It’s no surprise that in the COVID-19 era, workplace stress is at an all-time high.
After the pandemic started, 57% of U.S. and Canadian workers said they were feeling stress on a daily basis — up from 49% the year before. For women, the number is even higher: 62% compared to 52% in men. As many as 7-out-of-10 workers said the year the pandemic hit was the most stressful time of their professional lives.
This kind of ongoing strain doesn’t only diminish employee productivity and effectiveness; it also chips away at employer brand reputation at exactly the moment that companies — beset by labor shortages — are most in need of the kind of reputational capital that can speed recruitment and boost retention.
So what can you do to maintain your standing and avoid the human and financial costs of an uphill recruitment and retention campaign? These are some ways we’ve advised businesses to boost their employer brand reputation in this challenging time.
Know Your Employees’ Source of Stress
Knowing that your employees have a stress problem isn’t enough. In order to improve the situation, you need to have a textured understanding of exactly what problems your employees are facing.
For employees at a health care facility who have been contending with palliative care, insufficient staffing, and concerns for their own safety, workplace stress means one thing. For employees at a tech startup with an elevated burn rate, leadership pressure to achieve big results, and peer expectations of long work hours, stress means something entirely different.
Wellness scores and wellness surveys can yield detailed intelligence about the exact pain points of your employees. It’s essential to use a survey platform that evaluates more than just the generic level of stress. The Mayo Clinic’s Well-Being Index, for example, evaluates factors such as whether employees are finding meaning in their work, whether they’re at risk of burnout, and whether they are finding the work-life integration they need.
Another way to improve your responsiveness is to consistently monitor anonymous online reviews and chatter about your employment brand. This should include mainstream websites such as GlassDoor as well as industry-specific platforms such as Fishbowl.
It’s also essential to stay abreast of changing circumstances, to be able to actively respond to employees’ shifting needs and expectations. Workplace laws such as Ontario’s recently passed legislation guaranteeing workers the right to disconnect can quickly impact professionals’ expectations even in other geographic regions.
Walk the Walk
In the current challenging times, employees don’t expect you to be able to fix everything. But they do want to feel seen and heard — and they do want to know you are trying to help and making an impact.
As is the case in so many aspects of employee relations, paying lip service is no longer an option. Employees expect to see companies taking targeted, visible and ongoing action to make a difference. These kinds of proof points clearly communicate to employees that company leaders are invested in their well-being. This is especially important for people managers, who are often tasked with delivering the last mile of employer branding.
Periodic internal pulse surveys focused on wellness and joy are an excellent tool. Not only can they provide the kind of foundational information you need to shape an effective strategy, but they also let employees know that your organization is invested in their feelings and experiences.
The actions that come out of this kind of research must be ongoing and visible. In the pandemic-era, any initiative that takes place once a quarter is likely to be seen as too little, too late. Instead, programs should involve ongoing dialogue, coaching and support. One way to incorporate this kind of ongoing support is to enlist the services of a wellness certified leader to develop training and support services tailored to your employer brand.
Whatever the particular challenges in your organization, leaders must commit to top-down change. While organic shifts are possible, it is unlikely workers will get their needs met without the enthusiastic, vocal and targeted support of leadership.
Blu Ivy Group is a global leader in employer branding, organizational culture, and recruitment marketing. We help organizations across the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors build extraordinary employee experiences, magnetic employer brands and high-performance cultures.
From C-Suite to Employer Brand and Talent Acquisition leadership, we partner with our clients to transform their organizations and design the most compelling workplaces of the future.
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