Exploring the State of Employee Engagement in the New Year

January 13, 2020 at 8:00 am

Group of colleagues placing hands together around a circle.

Engaged employees feel a sense of purpose at work.

Employee engagement encompasses two basic things: the level of commitment an employee has to a job and employer; and the strength of the relationship between the employee and employer.

Employees who are highly engaged at work will have most or all of the following characteristics:

  • Enthusiastic and passionate about their work
  • Take pride in doing a good job
  • Feel like their work has a purpose
  • Have a positive attitude and/or feelings toward their employer and/or company leadership
  • Actively try to build up the organization and its interests

On the other hand, employees who are not engaged or are actively disengaged will have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • Only doing the bare minimum needed to remain employed
  • Expressing negative feelings about the organization and its people to others
  • Lack of purpose at work
  • Actively try to tear the organization down, either directly or indirectly
  • Sabotage co-workers who seem like they will advance

Engaged employees naturally have higher levels of productivity, contribute more to the company’s bottom line, help to build the employer brand and culture, and are retained longer than employees who are not engaged or are disengaged.

New Developments in Employee Engagement

There are a number of new developments that will impact employee engagement in the new year and beyond. New information is becoming available that can pinpoint exactly how companies can influence employee engagement and gain the benefits of having more engaged employees.

Recognizing Employee Achievements

Employee recognition is one of the most effective ways to foster engagement. Almost universally, employees like to see their contributions recognized and to feel appreciated by the people they work for and under, as well as by the organization as a whole.

The best recognition programs are transparent, genuine, and intentional. They seem to come from the organization’s culture rather than seeming like a top-down directive. Building ways to say thank you and recognize hard work into the company’s infrastructure and DNA can lead to a significant drop in voluntary turnover–nearly a third according to one study.

The Employee Journey

More emphasis is being given to the employee’s overall career journey with the company, rather than just the current position and the HR needs that come with it. Employee Experience Platforms (EXPs) are now being used more to document and even analyze this journey for each individual employee.

These platforms incorporate tracking features with analytics, using past performance to indicate future moves that can optimize the employee’s career path. Chatbots and virtual agents are incorporated to make the process more accurate and to provide assistance.

The Alternative Workforce

Freelancers and contract workers can be at special risk of becoming disengaged due to a lack of on-site interaction with co-workers as well as flexibility in scheduling that has them working when few others may be doing so. The alternative workforce should be included in recognition initiatives and other engagement methods that typically have included just full-time, on-site staff.

With the gig economy continuing to grow, engagement among the alternative workforce is a growing concern that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Making Work More Human

There are several aspects to humanizing work that will come into greater play in the new year. As technology becomes more advanced and automation moves into many jobs (taking over some), employees are searching harder than ever for empathy and compassion from their employers.

Not only do employees want to feel understood by their managers and bosses, but they also seek co-workers who demonstrate emotional intelligence in the workplace. Employers who want to engage their employees would do well to listen to them and demonstrate an understanding of their needs and perspectives.

As a new wave of Generation Z workers graduate and look for jobs each year, it’s important to understand that the new generation has an approach to work that is different from the ones that came before it. For Gen Z, work and life are more closely integrated than ever before because this generation grew up with technology that made it possible to be connected 24/7.

Gen Z values human connection in the workplace more than any other preceding generation because to them work and life are all one thing. This generation will be ruthless in cutting out anything from their lives that doesn’t contribute to work-life integration and harmony, so it’s even more important to make work a place where true caring takes place.

Employees as Brand Ambassadors

Researchers have noticed that when an employee shares something positive about a brand on social media, it gets more than five times the responses that a message directly from the brand itself gets. Companies are wise to understand the power of employee engagement in creating the impetus for these kinds of brand-positive posts and to work hard at being the kind of company that generates positive word-of-mouth among its employees.

Having employees who are brand ambassadors not only impacts employee engagement, but it also contributes to a positive culture and creates word of mouth that makes people want to come and work for your company. Brand ambassadors spread positivity that permeates the entire culture and counteracts the normal bellyaching that is so common at work.

Group of colleagues around a conference table smiling and raising their hands.

There are many things companies can do to improve employee engagement.

Focus on Wellness and Mental Health

Employees are more likely to stick around when they can see that their employer supports their wellness and mental health in concrete ways. One way to do this is with an employee assistance program, which is intended to help when health challenges crop up at work or at home. Employee assistance programs can help with adaptations for physical challenges, treatment for addiction and diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health conditions, and making use of company-provided health insurance programs to get the best possible benefits from them.

Some larger companies even have on-site medical clinics that employees can use when they don’t feel well or need help on a workday. Smaller companies can train managers to be more sensitive to health needs, including mental health.

Competing for Talent

There’s definitely a war for talent going on right now, with unemployment at record lows and talent shortages in many skilled fields. Companies are recognizing that one important way to compete for talent is to engage employees effectively in order to keep them longer. If you can keep the good employees you have, you won’t need to work as hard to find new ones because you won’t have as many open positions.

While there are many ways to compete for talent, considering your strategy in terms of employee engagement will be more effective in the long run. Not only will you need to hire less often, but those employees you do hire will be more likely to develop a sense of loyalty to the organization if their needs are being met and they feel engaged in their jobs.

Using Assessments for Engagement

One tool that can help with employee engagement is assessments. While there are specific assessments and surveys designed to measure engagement, behavioral and cognitive assessments like those available through the Predictive Index have benefits for engagment in addition to being helpful with hiring and succession planning.

Both cognitive and behavioral assessments improve engagement by helping management understand existing employees better. This, in turn, will help them make work-related adjustments that could help work feel more meaningful and provide greater purpose for a particular position. In addition, when employees feel understood by their employer, the relationship will improve and they will be more engaged.

Narish International clients report that assessments lead to a deep level of understanding for all employees, both of themselves and of each other. It is only from that kind of understanding that empathy and compassion can flow.

Instant mutual understanding is not likely to happen naturally. It must be intentionally taught, encouraged, and fostered. Narish International can accomplish these lofty goals through the use of assessments.

Forming an Engagement Strategy

Your engagement strategy is one of the most important parts of business planning that can take place. Without engaged employees, your company will never reach its full potential and be able to thrive rather than just survive. In fact, in the current labor market, having a significant number of disengaged employees could pull your entire organization down.

It is crucial to figure out what kind of engagement methods will work best in your organization’s culture, then implement them as quickly as you can. You can start by encouraging your employees to be honest with you about their current engagement levels.

Honesty and transparency create engagement. From there, you can build on that step and find out what your employees need to become highly engaged. From feedback and from your own observations, you can begin to make the changes necessary to better engage employees.

It won’t be an overnight transformation, but over time you will foster greater engagement and benefit your entire organization. Narish International can help you foster engagement and build higher-performing teams.