigate the workplace if one’s boss was the one that quietly quit.
Yet, as we witness massive layoffs and the potential of a recession, the pendulum of power seems to be swinging back to the employer. Instead of looking for greener pastures, employees may lean towards staying with their current employer out of fear of the unknown. At the same time, employers might be tempted to capitalize on their employee’s fear and insist on extended hours, back-to-office policies and higher workloads to impact their bottom line. At that point, the pendulum might have swung too far again.
Let’s imagine what it would be like for employees and employers to reconnect with their core values, mission and purpose and agree on a path forward. It would help us all with whiplash and allow us to plan past the next quarterly earnings report. It is possible with a little structure, courage and willingness to look at solutions differently.
The Great Recommitment in the workplace
The ultimate goal of the Great Recommitment is to create a work environment that is more productive and meaningful for everyone involved. Imagine if employees were more mindful of why they are doing what they do at work and are more intentional in approaching tasks, engaging with colleagues and customers and making decisions. Now imagine if the employer could cultivate and support this environment.
Seems daunting? Doesn’t have to be if you focus on clarity. The Great Recommitment can be achieved by starting with offering clear job expectations, setting realistic goals, providing meaningful feedback to employees and recognizing their achievements. Employers and employees should embrace a culture of collaboration and communication while emphasizing the importance of adaptability.
While many companies have job descriptions, career development toolkits, rewards programs and performance management processes, it’s time to evaluate the relevancy and re-imagine what they could be to achieve our desired outcomes tomorrow. Evolution and innovation are needed to encourage and engage employees and employers to recommit to each other.
Give innovation a framework
Many people feel that innovation is a talent reserved for creative minds, but that’s not the case. Within the Innovation Lab at Blanchard, we address issues with a framework that can help qualify and assess a situation and see if proposed changes will create value. After all, if a solution doesn’t create value, it may not be worth the headache of pursuing the challenge.
The innovation process should start with scanning. Assess the current environment, decide whom the change may impact, and imagine the best possible outcomes. It would be good to mention that although scanning the environment may be done in a small group, it would be better to cast the net wide and gather information from many different people and perspectives – especially if you anticipate leading teams through change. At this stage, asking open-ended questions listening to concerns, especially when hearing what may prevent an employee from committing to their job, will be essential. At the end of the day, we are each a whole person and concerns in our home lives impacts how we see and value work.
Once an audience and ideal outcome has been identified, the diverse stakeholder team that’s been assembled can ideate all the ways to achieve this outcome – no idea is a bad one during this exercise. Quantity over quality! This co-creation process can be powerful in helping others hear and understand other people’s perspectives, as well as what inspires and drives them.
The next two steps, experimenting and launching, can often be the scariest for most. Innovation takes courage (and effort)! Once you have an experiment worth trying, get it out to the world. Ask for unvarnished feedback. Discern whether your idea can create value. Listen intently for information gaps and personal concerns from your resistors – they can help refine your end solution to establishing a committed workplace.
Once you’ve had some successful experiments and refined your solution – launch! First, explain why the broader change is necessary and consider telling stories about what may happen if a change isn’t made. Then explain how your solution may work, the process, and why it’s worth the effort. Engage advocates to help socialize and support the solution. Communicating the solution openly and frequently keeps everyone informed and allows everyone to adjust how they work. Remember, commitment can be scary for some people (and businesses), so give them time to adjust. Encouraging questions can help clarify and identify additional resources needed as you implement your solution.
Leading teams toward the Great Recommitment
Let’s give the above framework a simple example and look at what it may look like to lead your company and employees toward a better rewards and recognition program.
- Scan. After you’ve documented all elements of your current rewards and recognition program, map out whom the program affects personally and professionally; these people are your audience. Seek out this audience and lead individual or group interviews, asking what they like or don’t like about the current program – and if given a magic wand, what would an ideal rewards and recognition program result in? Avoid blaming, judging or solutions at this time and instead focus on what a change may mean and who it might impact. In this case, employee retention and tenure, reduced onboarding and upskilling expenses could benefit both the employees and the employer. At the end of this phase, you’ll have a strong value proposition: How might we offer employees recognition that provide meaning to their daily work, make it easier to set goals, offer visibility to what they do to organization leadership and drive value toward their career growth?
- Ideate. Let’s pretend that you now have a clear vision of what the outcome could look like. In the process, you’ve identified people eager to improve the current program, people against change and people who seem indifferent – it’s time to let their minds wander about HOW they could see achieving the new rewards and recognition program and what it could look like. If you find that people are getting stuck, perhaps start with what they don’t want the solution to look like – you’ll find that people will have plenty of opinions about what they don’t like. After a few sessions, you’ll find an experiment or two worth testing that will emerge, and you’ll reap the benefits of co-creating with the team when you experiment and launch.
- Experiment. Get your ideas out there! Let’s say you now have a couple solid ideas about how a new rewards and recognition program could look like, the next step would be to ask for feedback on what resonates, what hurdles you may need to overcome, what policies or legal matters need to be explored and what ROIs you haven’t identified. This will help shape your final solution. You might decide to get a trial for a small group of employees for a platform or leverage an existing technology you already have.
- Launch. With plenty of celebration, ongoing communications and explaining WHY the new program will help employees and employers, it’s time to launch your new rewards and recognition program. By now, you’ve addressed many personal and professional concerns and ensured that the new program benefits both the employee and employer. Yet, you can’t just launch the new program and walk away. Continue the momentum by being curious about what is working and what is not, being willing to share impact data and be open to initiating an iterative process to refine the new program, perhaps yearly. If it’s anything we all have learned over the last few years – nothing stays the same.
An innovation and change leadership framework can help revise and improve your job descriptions, goals, recognition efforts and feedback loops, all while gaining feedback and bringing people together. By following the framework and setting expectations, you can also mitigate the fear of the unknown for your employees and position your company for stability. Ultimately, you can lead your team closer to equilibrium with engaged people and business results.