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3 Ways to Help Reignite Employee Productivity

By Brenda Smith

A recent study by Catalyst found that half of the U.S. workforce intends to leave their jobs as a result of the pandemic.1 Commonly referred to as the Great Resignation, this mass exodus of employees across industries has impacted many aspects of the American economy and shows no signs of slowing down.

If you have spoken with anyone who has changed jobs recently, or read the headlines on the subject, you may have noticed a few consistent themes that employees want from their workplaces:

  • More flexibility
  • Remote options
  • Better benefits, like paid family and medical leave and more overall support around behavioral health

The apparent disconnect between what employers are providing and what employees expect feels greater than ever before. As a result, employers are taking this opportunity to shift focus on recruitment and retention strategies and examine their workplace culture to uncover the reasons for this turnover — and prevent its continuation. Thankfully, there are a few things that employers and managers can do to help counteract disengagement, reconnect with employees, and support their needs to improve productivity and increase loyalty.

1. Create an open dialogue with employees

With so much focus on the number of people leaving their jobs, what about those employees who haven’t left their jobs yet? Remember, an employee who hasn't left might still be thinking about it.

Research is showing us there is a large population of employees who continue to languish.2 Part of their struggle isn’t with the work itself. It’s dealing with the challenges in their personal lives, too. From health issues to continued challenges posed by the pandemic, caregiving responsibilities and behavioral health issues, employees can’t bring their whole selves to work. Presenteeism could be at the heart of the languishing workforce, and managers might think they know who is at risk — but chances are, they don’t.

Engage employees by having an open dialogue and listen intently to understand what they choose to share. Identify any potential struggles or barriers to their success at work, and take action to support them with appropriate benefit solutions or accommodations. Managers cannot effectively help if they don’t understand their employees’ concerns or know where or how to help them grow. Be sure to consistently ask employees what they need to be successful in their role.

2. Help employees identify their strengths — and sharpen their skills

There are so many non-traditional ways of thinking about and leveraging people’s unique strengths in the workplace. In order to find opportunities for employees, managers must have a clear understanding of people's strengths. Teams cannot succeed by growing their weaknesses. They should build on their collective strengths. Instead of focusing on what employees aren’t doing well, focus on what they are doing well and give them more opportunities to use those strengths in their work.

Since strengths come in different forms, it’s important for managers to actively look for and foster them. Opportunities for mentorship, increased collaboration, job shadowing and project ownership provide valuable experiences that can lead to increased employee confidence and work satisfaction.

3. Get employees to think about the future

One of the best ways to build employee and organizational resilience is to get people thinking about the future. Companies and managers can prepare employees for new challenges by articulating the reality of ongoing change, while emphasizing that these changes can include positive opportunities and new choices. Help employees see where they fit into the future.

Use this time to focus on upskilling, mentoring and giving employees on-the-job training experience so that they can be successful now and in the future. Give them new projects to look forward to and challenges that will stretch their skills through short-term assignments or special projects. Probe them on where they want to take their careers and help them forge the path.

Macy’s is a great example of a company adjusting to the changing climate in an industry that has been hit hard by the Great Resignation. After determining the impact and cost of replacing and training employees, Macy’s leveled up on its benefits to employees, offering them a debt-free education program and increased wages, and adding flexibility to paid time off.

By engaging employees and helping them envision their future through new opportunities, you can build organizational and employee resilience. Good managers will orient their employees to work on their skills and help them ultimately achieve personal and professional growth.


The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives. While some people may want to “return to normal,” many employees now want more from their workplaces. This presents an opportunity for employers to have intentional conversations and understand what benefits or accommodations would offer better support to their teams. Re-engaging employees through skill-building and new assignments, and intentionally helping them to plan for the future, will build resilience and engagement in the workforce, leading to more fulfilled employees who will perform better.


Brenda Smith is the senior director of Workplace PossibilitiesSM at The Standard. Her insights into the benefits world and background in customer experience led her to start work with the Workplace Possibilities team in 2014. In her current role, Brenda helps insurance advisors implement the Workplace Possibilities program with employers and oversees a large team of consultants with expertise in return-to-work, Americans with Disabilities Act and absence issues.


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