Research from employee benefits and rewards provider Sodexo Engage has found that a third (32%) of SME employees plan to leave their role in 2022 leaving companies with a significant skills shortage.  In terms of engagement, 39% say they were not engaged in their work or role in 2021.

Through experiencing challenges such as isolation, stress and burnout over the past two years, many employees have re-evaluated what matters most to them, what they’ll tolerate and what they expect from their employer.Amid the ‘great resignation’, Sodexo Engage outlines five elements that are critical to engaging and retaining employees.

A new era for leadership

With changing expectations, employees will no longer turn a blind eye to poor leadership. They expect transparency, accountability, and trust. The changing workplace now requires a different kind of leader – one that is empathetic and puts their people first. This will take new skills and investment in the development of managers and the C-suite to make decisions, and take action, with a people-first approach.


According to research from The Josh Bersin Company, companies that put the right wellbeing strategy in place are 3.2 times more likely to engage and retain employees, and 2.8 times more likely to adapt well to change.

There is growing employee expectation for employers to take a more holistic approach to wellbeing – an approach that not only protects physical health, but also mental, financial and social aspects. They want a culture of wellbeing focused on not just offering support like training and access to wellbeing products, but leaders who make choices based on welfare of their employees. This means exploring how workloads impact wellbeing and providing a space safe for employees to raise concerns.

Culture and values

While many employers wrongly believe salary is a key driver to engagement, a company’s culture plays a tremendous role in attracting, engaging and retaining talent. Research from MIT shows a toxic culture is 10.4 times more powerful than compensation in predicting a company’s attrition rate. Leaders should look to outline clear values and expected behaviours from the top down, and showcase these repeatedly. Every small or large action taken in response to uncertainty and change will send a message to a firm’s employees as to what a company’s culture is or isn’t.

A space for everyone to shine 

Everyone, regardless of their position, in the company should have an active role in the success of a business. Providing a space for employees to communicate, whether that’s in daily meetings or with leadership or even anonymously through company surveys, helps build trust and engagement, creates an inclusive workplace where employees feel a sense of belonging and drives innovation through new collective ideas.

Rewarding a job well done

Employees are more likely to stay in a job where they feel appreciated, and their hard work is recognised. Regardless of how big or small, providing regular rewards reassures them that their contribution to the company is not going unnoticed. These rewards don’t need to be in the form of cash but can be as simple as verbal thank you. Making this a part of the workplace culture will create a positive atmosphere where people feel seen and valued.


Burcin Ressamoglu, CEO of Sodexo Engage, comments:

“The past few years of turbulence and crisis will have dramatically impacted how employees view work. While challenging, this change could be the perfect catalyst for improving the workplace, encouraging employers to examine what they offer, how they interact with their team and how they make decisions. Approaching the workplace with fresh eyes, flexibility and empathy will place businesses on a new path towards a happier and more engaged workforce.”