The headlines from the 2021 Edelman Special Report – The Belief-Driven Employee has focused on staff pick jobs based on beliefs.

The reality is something deeper and even more enthralling – the pandemic has accelerated a shift in power from employer to employee. And employees are using that power to drive corporate social action.

As a result, firms need to enhance their internal communications to engage staff and show they are responding to their beliefs to secure corporate goals.

What are your employees telling you?

When compared to a time before Covid, 60% of those surveyed believe that “our employees have more power and leverage when it comes to creating change in our organisation.”

And the young are even more aware of their power than older workers. 64% of 18-34 year olds agree, while only 53% of over 55s feel more powerful.

Employees now see themselves as the most important stakeholder in businesses. They have overtaken customers/clients who have traditionally been seen as primary stakeholders. Fortune magazine recently wrote about how employees are bringing their latent power to bear in the context of how shifting our attitudes towards power is crucial to reimagine capitalism.

These results echo a more general view that the pandemic has shifted power towards employees; the article quotes Pavan Arora of Yolk Recruitment: “It is your pickings, it is your time, the position of control and power is in your court slightly.” Just look at the vacancy numbers.

We have heard a lot about increased mental health strain on staff during the pandemic. or a start they have a higher sense of their self-worth. 62% if those surveyed felt they have increased their value to their employer by taking on more work and responsibility.

What are your employees telling you? If you don’t have mechanisms in place to listen, you may be missing some important messages.

Rise in employee power fuels job hunting

43% did not believe their employer was doing enough to combat employee burnout and, of these, 25% have left or plan to leave their jobs in the next six months.

But the data on why those leaving were doing so is indicative of broader societal shifts. There is such a thing as society.

59% were leaving to find a better fit with their values and half for a better fit with their lifestyle. And, 61% evaluated their future employer based on values and beliefs such as “I will not work for a company if I disagree with their stand on social issues”.

How should employers react?

  1. Start with the basics

The predominant expectations of new employees have not shifted fundamentally: 82% considered career advancement to be a strong expectation of deal breaker.

The next two expectations do illustrate this shift in power, however. 77% personal empowerment and 71% social impact. Each of these had risen by 4 or 5 points since January 2019, indicating growing self-confidence in the workplace.

  1. Empower employees for real

It is crucial to turn that sense of empowerment into reality through your management style. The most obvious benefits of empowering employees (apart from making them feel better) are to help them grow and encourage them to be more accountable for their actions. When people are in control of what they do, they tend to make more committed decisions and are less likely to deflect responsibility to others.

  1. Upgrade your internal communications

neon sign

This is the area on which many SMEs fall down. Internal communications is still too often seen by senior management as a one-way flow on information. “We’ve put out a memo”.  I’ve even heard it called the last outpost of Stalinism in the west (‘the Company is always right’).

This undervalues internal communications. At its most effective, internal communications turns your staff into ambassadors. Businesses have a huge opportunity to build loyalty and attract talent by getting this right.

Communicate with people on a more equal footing. Be honest about the good and the bad. Ask what your staff think (and not just at annual review time). Use a variety of techniques to tap into the knowledge, experiences and passion of your staff. No MD is an island.

Above all, be human. Speak clearly and don’t hide behind management jargon; let your personality shine through using video, podcasts, town hall meetings, whatever works best for you and your team.

Talk to 360 about employee engagement and communications programmes and engagement tools. Even a simple change to the words you use can work wonders.

  1. Stand up for what you believe in

The Edelman research confirms what many of us know: employees want their employer to make a social impact, more so even than they desire commercial success. 76% were keen to know that “I have the opportunity to do work that will shape the future of society in some meaningful way.”

Companies which focus on providing profitable solutions to the problems of people and planet, and not profiting from creating problems (as outlined by The British Academy Future of the Corporation) will answer that desire. So will those who build their employer brand around health and wealth inequalities, diversity and inclusion.

In a skills-scarce, employee-led recruitment market, the best way to attract talent is to do what will make you attractive to them. Define your purpose and make that the centrepiece of your reputation management.

Richard Edelman writes, “The Employee Value Proposition (EVP) now looks like a tripod, balanced on the traditional enticements of pay and career advancement, a newer focus on employee well-being, with flexible hours and remote work, and now an employer commitment to act for good on society’s biggest challenges.”

There are many other insights in the Edelman report: check out the whole thing here. Or sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive regular news on ethical and purpose-driven business communications from around the world.

(Neon sign Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash)