(…and what to do instead to keep your employees satisfied)
Let me assume that you are a leader of some kind. You either are the CEO or owner of a company, work in HR or work in a leadership role as a manager. If I am correct in my assumption, then it is not news to you that it gets harder and harder to keep employees happy, satisfied and engaged. It gets harder to keep them. In you company. At all.
Unfortunately, this is not just a gut-feeling but it’s supported by the numbers
Current numbers show the severity of the situation. According to a study* from December 2022, only 13% of all employees in Germany are satisfied with their jobs and feel a strong sense of commitment regarding their jobs and employers. 69% see their jobs as nothing more than a means to make money. And 18% already mentally quit, showing no emotional commitment to their jobs or employers whatsoever.
This lack of commitment also shows in the number of employees who are looking for new jobs. While a study from pre-corona (December 2019) found that 8% of employees in Germany were actively searching for new jobs and 19% indicated they would keep their eyes open but are not actively searching, by the end of 2022 the numbers more than doubled, with 20% actively searching and 41% keeping their eyes open.
So, what are you planning to do about this in your company?
Well, pre-corona, you would have just introduced the next round of fancy employee benefits, ranging from free coffee, beverages and fruit baskets, subsidized gym memberships and flexible hours all the way to a new bonus structure. The problem is, that all of these benefits have been thrown at employees in the last couple of years but over corona, they lost their effect. (As the numbers clearly indicate…)
But why is that?
It’s simple. These benefits might have had an effect years ago because they satisfied employees’ needs. However, these needs have fundamentally changed over the course of the pandemic. And unfortunately, your employees’ new needs cannot be satisfied with fruit baskets anymore.
So, what happened during the pandemic?
Here is where it gets tricky because what happened is rather counter-intuitive. In the beginning of the pandemic, employees were afraid for their jobs. They didn’t know if they would still have one in a few weeks’ time. And everybody who had a safe job was happy about that. So, you would expect people to have appreciated a safe and steady job that would guarantee them an income even during these crazy times. But while during the first weeks of the pandemic, the number of employees who quit their jobs was at an all-time low, just a few short weeks later, the numbers of quitters started rising to a level that no-one could have seen coming.
What triggered this paradoxical development you ask?
Here’s what happened: Corona opened our employees’ eyes and gave them a new sense of reality.
What do I mean by that?
Corona did two things:
Firstly, employees experienced a level of freedom, flexibility, and autonomy in their jobs, unknown to them till that point in time. With the sudden and unexpected introduction of home-office, mobile office or remote work, they were able to spend more time with their families and put more of a focus on their own needs, interests, and well-being. All of a sudden, it was possible to go to yoga class during lunchbreak.
They were able to not just smell the freedom but taste it. It opened a whole new world to them, and they caught a glimpse of all the possibilities and opportunities out there.
Secondly, the pandemic made us face existential fears. I remember an early statistic that claimed that one out of seven would not make it through the pandemic. I also remember that changing my perspective on life. Because the day you start looking at the people around you in blocks of seven, the day that you start questioning if you will still have a job, if the company you work for will still exist, and if society as we know it will still exist in a few weeks’ time, that day, things change:
For once, you pause for a moment, take a good look at your life, and ask yourself: “Am I living my best life? Am I living life the way I intended to live it?” Chances are, you have asked yourself these questions before. But chances also are that if you came to the conclusion that you didn’t live your life the way you intended to live it, you postponed the necessary changes to a later point in time because the risk associated with making a change seemed too uncomfortable.
However, through the pandemic, your risk tolerance also changed. There was risk everywhere. There was a risk of losing your job. There was a risk of catching a deadly virus when meeting friends and family. There was a risk of killing your whole family by bringing back that deadly virus from grocery shopping. There was a risk of society falling apart over different perspectives on how this situation should be dealt with. There were grave, deadly risks everywhere. And compared to that, the risk that comes along with switching jobs seems rather insignificant.
And because of that, it is so much harder these days to keep employees happy, engaged, and satisfied. And again, you won’t be able to do it with a fruit basket.
But how do we keep employees satisfied then?
Interestingly, even though a lot of things have significantly changed over the last couple of years, the things that dissatisfy employees still seem to be the same. Employees still struggle with stress and burnout, interpersonal conflicts at work, private problems that carry over into the workplace, boredom, or a lack of direction and purpose in their jobs.
However, even though these drivers of dissatisfaction have not changed, the employees’ perspective on them has changed. Nowadays, they are less likely to ignore or tolerate these things that make them unhappy while at the same time they are more willing to take the risk to switch jobs or careers or to do whatever necessary to increase their happiness and satisfaction.
So, to answer the question of how to keep them happy: It is more important than ever to deal with these drivers of dissatisfaction. It is more important than ever to support employees in dissolving interpersonal conflicts, support employees in dealing with stress, support employees in overcoming personal problems, in dealing with boredom and by giving them a sense of direction and purpose.
Let’s get in touch…
Find out how I can support you in raising your employees’ job-satisfaction and as a result your employee retention by visiting my German website www.Zufriedenheit-im-Job.de.
If you would like to discuss the contents of this article or the topics of job-satisfaction, leadership and corporate culture, and how to improve your employees’ satisfaction, please feel free to contact me via email (hello[at]tobiaskartje.com). I’m looking forward to meeting you.
Find out who I am and what I do: www.tobiaskartje.com