Culture   //   January 3, 2022

Businesses scramble to hire employee-engagement managers to ease return to office and combat staff churn

It looks like 2022 will see the rise of a new role: the employment-engagement manager. 

Organizations have anticipated (or their employees have informed them) that after nearly two years of immense strain caused by the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic, enticing people back into the office may not be an immediate slam dunk. 

With recruiters still predicting that the mass quitting seen in 2021 will continue into next year, businesses need to rethink what makes a good employee experience, and fast.

That’s why LinkedIn has become flooded with job ads for positions which are dedicated to making the transition back to the office as seamless as possible, and enjoyable, productive and collaborative for employees once there. 

In the U.S. alone, close to 10,000 employers are hiring for an employee engagement manager on LinkedIn, with close to 500 job positions posted on some days in December.

The exact job titles vary depending on the company, but the core remit and responsibilities are the same: to ensure employees feel safe returning, and that their workplace experience is positive, collaborative and productive – whether they’re new hires or existing employees.

Media advertising agency Mindshare is hiring a director of culture and employee engagement – the first role of its kind at the company. Their role will range from creating events and opportunities – both virtual and in-person – for people to meet and work with different teams, offices and departments – and give them the chance to network, socialize and collaborate in ways they wouldn’t have before the pandemic. 

They will also review data like Mindshare’s employee surveys, employee exit interviews, and live feedback from the agency’s local and national staff town halls, reporting to executive director of people Richetta Teal. 

Previously, the task of ensuging people feel hear, connected to their colleagues and the company, and empowered to do their best work, was spread across multiple departments including people / HR teams, senior leadership and Employee Resource Groups, according to Teal. But with the battle for talent so fierce currently, having a dedicated role seemed critical. 

At other companies, like stock video company Storyblocks, the role will also stretch to oversee the physical layout and amenities in the office, from ensuring the reception areas and conference rooms are inviting and friendly and comfortable, to managing engagement platforms like Headspace and Culture Amp, said Sue Carrillo, senior director of talent at Storyblocks.

“They’re going to liaise with multiple departments to ensure employees have everything they need to focus on their own work. This will include office management duties to keep our work place running smoothly,” she said.  Even more importantly, they’ll be in charge of ensuring employees feel “psychologically safe,” and bring their authentic selves to work, she added. 

That will be critical also for the onboarding of new talent. Storyblock’s employee engagement manager will be one of the key faces for new hires in the organization during onboarding. “Tactically, they will answer questions, ensure new employees have everything they need when they need it, and help hiring managers set up effective onboarding plans. Strategically, this person will be part of the broader People team and work on creating a holistic onboarding and engagement experience for employees,” said Carrillo. 

Georgia Willis, who has been engagement manager for for interior design studio IA in London for the last six months, believes that from the moment an employee enters the organization, her role is to help shape their experience. She ensures that the new hires have a smooth transition to the company, reporting into the operations director and workplace strategy director. 

“We all know starting a new job can be overwhelming and extremely daunting. It creates support for new hires and gives them a go-to person who they can rely on,” she said.  

Despite the many hats that employee engagement managers wear, there is one task that’s mission critical: closing the gap between working from home and returning to the office. Willis believes that people continue to feel disconnected from their job and office because they can’t relate on a personal level, through a laptop screen and yet anxiety at the prospect of returning to an office environment, is also high. 

Making an honest effort to show you care can go a long way in helping people know they belong at your organization.
Hani Goldstein, CEO and founder at Snappy

In response, Willis curated a wellness package to ease the uncertainty around the return to the office. The packages contained items — such as candles, face masks and sweet treats — to aid wellness and encourage staff to take a break and look after themselves.

A recent survey of 1,000 U.S. employees by Propeller Insights on behalf of Snappy, revealed that nearly 6 in 10 employees say meaningful holiday gifts from their employer are more likely to keep them in their jobs. “People really want to feel appreciated”, said Hani Goldstein, CEO and founder at Snappy. 

“The act of gifting can impact employee engagement. Making an honest effort to show you care can go a long way in helping people know they belong at your organization. We believe that sending gifts and notes of appreciation are the best ways to turn small gestures into powerful, long-term business results”, said Goldstein.

3 Questions with Andrea Cherng, Panda Express’ chief brand officer, and daughter of co-founders and co-CEO’s Andrew and Peggy Cherng. 

A help-wanted sign on the storefront of my local Panda Express reads: “Where hustle meets opportunity.” Can you give context behind the philosophy?

Panda was founded and built by immigrants. The immigrant ethos that shapes and distinguishes our culture is built on twin pillars of gratitude for opportunity and respect for hard work and hustle. Many came to the U.S. because of the promise of the opportunities afforded. The possibility of the American Dream. In order for any dream to be realized though, opportunity had to be met with grit, hard work, and hustle. At Panda, we want to invite those who want to pair hard work and hustle with the opportunity to realize dreams to do better and be better.

Another sign encourages job seekers to ‘Join the Panda family.’ What are examples of how Panda tries to create an environment that’s more than just work?

The Panda Family culture is about finding a sense of belonging to a second family where you are valued and free to bring your whole selves to reach your highest potential. We treat business like family, and the care for one another goes beyond the work. The holistic growth of our people is truly the heart of our culture. It’s not just about building a work resume but building a life resume. We believe in the “Whole Person” approach when it comes to the work-life balance and development of our associates, which entails physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. One-on-one coaching, mentorship programs, and the University of Panda are just a few programs that we offer to our family of associates. 

Panda has been a family-owned and operated business since 1983, and our co-founders and co-CEOs always attribute the growth and success of Panda to the associates who built the foundation of this company with them. This people-first mindset continues to shape our culture. 

Is placing help-wanted signs in storefronts a strategy to get customers to join the team?

We have an ‘always recruiting’ mindset at Panda. There are potential candidates everywhere, including the guests that come through our doors or their network of friends and family. With our loyal guest base, there is usually already a sense of passion for Panda. That passion and understanding of who we are provides a greater sense of meaning or purpose to their everyday work. After people join Panda, they see that we’re not just a restaurant concept but a people-development company that they can grow with, financially, professionally and personally. The culture and the opportunities are why our associates choose to stay. – Tara Weiss. 

By the numbers

  • 80% remote employees in a survey of 1,000 workers feel a company divide with on-site coworkers, compared to just 42% of on-site employees.
    [Source of data: Skynova study.]
  • 90 days is the length of time the Cayman Islands is touting that digital nomads can work (plus sunbathe and drink cocktails) remotely without a Visa, on its glorious white-sand beaches.
    [Source of data: Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.]
  • 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs in October 2021, according to data released in December.
    [Source of data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.]

What else we’ve covered

  • “When we got the work-from-home order, all I could think about was I get to stay in my bed with my heating pad and my laptop and get some work done.” – For some people, WFH has helped them cope with the challenge of suffering severe menstruation symptoms like crippling cramps.
  • Many agree that 2022 will be the year that organizations crystalize what hybrid working truly means for them. But expect teething problems, experts warn.
  • We asked a range of execs what they predict will be the top priorities for business leaders in 2022, and alongside finessing what the right hybrid models are, fixing the employee experience emerged as another major theme.