Why it’s critical to attract hard-to-reach employees

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Stephen Sokoler, founder and CEO of trip.

More employees are absent than ever before. In his State of the Global Workplace: Report 2022, Gallup said nearly 80% of employees were disengaged at work. With only around 20% of the employees involved, it is essential that companies connect with their employees, especially those who are the hardest to reach.

Who are hard-to-reach employees?

Employees can be difficult to reach for a variety of reasons. First, we have employees who work outside the office. This also applies to home workers, but also to traveling salesmen and truck drivers, who are difficult to reach through traditional channels. Other roles that are hard to get into include store associates, manufacturing and distribution workers, and call center workers. These employees don’t work in front of a computer and have no control over their schedules, making engagement a challenge for them.

Hard-to-reach workers can include people who identify themselves in a certain way, such as a person of color, a working mother, or a member of the LGBTQ+ community. These employees often feel that the existing benefits were not created for or by them.

Then we have employees whose work arrangements are unique, such as interns, seasonal workers, and gig workers. These employees may not have a strong connection to the job and the company. Finally, there are employees who work in incredibly stressful environments, such as lawyers, bankers, healthcare workers, and managers. These employees often suffer from burnout and exhaustion and lack the time or energy to commit themselves.

What is the impact on employees?

There is, of course, a moral imperative to involve all employees; hard-to-reach employees, however, often have the greatest need for support. They can experience isolation and loneliness and are often disconnected from colleagues and the company. The absence of support from colleagues can be a challenge for them both personally and professionally.

I’ve noticed that hard-to-reach employees also often indicate that they don’t have the time or energy to commit due to work pressure or private life. They may feel marginalized or disconnected based on their identity and lack of support built just for them. For all these reasons, an extra effort must be made.

What is the financial need for companies?

In addition to the moral necessity, there is also the financial reason why involving all employees is essential.

First, hard-to-reach employees often do the most important work. This could be interacting directly with customers, handling mission-critical priorities, or managing teams. Engaging the employees who work at customers, tackling the biggest challenges and managing teams of people is very important.

Second, disengaged employees may be more likely to be attrition. According to Gallup52% of voluntarily leaving employees say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job. They also note that the cost of replacing an employee can be up to twice the employee’s annual salary. To put this in real terms, “A 100-person organization making an average salary of $50,000 may have turnover and replacement costs of about $660,000 to $2.6 million per year.”

Third, without adequate support, employees are more likely to experience burnout. Gallup also found that “In a company with 10,000 employees with an average salary of $50,000 each, the cost of their withdrawal is $60.3 million per year.”

How can leaders address low engagement?

So what should a leader do? Start by identifying the specific employees affected and the issues your company faces. A few questions to start with:

• Which employees need the most support?

• What is unique about those employees?

• What challenges do they face that make engagement difficult?

• How can they be reached in a way that meets them where they are?

These are not easy questions to answer, but don’t let that be daunting. The truth is that there is no silver bullet when it comes to engaging employees, especially the hardest to reach. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. Engaging hard-to-reach employees is both a moral and a financial imperative for organizations, so getting started can be a worthwhile investment.


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