Even before the COVID-19 pandemic created a flood of remote and hybrid workers, building a cohesive company culture was a tall task. As more than a third of American employees continue to work from home in some capacity, HR professionals must find new ways to cross geographic barriers and keep employees engaged.
Graduates of the online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Human Resources program from the University of Southern Indiana (USI) are well positioned to tackle this evolving landscape by learning various strategies to improve employees’ commitment to their organization. Those techniques range from revamping rewards for high performers to increasing opportunities for employees to receive — and give — meaningful feedback.
Rewarding Talent With More Time Off
Regular pay raises and cash bonuses remain valuable tools to reward top talent. However, with college-educated professionals working longer hours now than they did 30 years ago, employees increasingly appreciate managers who recognize their hard work with extra time off, according to Harvard Business Review.
Researchers call this strategy “time affluence,” or giving employees the sense that higher productivity at work will result in more leisure time to pursue their passions with friends and family. Time became an even greater luxury during the pandemic, especially for working mothers who reported spending more hours on childcare and chores in 2020 than in prior years, according to a 2021 study.
Workers haven’t forgotten the high stress of the pandemic and its resulting burnout. Whether in the office full-time or working completely from home, employees are eager to find time away from their laptop screens. Companies like the online dating app Bumble have given employees a mandatory week off during the summer to meet that demand. Other organizations have introduced regular four-day weekends to boost employee morale.
If businesses cannot provide extra time off, they can consider automatically turning off email notifications after work hours so employees truly relax during their off time. Some companies also offer employee discounts on time-saving purchases, such as meal delivery kits or housekeeping services, so workers worry less about errands and household chores.
Giving employees proper time to recharge covers two key tenets of employee engagement. First, employees return with more energy to participate in team-building activities and mentorship programs that encourage loyalty to the company. Most importantly, workers feel a deeper sense of pride in the workplace culture they’re building — one that recognizes employees have lives outside of work that also require time and investment.
Giving Meaningful Feedback and Measuring Progress
Perhaps the most crucial, and often most challenging, element of employee engagement is improving the channels through which employees receive feedback on their performance and offer their opinions on the workplace.
The lack of meaningful feedback available to employees is reaching a boiling point. Only 31% of U.S. workers surveyed by Gallup in 2023 reported receiving “recognition or praise for doing good work” in the past week, resulting in low levels of employee satisfaction.
HR professionals have many opportunities to interrupt the cycle of neglect and resentment caused by a lack of effective feedback. Developing a structured employee onboarding program that sets clear feedback expectations for managers and their direct reports can be a strong first step, according to Contact Monkey. From the start, employees will get one-on-one time with senior leaders, set a timeline for regular check-ins and begin creating a support network.
Feedback channels must remain open beyond an employee’s first week on the job, especially when soliciting employee input on professional development and training opportunities. Contact Monkey suggests sending a “pulse survey” by email to gather data on employee interests and then developing a series of virtual events based on the responses.
Email campaigns are especially useful for workers who aren’t comfortable sharing ideas in an all-staff meeting or discussing workplace issues with managers, according to Oak Engage. With more tools at their fingertips than ever, HR leaders should give workers — remote, hybrid or in-person — as many avenues as possible to be heard.
An MBA in Human Resources Program That Emphasizes Employee Engagement
As part of USI’s online MBA in Human Resources program, students will master more strategies for developing and retaining talent. The Managing Human Capital course emphasizes real-world techniques to maximize human potential individually and in teams.
With a growing number of companies spreading their workforce across the globe, the need for effective employee engagement has never been clearer. USI’s online program provides the skills HR professionals need to meet the challenge.
Learn more about USI’s online MBA in Human Resources program.