How to empower your employees for a successful today and tomorrow

In the post COVID employer landscape, a lot of things have changed for employees and businesses alike. After experiencing a cycle of hyper-growth, followed by an economic recession, and pivot to a return to the office, it’s not surprising that employee engagement is at an all-time low.

In the US for example, is now estimated to be at its lowest level in a decade, a trend that’s likely replicated around the world. While it can be easy to fall into the trap of focusing your mindset on profits alone, today’s leaders need to balance their ledgers with their ability to create a sense of meaning for direct reports. 

Young people, many of whom spent their formative higher education years behind a screen amid the pandemic, have faced particular challenges and are now craving human connections more than ever. And, in the fast-paced environments of startups, having frequent in-person collaboration between teams can create the learning opportunities they need, alongside building a strong workplace culture and developing more efficient workflows.

But leaders, be cognisant: an office-first culture isn’t built on in-office gimmicks like foosball tables, massages, and snacks. Turning your focus to providing opportunities for meaningful work; prioritising learning and professional growth; and offering company-wide social initiatives, can promote an engaged and high-performing workforce. 

Implementing a culture of mentorship and growth opportunities

A more engaged workforce means more people willing to go the extra mile. It’s no secret that those entering the workforce for the first time are hungry for experiences that will broaden their professional horizons as well as their networks. Many companies today have instituted learning & development (L&D) programs, from LinkedIn Learning subscriptions to dedicated budgets that can be used for ad-hoc events, bootcamps, or degree programmes. 

But these opportunities are only effective if paired with the right amount of practical, on-the-job experience and coaching opportunities. Research shows that coaching opportunities have had a 788% return on investment, based on factors like increased productivity and employee retention. In fact, that same research found that organisations with a strong coaching culture have 60% higher employee  engagement than those without it.

We practise the 70-20-10 rule of learning at Glovo; 70% of learning happens on the job with real life opportunities, 20% with guidance – through coaching and mentoring – and 10% from official channels like seminars and online courses. In addition to a more engaged workforce, coaching and mentoring opportunities can also create a more inclusive environment.

A growth mindset is knowing your hires will move on to bigger and better things

If you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘leave them better than you found them’, then you know that this applies as much to personal relationships as it does to professional ones. The truth is that much of your workforce will eventually move on to bigger and better things – and that is a good thing. Building a culture that encourages personal growth is as important to employees as it is to the success of your business.

According to the World Economic Forum, 23% of jobs are expected to change in the next five years, meaning millions of people will need to pivot from those roles that are declining into ones that are witnessing growth. That change needs to be driven at all levels of society, including businesses. 

It is our responsibility as leaders to adapt to these changes and build future leaders who can drive this change. This is why managers should put an emphasis on building leadership skills within their teams early on and make it a central part of their strategy, i.e. practising interim periods before the official promotion of employees, allowing both the employee and the manager room to grow comfortably into new leadership roles.

The future of work demands a nuanced approach where leaders must invest in their people as if they were investing in the business. And, by cultivating an environment that values mentorship, personal growth and meaningful work – while positively reinforcing the wider impact this has – organisations can not only improve employee engagement, but prepare for the inevitable shifts in the job market. What is clear is that the companies which will thrive are those that recognize the importance of and reward their human capital, and are willing to adapt to the changing needs of their workforce.