The new year brings with it new opportunities and a chance for employers to help ease any lingering feelings of stress that employees are struggling with as a result of heightened remote workloads or pandemic burnout. Optimistic, motivated employees help put their organization on the path to success, so not taking the opportunity to create a positive work environment is like looking a gift horse in the mouth.
According to a survey conducted by Indeed last spring, 52% of respondents were feeling burned out, and 67% believed the feeling worsened over the course of the pandemic. Even as the world started returning to a sense of normalcy, these feelings have persisted, and this effect on employee morale, engagement and performance can be tremendously damaging.
For executives, now is the time to prioritize a positive workplace, and there are four key tips that can help cultivate this environment.
1. Frame your purpose.
For nonprofits, mission comes before everything else. Missions should be crystal clear and easily digestible. They need to influence every decision and every action. Every employee, from a new hire to senior leadership, should be able to articulate how their job contributes to the overarching mission.
It is important to create bridges of understanding from the mission to the work that is done every day. Employees who are passionate about the mission and feel that they are working toward a purpose will be more motivated and excited to fulfill their role.
At my organization, American Humane, our mission is all about making a more humane world for people and animals. We appreciate that our responsibility as leaders in the humane movement and in the nonprofit sector requires a complete commitment to excellence in business, passion and heart.
2. Rise above the chaos.
A happy workplace is made up of happy people, and happy people are often productive employees. A positive, dynamic and mission-focused environment can enrich and energize employees.
The first step to fixing a broken, dysfunctional culture is to limit negativity and stop dwelling on the past. True recovery begins with the healthy acceptance of the situation, along with the will to move forward. Problems can happen when people bring negative attitudes into the organization. This negativity can rub off onto the lives of others, and it can be seen in the form of dull meetings, underperforming businesses and bad experiences with donors and partners in the field. It can be extremely difficult to force yourself to think positively when you are swimming against the current, however, effective leaders must rise above the chaos.
To get a better idea of what your people are thinking — how they think you could and should improve — conduct employee satisfaction surveys, and continue to seek the input of your team to make ongoing improvements in operations. Encourage colleagues to get together outside of the office, helping to develop productive, happy and healthy relationships throughout the organization. To build teamwork and reinforce your culture, host professional retreats. To keep everyone connected to your mission, share the organization’s news and victories as they occur with your entire staff.
3. Build trust with your employees.
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes about the idea of the emotional bank account. Just as we make deposits into and withdrawals from our financial bank account, we do the same with our emotional bank account.
All of us have established emotional bank accounts with our coworkers, our bosses, our family and our loved ones — everyone we interact with — and these emotional bank accounts can have either a positive or negative balance depending on your interactions.
When you reward and recognize your employees for doing a good job, be sure to keep the idea of emotional bank accounts in mind. Are you making deposits or withdrawals? Deposits are what will build trust with your employees and determine whether they enjoy where they work and will be engaged in their jobs.
4. Hire for culture and alignment.
According to 2015 data from McKinsey and Company, 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals — in most cases because of employee resistance and a lack of support from management. Given that trying to change people and align them with your new vision and mission is often a losing proposition, it’s often better from the start to hire for alignment. When you hire people who are aligned with your vision and mission, your culture will be reinforced and strengthened. In the interview process, look for candidates who share the same beliefs and values as your organization, but also bring diversity of thought and experience that will help to drive your company forward.
When we hire new employees, for example, we look for people who are fully aligned with our purpose. We look for people who want to work with us because of our mission: ensuring the safety, welfare and well-being of animals.
By following these four tips, executives can seize the opportunities the new year presents and cultivate a positive work environment, helping to decrease the impact of burnout while also increasing employee retention rates, in turn, helping the nonprofit succeed.
Read the full byline on the Forbes website.