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Your Employees Are Going Above and Beyond — For More Than Two-Thirds of Them, It Isn’t Sustainable Long-Term

July 20, 2021
By Emily Barlean

Making work-related sacrifices has been the norm in the COVID-19 era. According to FleishmanHillard’s report, The New Social Contract:

  • 58% of employees report regularly balancing taking care of family and job needs at the same time
  • 42% report regularly working outside of normal hours
  • 41% report dedicating space in home to doing work for their employer
  • 36% report regularly working on days they’re meant to be off.

Yet, unless they are rewarded for doing so, the vast majority of employees (between 90%-95%) are not willing to go above and beyond regularly. In fact, only “very satisfied” employees (32%) report they are willing to happily make sacrifices for their employer without reward.

This is unfortunate not only because very satisfied workers go the extra mile, but also because unsatisfied employees — especially those regularly asked to go above and beyond without recognition — are 10% less productive and more likely to consider leaving the workplace.

So, how should companies increase employee satisfaction? The answer is not a flashy one. It doesn’t involve free coffee, weekly food trucks or tchotchke giveaways. Instead, research shows three out of five of the most important elements of the employee-employer relationship — direct enablers of employee satisfaction — are communication-driven, including:

  • Receiving accurate and honest communications
  • Clear job responsibilities and expectations
  • Working for leaders who mean and do what they say.

And the good news for employers is that these communications elements can translate directly into strategies for acknowledging employee sacrifices and supporting the employees making them. Here are some examples:

It may feel like employees need to be protected from tough news, but they appreciate receiving accurate and honest communications about the state of the business and efforts being made to minimize the sacrifices needed to achieve your strategic plan. Even if that news is less than ideal, it’s better to set expectations, share progress and show that you trust your employees by providing candid information.

No one likes to be surprised with news that they need to make an unexpected sacrifice — like working through a weekend when they’ve already made other plans. Providing clear job responsibilities and expectations for workers as soon as possible can eliminate or significantly reduce such surprises. This is especially relevant for employers that are feeling the pinch of the labor shortage and trying to staff up. Eager to hire new staff, companies may be withholding details about long hours, which could result in new hires turning over quickly. What’s more, word about misleading expectations can and will travel. This can create a domino effect that impacts an employer’s brand, which impacts ability to hire, which impacts ability to give relief to workers, which impacts satisfaction across the workforce.

Finally, working for leaders who mean and do what they say is particularly important as managers are challenged to keep up with busy workloads while operating through lower or changing staff levels. For instance, if a leader says they will roll up their sleeves and take on extra work so that their team members aren’t shouldering the heavy-lift alone, employees can become disenfranchised if that leader doesn’t follow through on that commitment. Keeping your word builds trust and loyalty, especially during times of stress and sacrifice.

It may feel like we’ve turned a corner in the pandemic in some parts of the world, but that doesn’t mean employer expectations will suddenly diminish. Although the past year and a half has cast a light on many employees’ willingness to go above and beyond for their employers, it also has underlined the sacrifices employees have made will not continue if they do not feel rewarded for making them.

In any healthy relationship, there’s a delicate balance of give and take — and the same is true for the employee-employer dynamic. Conventional — when done well — employee communications help foster this relationship by increasing employee satisfaction that results in a willingness to consistently and sustainably make the necessary work-related sacrifices to drive the business forward.