Despite unemployment soaring during the pandemic, a record number of businesses are admitting that it’s tough to find new employees.  One college professor has coined the term “The Great Resignation” and predicted that more people than ever before are looking to shift to a new position. After almost 2 years of holding onto roles in fear of a lack of security and stability during COVID-19, the tides are turning. Some reports estimate that up to 50% of people could be leaving their jobs this year, a 43% rise on 2020 numbers.

To encourage skilled talent in your direction, and to retain the employees that are currently under your roof, it’s more important than ever that you can present your business as future-focused and innovative. If you’re looking for ways to showcase innovation as a business – here are 5 ideas.

Think seriously about flexible working options

What worked for your organization pre-pandemic won’t be enough now that we’re coming out of the other side. While employees may have been happy office workers back in 2019, today many will have got used to the flexibility of working from home. However, there’s also no doubt that a contingent might well be looking forward to getting back to the gossip of the water cooler and the benefits of in-person team meetings.

As a result, many companies are embracing a choice-first mentality – putting workers in the drivers’ seat about their location, as long as the work gets done. This approach will appeal to candidates who may have moved home during the past 18 months, or who have childcare considerations or live somewhere more remote than a town center. By encouraging choice-first, you also normalize working from home, expanding your pool of talent for candidates to anywhere in the world.

Ramp up your digital offering

A future-focused and innovative company provides the tools and technology to make working life easier for everyone. Look at where there is friction for your employees and try to utilize automation and digitization to streamline repetitive or awkward processes. Can you offer a digital solution for expense tracking for example, so that employees don’t need to collect and save paper receipts?

Do you have an automated system for sending and querying payslips, or a portal where employees can access up to date information on the company, including announcements on new hires or changes in leadership? Can you digitize a single centralized solution for employees to troubleshoot shift management or handover a customer issue with ease? Nothing says “innovative” like offering technology that replaces well-known manual effort they may be excited to leave behind.

Lean into COVID-recognition

For every employee who is excited to get back to the office, there will be many who are truly fearful. In some cases, a choice-first culture can make it easier, but there’s no doubt that not everyone can effectively do their work from home. Whether it’s a lack of office space, a manual job description, or the need for collaboration – many people will be nervously making that commute once again over the next couple of months.

It can make a real difference to the whole culture of your company if you make the effort to recognize how hard this might be for some. Put in COVID-precautions ahead of time, such as enforcing masks in common areas, or offering an anonymous way to ask for social distancing or PPE ahead of a meeting. Some employees may get backlash for requesting added safety measures, so the ability to request without leaving your name could make all the difference.

Try not to be flippant around the return to work, (steer clear of signs that say things like “Great to see you faces again!” for example.) Remember, people will have had a tough year, and may have lost loved ones. If you can, offer support with therapy or childcare (some locations may still be closing school or camp bubbles for positive cases) and make sure you tell your workforce that you’re monitoring the situation closely at all times.

Build a culture of recognition

During the pandemic, workers were suddenly much more in control of their own workloads, calendars and office hours. There was a lot more slack provided to those who needed to be flexible due to schools closing, illness, or general upheaval. The culture of “You’re 5 minutes late – make sure it doesn’t happen again” is gone for good, and managers who aim to get back to cracking the whip will find their employees headed for the door. Instead, employees want more autonomy over how they work, and to be praised and recognized for what they bring to the table.

Genuine and balanced feedback makes workers feel appreciated, as well as recognition that they are an important part of the company as a whole. Provide managers with a way to see the organizational structure in context, so that they can learn important details such as who their employees manage, where they moved from other departments internally, and any hierarchy that could be causing friction.

Invest in research and development

If you asked the average person what the most successful company on the planet is, it probably wouldn’t take long before Amazon cropped up in conversation. Dr Kumar Mehta, author of the Innovation Biome calls out how Amazon report their R&D spending among some of the lowest, as reported by conventional methods. In reality of course – Amazon spend over $23 billion on R&D, they just don’t factor it as a separate expense. Mehta comments, “Amazon’s business model “encourages the simultaneous research, design, development, and maintenance of both new and existing products and services.”

Amazon doesn’t treat innovation as a separate activity: it is central to every activity.” For employees to see your company as an innovative place to land – this is the way you need to describe your business. Even previously staid and boring functions such as accounting or HR need to be swathed in new and exciting initiatives, AI, digitization, cultural overhaul, and more.

Ushering in a New Era for the Workforce

The New York Times has commented that “the labor market remains sick with the virus” and in many ways, this idea really sums up the feeling in the market. As employees feel disenfranchised from their workplace and worried about going back to a status quo that made them unhappy, it’s up to today’s savvy enterprises to turn things around. The companies who put innovation first across the business will thrive, creating a shared workspace that empowers employees and puts their needs front and center as they work towards a shared business goal.

Ready to think about adding innovation to the way you manage your workers? Papaya Global provides a single, unified platform to manage a global workforce, including digitizing many of the manual tasks that could be holding your organization back. Speak to us about easy wins that show your candidates you’re the best place for them to thrive.