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Redefining Employee Engagement in a Post-Pandemic World

As 2020 winds down, many of us are hoping the old adage about finding strength in adversity is true. To say it’s been a whirlwind would be putting it mildly. The personal, professional, and financial impact of COVID and socioeconomic upheaval will reverberate into 2021 and beyond. From my vantage point, it’s a critical moment for business and HR leaders to reevaluate employee benefits and engagement strategies. Here are a few suggestions of places to start.

Going Back to the Basics

In times of uncertainty and stress, healthcare emerges as the essential element in the benefits package. As is expected—and as it should be—our research into employee benefits (request your copy below) confirms the most commonly promoted are medical insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, paid time off, and 401(k) plans. As the personal and economic fallout of COVID continues, job security and medical benefits take precedence over salary increases and cultural considerations.

Even tech-savvy younger generations who “… hold a dissatisfaction with corporate systems and traditional hierarchies” (according to a LinkedIn article by Anita Lettink) are absorbing the lessons of their parents’ decimated retirement plans and inadequate savings accounts. Where fun and quirky perks were all the rage a few years ago, now we expect more emphasis on core health offerings.

A New Definition of Wellness

Additionally, we anticipate job candidates will increasingly seek out firms who offer life insurance, long-term disability, and mental health support. As the Kaiser Family Foundation reports, “the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn have taken a toll on mental health for many people, with over 30% of adults in the U.S. now reporting symptoms consistent with anxiety or depressive disorder.”

This reality coincides with a shift towards a more holistic view of employees, who may be struggling with remote learning, Zoom fatigue, and job dissatisfaction. Rebalancing the benefits portfolio in this context is more than just virtue signaling, it could have a very real positive impact on the livelihood of your employees and their entire families. It could also keep them from jumping ship.

Redefining Employee Engagement

According to a survey from careers website iHire, 62% of job seekers are considering a major career change in the coming year, and many of those predict a change is very likely. Although it may seem counterintuitive during a slowdown, investing in meaningful employee engagement may be the difference between strong retention and mass exodus when business picks back up.

What do I mean by meaningful employee engagement? It goes well beyond sponsored memberships to development platforms like Lynda or MasterClass. It requires an individualized approach to explore what makes someone tick, and what’s going to take them from a clock-watcher to a hungry chicken, as I like to call them.

Managers don’t have time or energy—or I would even argue, the responsibility—to ensure every direct report feels that they are in the right job at the right time. That’s why at Auxin Group we’ve developed an engagement model that provides on demand access to a curated team of outside experts. These vetted professionals provide targeted experiential learning and coaching to establish needed personal connections to guide a rewarding career path. I hear complaints from leaders that their employees are entitled, but what if they’re just bored and searching for an opportunity to channel their passions into their work?

The Advantage of a TCO Approach

In IT, total cost of ownership (TCO) includes the purchase price of a particular asset, plus operating costs over the asset’s lifespan. Looking at the total cost of ownership is a way of assessing the long-term value of an investment. A similar approach to employee benefits and engagement would serve businesses well in the post-pandemic world. 

The time is right to revisit the ROI on the considerable benefits expense—representing on average more than $20,000 annually per employee, according to BenefitsPro research. The time is also right to commit to full transparency of the employer’s cost of benefits over an employee’s tenure. If your core medical benefits don’t measure up, you’re creating churn and hampering future growth. Unless and until your employees can validate that you have their best interests in mind, they’re likely to be on the lookout for another job that will.

Let’s continue the conversation! Connect with us to explore next-generation employee engagement and HR strategies.

Now available: MorganHR’s comprehensive benefits report! MorganHR takes a look at how total talent and rewards strategies are evolving in light of unprecedented diversity initiatives, COVID-19, shifting demographics, and more. Download the report.

The Diversity-Compensation Link

If your organization hastily composed or revived a diversity statement in recent months, you’re not alone. In recent months, we’ve observed a proliferation of commitments to fight institutional racism, both within corporate entities and in the world at large.

But one of the best tools to promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is also one of the most underutilized and underappreciated: compensation strategy. We’re out to change that. 

The business leaders we work with inherently understand that employee morale, retention, and performance can all improve when workers believe their employer cares about and ensures pay equity. But they often don’t recognize that actions to address pay gaps and inconsistencies can elevate broader diversity initiatives and expose barriers at different stages of the employee life cycle.

