A company culture that encourages employee engagement is pretty important for your organization, but can it actually reduce fear of the future? When done right, engaged, confident employees aren’t the only benefit of a positive company culture.
Psychological safety is vital for team innovation, but employers fail to encourage confidence in their employees when it comes to sharing their ideas.
It’s much easier to default to safe silence. No one wants to risk their job over an idea, comment, or disagreement. In some cases, where employees are encouraged to speak up, 56% of them won’t because they don’t think they’ll receive credit for their ideas.
Knowing why your employees feel afraid of speaking up is essential. It’s the whole reason why cultural assessments are a thing. By getting to the bottom of why your employees can’t see a future in your company, you’ll start to understand why they’re afraid of their future, in general.
In the end, it all comes down to improving your company culture. If you follow our steps, you’ll be able to create a culture that increases employee engagement across your company.
Why Employees are Afraid of the Future
Our employees don’t exist in a vacuum; they have lives separate from work, previous employers, and varying life experiences that influence how they speak and act.
Speaking Up In the Workplace
A tight-lipped workplace is a constant across industries, cultures, and countries. Employees often withhold their voice because they think it will not be heard or fear it will backfire.
There are two theories as to why employees remain silent in the workplace. One is the personality perspective, where employees lack the disposition to stand up. The other is the situational perspective, where work environments don’t encourage speaking out.
Based on research, strong environmental norms override the influence on personality on the employee’s willingness to speak up. In other words, social norms matter more than timidness when an employee decides whether they should or shouldn’t speak up.
A Culture Ruled By Fear
A Harvard University piece explored what factors lead to the cultural phenomenon of being fearful in the workplace. Harvard found that self-preservation, implicit assumptions, and hostility led to silence. Employees won’t speak out unless they won’t experience consequences.
Management is aware that they hold power that the employee doesn’t. If an employee speaks out, even in a helpful way, management could fire them, and they can’t do anything about it.
Wrongful dismissal is illegal, but that doesn’t stop employers from breaking the law.
For example, although recognizing your unconscious biases can make you a more inclusive leader in your organization, it’s still a rampant problem in the workplace. 40% of employees who make an accusation over discrimination face retaliation, punishment, and/or layoffs.
Although most employees avoid rocking the boat from the assumption of punishment, some employers will actively discourage it and accuse their employees of “whistleblowing.”
For instance, Canada’s Phoenix pay system fiasco cost the federal government $1.5 billion. The cause? A company culture that won’t “reward those who share negative news.”
To summarize: employers who hide information from their employees, reprimand them for small mistakes, and/or micromanage tasks scare their staff into silence. At the same time, employers who don’t clarify if an employee can speak up when necessary also silence their workforce.
Is it any wonder at this point why employees are terrified of the future?
Fear of the Future: What to Change
Fear of the future is more than just an abstract idea. There are several reasons why your employees are unwilling to take chances, make mistakes, or speak up, including:
Fear of Failure
Speaking up over concerns, options, and ideas is vital for organizational performance and innovation. On the other hand, silence is the cause of many disasters, like the Boeing incident, where employees felt pressured to work insane hours or lose their jobs.
It shouldn’t take a disaster for your organization to change its company culture. A strong company culture can improve employee performance, staff retention, morale, financials, job satisfaction, and recruitment. It’ll also reduce employee stress and absenteeism.
Above all, company culture will keep your employees engaged and invested in their job. You should make it your company’s mission to create a culture that prioritizes employee happiness.
Engaged Employees in the 21st Century
As of writing this, employees are still rebounding from COVID-19's impact on the workforce.
According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, 45% of people say their life has been affected “a lot” by the pandemic. Gallup suggests leaders invest in an employee engagement strategy if they want to support the current workforce and build organizational resilience.
Gallup’s 2017 report showed that 15% of employees worldwide were engaged in their jobs. After years of a steady climb from 15% to 22% in 2019, employee engagement dropped two points in 2020. Gallup blames a poor employer response to remote work and the pandemic as the cause.
Employee stress reached a record high level in 2020, moving up five points from 2019. 43% of employees say they’re stressed at work. Employers need to address this to decrease burnout.
