With most children going back to in-person school the past few weeks, you may think that parents are feeling happy and relieved. The reality is, not only are many parents still anxious about their kids getting sick, many schools have already sent kids home to quarantine. Parents are back to juggling their work schedule and their family responsibilities, and many of them are exhausted. The emotional, mental, and physical stress that parents have had to bear over the past 18 months has left many feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and stressed.
As some organizations start bringing employees back to the office, many are finding that not all team members are excited to be transitioning back to an office environment full time. Although many employees struggled over the past year to balance work with children learning at home, they also experienced some benefits from a more flexible work environment and no commuting. Employees have gotten used to focusing on results rather than hours worked and have adapted their lives to a more flexible environment.
You’ve probably heard of “The Great Resignation”—a record amount of employees are quitting their jobs. Four million employees quit their jobs in April, and another 3.9 million quit in June. Employees are looking for better opportunities, citing better pay and more flexibility as the top two reasons for quitting. Over half of employees say they will look for a new job over the next year.
Organizations are struggling to find great talent, and several companies that employ front line staff like Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway are cutting hours or closing dining rooms due to lack of staff. Many credit unions I work with are struggling to find candidates to even interview for job openings. Employees have more choices, and they aren’t settling for a job just to collect a paycheck.
The pandemic has prompted people to reevaluate what is important to them and many have shifted their perspective on what they value and how they use their time. Workplace expectations and culture are evolving and if you want to compete for the best talent, your credit union will need to rethink how you work and focus on the employee experience. Employees have experienced work in a different way over the past year, and many don’t see the benefits of a more traditional work environment of long commutes, long hours, lack of resources, and constant connection to work.
Although the pandemic prompted many to reevaluate their values and needs, our culture has been evolving for decades. The advancement of technology opened up more choices for workers looking for jobs. And the evolution of the modern family has had a significant impact on employee needs and expectations for work. Over the past 30 years, more women have entered the workforce and earned advanced degrees. In many two-parent households, both parents work full time. As these changes took place, the culture of the American family started to evolve. Many spouses and partners have discarded the traditional family roles and share more of the responsibilities. Today’s fathers are more engaged with their kids and play a more active role in their lives. Parents aren’t just working to live—they want to be involved in their children’s lives and attend their sports events, concerts, and important moments. All of this has had a significant impact on how the modern employee views their work. No longer is work the central part of life and the main priority. In the traditional work environment, employees, and especially women, are often pressured to choose between work and family obligations. The result is that many women struggle to do it all—work a full-time job and manage the home and kids, which includes making dinner, shuffling kids to activities, cleaning, and laundry, to name just a few. The pressure of managing two full time jobs—work and home—is taking its toll. Work is no longer the central part of life, but a piece of a more holistic approach that includes family and quality of life.
Family dynamics have also impacted how we need to lead. The leadership practices of just a couple of decades ago are outdated and ineffective. Employees have different values and expectations for work than previous generations, and organizations that want to attract and retain the best employees need to shift their leadership approach. In the traditional work environment, employees are told to check their personal life at the door and compartmentalize their work and home life. This has become increasingly difficult to manage, and leaves workers feeling stretched in too many directions. We need to modernize our cultures to create more meaning, career opportunities, and support so employees will bring their best to work each day. Employers who offer more flexibility and quality of life are seeing the benefits of better engagement and higher productivity. One organization, Michael Hyatt & Company, reaped such great results from shortening the workday, that they are keeping a six hour work day that was instituted during the pandemic.
In credit unions, we put a heavy focus on the member experience, and this is important. Technology is changing how your members want to bank, and younger generations have different expectations for their financial institutions. Yet many credit unions don’t put as much attention and focus on their employee experience, and that is a mistake. Your employees play a major role in delivering member service, and have a significant impact on how your members experience your credit union.
Here are five considerations for modernizing your workplace culture:
- Rethink your work model. Both parents are employed in nearly 60% of households. Even though research shows that most women still bear the brunt of most household duties, many men want to be more active in family life than ever before. The modern family is stressed out, overwhelmed, and exhausted. This is driving employees to prioritize quality of life and seek out employment opportunities that support flexibility. To be seen as an employer of choice, credit unions need to rethink how employees can successfully do their work, and offer flexible options, when possible. It may not be possible to offer all employees remote work. Flexibility can be approached in different ways and does not have to mean working remotely 100% of the time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t offer some sort of flexibility so your employees can engage in the other aspects of their life outside of work. Several credit unions have already instituted hybrid work models that include a mix of onsite and virtual work. There is no “one size fits all” approach—each credit union should think about the culture they want to create and what is possible based on your unique credit union. If you do offer a full or hybrid remote option for certain positions, carefully consider how you will maintain team connections and camaraderie. Your leaders will need to be able to successfully manage remote workers and build connections in a more modern environment. Credit unions that are proactive in creating a modern work model will be positioned to attract the best talent, even in a tight labor market.
- Upgrade your leadership team. Society is evolving, employee expectations are evolving, and leadership needs to evolve. The traditional style of leadership is not effective in today’s environment. Effective leadership focuses on development, coaching, support, accountability, and feedback. Essential skills like flexibility, empathy, and compassion are essential for managing today’s workforce. The direct manager of an employee has the biggest impact on their experience at work. You can have great benefits and compensation, but if you don’t have great leaders, the best employees won’t stay. Invest in your leadership team to upgrade their skills so they can be a positive influence and bring out the best in each of your employees.
- Listen to your employees—actively ask for their feedback. Take time to understand what is important to your employees. This is the first time in history that there are five generations in the workplace. Your current employees may value different things than your workforce from ten years ago. Make sure your managers are consistently connecting with employees to understand what is important to them. At least every two years, conduct an employee engagement survey to ensure you have objective data for designing your benefits and employee experience.
- Leverage purpose and impact. Today’s employees want to work for an organization where they feel connected to the mission and have meaning in their work. Credit unions have an incredible opportunity in our current market to attract exceptional talent. The credit union philosophy of “people helping people” can be attractive to potential employees who crave purpose in their work and a connection to their company. In addition, offering career development coaching and opportunities is important in the modern workplace. Employees want to feel they are growing in their positions and see a path for their future career. Organizations that are not proactively training, upskilling, and developing their employees for future roles will struggle with retention.
- Analyze the employee experience. The experiences your members have are based on the touchpoints they go through as they interact with your credit union, like your online loan application, your website, and interactions with your team members. The employee experience is influenced by how they are onboarded into the culture, the benefits you offer, interactions with the direct manager, and overall communication, to name a few. Very few organizations take the time to map out an exceptional employee experience that will create a positive connection with each employee. For example, one of my credit union clients sends an edible arrangement to a new employee’s home the week before they start work. This creates a great first impression. The small and the big things matter. Take time to proactively create an experience that will attract and retain the best talent in the market.
Employees want a career with meaning, flexibility, and opportunities. If you are proactive in designing a modern employee experience where each person feels valued and can develop and grow while having the flexibility to enjoy life, you can truly create a place where people love to come to work.