Common misperceptions 

When it comes to pay equity, it’s all too easy to succumb to a philosophy of ‘what we don’t know can’t hurt us.’ HR and C-suite executives may think: 

  • Exceptions are normal and necessary. After all, we really can’t afford to lose that “perfect” candidate who’s going to blow away our sales targets. 
  • The risks outweigh the rewards. It’s a litigious world out there. If our team uncovers systemic inequities, we’ll be forced into costly remediation or legal exposure—or both. 
  • Issues have to be fixed overnight. We’re struggling to make payroll due to COVID business declines. This is not high priority right now, especially if we can’t afford to finish what we start. 

The good news is, with proper analysis and infrastructure, all of these concerns can be overcome. 

Committing to continuous improvement 

The big connection between diversity and compensation is a carefully-considered strategy, one that we label as being fair, relevant, and right. Let’s take a look at these terms. 

Fair is a loaded term; in fact, one CEO we work with refuses to use that word at all when talking about pay. All too often the best negotiators command the best salaries, but where does that leave the quietly competent employees who don’t want to rock the boat? (Hint: it leaves them more likely to hunt for a new job on their lunch break.) 

Shifting priorities and busy schedules often prevent companies from regularly and consistently evaluating the fairness of their pay structures. However, the cumulative impact of the hundreds of micro-decisions can quickly hit critical mass. Without unbiased monitoring, you may be surprised to realize that one manager in Chicago hasn’t promoted a minority candidate in 15 years and another in Atlanta puts through performance bonuses for women that average 8% less than those for men. 

Relevance depends on the availability and clarity of market data. When setting compensation guidelines, leaders fall into the trap of thinking relevant comparative data comes from firms they are competing with for business. But really, it’s who you’re competing with for talent. Outside the C-suite, local market benchmarks will have more relevance to the talent acquisition team than functional ones. 

Opening lines of communication

Finally, the right compensation strategy is the one that gets you to the close and paves the way for an effective employer-employee relationship. Transparency is key. When companies override direct manager input, they leave those leaders ill equipped to explain to employees why they didn’t get their expected bonus. That raises the specter of playing favorites or outright discrimination. 

It’s hard enough to outpace your competitors, why let unease and infighting about pay inequity take away your external focus? 

Elevating your environment

So how do you make sure your compensation strategy supports your DEI initiatives, rather than undermines them? It takes a powerful combination: 

  • a long-term approach, rather than periodic fire drills intended to be magic bullet fixes
  • a true pay-for-performance environment, with clear and consistent guidelines
  • an unwavering commitment to calling out and eradicating explicit and implicit bias

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, an outside accountability partner can give you a fresh and neutral perspective on disparities, trends, outliers, and opportunities within your compensation environment. If you have questions, reach out. We love what we do and are happy to brainstorm about DEI-friendly analysis and compensation strategies that might work best for your situation. Now available: MorganHR’s comprehensive benefits report! MorganHR takes a look at how total talent and rewards strategies are evolving in light of unprecedented diversity initiatives, COVID-19, shifting demographics, and more.

Download the report.

Coaching Managers Leads to High-Performance Companies

Based on the article below, employers need more effective ways of coaching managers in order to increase company performance. Some may say it is from a lack of coaching skills, and others may say there is no coaching present. Either way, coaching is more important now than ever due to COVID-19. Companies can start by encouraging HR and business leaders to expect daily feedback. This simple request can lead to valuable conversation and constructive criticism. Although most companies are remote, there are several ways to continue to coach; however, it is critical that managers link those skills back to day-to-day work. 

At MorganHR, we implement HR strategies that work. We are team players and coaches who are invested in supplying the tools employers need to succeed. It is especially important through the COVID-19 work transformations that communication is clear, and that we build a foundation remotely to ensure coaching is being translated directly to help with employee relations. MorganHR is equipped to engage with our clients and create more strategic ways of coaching in order to ensure our solution is long-lasting.

Read more about the effect of coaching managers by following the link below:


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Emerging Leadership Competencies

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Marketing and HR: an unexpected power-duo

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There are more similarities between marketing and HR than you might think. “In each case, success relies on building strong brand awareness, delivering top-notch user experience, and effectively communicating a company’s values. The only difference, really, is the audience.” Read more about the compatibility between marketing and HR teams below.