To help find disengaged employees in your business, we recommend utilizing engagement surveys. However, it’s essential to remain objective here. An anonymous employee engagement survey will ease your team member's fears of reporting in the first place.
How to Increase Employee Engagement This Year
Employee engagement fuels your staff with drive and motivation to complete tasks. Encouraging your employees to speak up is difficult, but adding the following techniques will make it easier.
Step 1: Set Clear SMART Goals
Creating well-thought-out goals can help you create an employee engagement program that works. To motivate your employees, you should consider asking them what they need from you.
To do this, we recommend following the SMART goal-setting method because it enables you to develop specific, measurable goals that are attainable, relevant to you, and timely.
Specific: I want to create an employee engagement program that increases productivity.
Measurable: I will track my progress by calculating completed projects over the month.
Attainable: I have enough resources and manpower to achieve my goals.
Relevant: There is a clear value for my team. More productivity = more cash flow.
Time-Bound: I will finish three more projects by the end of the month.
The SMART tool can give your team the clarity and focus they’ll need to achieve their goals.
Step 2: Establish and Communicate Company Values
Your company’s core values are the principles and beliefs that unite your team. They’re a key feature of great company culture because they help employees feel like an integral part of your company. However, they have to be cohesive, authentic, and clear to work in your favor.
Your company’s values must be audible across all your internal communications, from your leadership seminars to your company newsletter. Businesses can accomplish this by using logos, graphics, slogans, and customer service initiatives that unify their brand’s voice.
Step 3: Improve Your Onboarding Program
A standardized onboarding experience keeps employees engaged. In fact, employees who undergo an onboarding program with a clear structure and managerial guidance are 54% more engaged than those who don’t because they understand their role within the company.
Step 4: Offer Competitive Compensation and Benefits
Low pay is the second most common reason people quit, but poor company culture, lack of work-life balance, and sub-par benefits packages often land in the top ten. The easiest way to boost employee engagement is to appropriately compensate your staff for what they do.
If you can’t give your employees a pay raise, consider updating your benefits program. A fantastic physical/mental health package will reduce employee fear of future health problems.
Step 5: Measure Employee Engagement
By tracking your employee engagement programs, you can determine where your organization stands and where improvements are necessary. Start by monitoring communication, like:
By crunching the numbers, you can put resources in the places and progress your program.
Step 6: Encourage Feedback and Celebrate Achievements
Recognition and positive employee feedback empowers your staff to reach for the stars. Start by telling your team that they did a great job on their project, or comment on their preparedness at your next meeting. You can even acknowledge your top performers in your weekly newsletter.
Employers should also encourage regular feedback from their team members. Use employee surveys that ask about general happiness, recognition, and how likely they are to recommend your business.
Step 7: Plan Team-Building Activities
Humans spend 30% of their life working, making workplace relationships vital to your employees' happiness. By implementing team-building activities, you encourage open communication and collaboration, which are necessary components to resolving conflicts.
Step 8: Invest in Employee Wellness
Research shows that wellness benefits were crucial for employees during COVID-19, but they’ll still matter post-pandemic. Your employees want to do well, but if they’re sleep-deprived or stressed due to an upcoming deadline, their morale suffers. Poor morale extends to a decrease in productivity, which affects your bottom line significantly.
Ensuring wellness means taking an active interest in your employees' mental and physical wellbeing. You can do this by creating a wellness program and using your intranet.
Step 9: Promote Inclusion in the Workplace
Another important way to invest in wellness is by promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Employers should welcome people of all backgrounds and value their ideas. An open company encourages speaking out against problems affecting minorities.
Step 10: Create Mentorship Programs and Development Opportunities
Your employees want to grow with your company. By offering mentorship programs and development opportunities, you can engage your employees throughout their tenure. To set up these opportunities, send out a weekly newsletter to ask who’s interested in taking the next step.
Author Bio: This article is written by our marketing team at HR Cloud. HR Cloud is a leading provider of HR solutions, including recruiting, onboarding, employee engagement, and intranet software. Our aim is to help your company improve employee engagement, employee productivity, and to save you valuable time!