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This Is the Latest Buzz Phrase in the Boardroom, and It's the Key to Retaining Top Talent

Ping pong tables and free snacks just can't compete anymore in the Great Resignation age: New tools and innovative approaches are needed to foster a winning culture and both retain and recruit top talent.

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For most companies, future paths are determined in the boardroom: It's where all the most important programs begin. In my experience, boards are led by people with deep wells of success and unique insights, and focus on building cultures that lead to success. In other words, if you want to know what keeps corporate leaders up at night, pay attention to what happens with the board. Right now, the buzz phrase in these places across the country is "employee experience."

Employee wellbeing has become a major source of concern for directors, as companies begin to transition to a new phase of Covid-19 response. Leaders are beginning to feel the long-term impacts of the emergency steps they took at the beginning of the pandemic. Keeping doors open in the next few years will require prioritizing employee experience in ways they may not have before. Fortunately, this pivot will produce a number of enduring benefits.

1. Boost recruiting and retention

Employee churn is one of the biggest concerns for any board or company leadership team right now. The Great Resignation is making ghost towns out of businesses across the country, and dissatisfaction is a major driver of this exodus. Companies that leaned on ping pong tables and free snacks rather than broad retention efforts are seeing people leave in droves. Company cultures have been further decimated by pandemic restrictions, and more people than ever are peeking over the fence at the greener grass. On the corporate side, the friction people face in changing jobs is also at an all-time low. Moving to a new company is suddenly as easy as logging into a new Zoom room.

However, not every business is facing record levels of resignations. Some industries, such as leisure and hospitality, have been hit especially hard, but those still going strong typically have well-developed employee experience plans that listen carefully to their people and make appropriate changes based on feedback. Both creating and maintaining these plans is also essential for future hiring, in part because those who are happy in their jobs can become valuable recruiters. The feedback and scores from employee experience programs also give marketing teams invaluable data to share.

Related: The Top 5 Ways Companies Can Retain Top Talent

2. Encourage people to do great things

Everyone wants to be connected to a greater purpose, and companies need to provide a mission and values that enable individuals to do that. The allure of making the world a better place — even if it's just one small slice of the world — is powerful.

At BambooHR, we have embraced five pillars that inform our employee experience programs and give our people purpose: quality of life, growth, culture and values, benefits and compensation and mental health. Anyone who comes to work here can look to these as our guiding principles, and knows how their work contributes to everyone's success.

Of course, over the past two years, many companies (ours included) have had to make hard choices when it comes to how we preserve company cultures. But creating a greater purpose that inspires and encourages employees will help in every aspect of business success. When boards and leaders shift to focus on employee experience and employee success, it also signals that the company truly stands for its values. It can be easy to say you want to make life better for people, then get caught up once again in focusing on the bottom line. Our principles need to be more than just slogans we roll out for all-hands meetings: they need to truly drive us.

This also means that if you as a leader aren't happy with the culture or values of the company, or how your employees are responding/contributing to them, then you must first look in the mirror. These are a reflection of who you are. Helping employees both see themselves in the big picture and understand how they contribute to the company's success should be a top priority. To that end, create and build programs around values that motivate and signal your desire to help team members succeed.

3. Give HR a bigger voice

The biggest challenge of creating a good culture is usually rubber-meets-the-road work, and even the best plans have a way of falling apart once they meet the unpredictability of real-world needs. As a corporate leader, your best strategy is to hire great HR people and sync with them frequently. Such a team, with open support from the board that continues right down through department leaders, will be able to improve life for employees and create programs that move the needle on retention and recruiting.

You can assist this process by investing in high-quality tools that gather feedback, such as eNPS scores and fast-response survey scores. It can be easy to think of HR's work as being reactive to how people are feeling, but it's important to couple those feelings with data.

Related: The Core Belief That Drives My HR Career

Supporting talented HR leaders and giving them a bigger voice in the company will supercharge employee initiatives and provide a much bigger chance of success. Data-centered tools will also improve employee experience programs and enable your HR team to identify needs directly from the source.

The old axiom that a company's best customers are its employees is true. As organizations continue to recover from pandemic efforts, rebuild cultures and deal with the Great Resignation, a renewed focus on them will help enterprises succeed in numerous and lasting ways.

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