25 Oct Fascinating Employee Engagement Trends We’ve Seen This Year
By David Mizne
According to Bersin by Deloitte, “Employee engagement has become the top issue on the minds of business leaders, directing us to an entirely new model of management.” But what does employee engagement even mean?
Few business buzzwords are more ubiquitous, yet the exact definition of employee engagement remains elusive. This becomes even more problematic when you consider Gallup’s seemingly ambiguous subcategories of not engagedand actively disengaged.
I like to defineemployee engagement as proactively and passionately adding value while aligning with the company mission and operational goals. This can be hard to quantify, but engaged employees wear it on their faces, demonstrate it in their work attitude and exhibit it in their workplace communication.
Once we know what we are looking for, we need to be able to measure it, and more importantly, create more of it. Here are seven workplace engagement trends for the coming year, and advice for you to create a more engaged workforce in 2018:
- Workforce engagement will go up (but just a little).
According to Gallup’s latest poll, employee engagement has been pretty stagnant. Only 31% of U.S. and Canadian workers were engaged in their jobs in 2017, a figure that has hovered around the low 30s for years. Given the other employee engagement trends below, and the fact that engagement has only risen a couple of points from 29% in 2011, we can expect to see the needle move slightly with the next engagement survey, but probably not more than a point or two.
- Millennials will (still) provide a challenge.
In 2015, millennials became the largest generation in the US workforce. In 2017, their share of the workforce increased to 35%. That number is expected to continue to rise dramatically as more boomers retire and more graduates start their careers (some predictions are as high as 75% of the workforce by 2030, though a Wall Street Journal blog post predicts it’s actually more like 44%).
Whatever the specific number, Generation Y is now the majority. Businesses seeking to motivate employees in their work will now have to tailor their employee engagement strategies to this group. Research suggests that younger employees are driven by open communication, a great work culture, involvement with causes and achieving purpose and fulfillment.
- Compassionate leadership will have a trickle-down effect.
People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. It turns out that the opposite is true too. An inspiring manager creates more team engagement. According to research by leadership development experts Dr. Brad Shuck and Maryanne Honeycutt-Elliott, “higher levels of engagement come from employees who work for a compassionate leader—one who is authentic, present, has a sense of dignity, holds others accountable, leads with integrity and shows empathy”.
- Give more employee feedback more often for better employee engagement.
We conducted an employee engagement study in 2014 and found that the vast majority of employees who received little or no feedback were actively disengaged. Workforce engagement went up dramatically when employees received examples of constructive feedback about their weaknesses, and even more so when they received feedback about their strengths.
Data is always nice to have, but the feedback/engagement connection is also intuitive. How much more engaged are you in any relationship when you are having open and honest conversations about what matters most?
- Work/Life Balance will become Work/Life Blend.
The Society for Human Resource Management found that the best companies embrace flexibility. For many job-functions there is no longer any good reason to require people to come into the office every day, or for work to be done between the hours of 9:00 am and 5:00 pm (I am writing this from my kitchen table at 7:30 at night). More companies will continue on this path as long as the numbers prove it’s an employee engagement strategy that’s working.
- People Analytics will join the engagement trends.
In his article published in Harvard Business Review, Sean Graber argues that it’s important to look at employees’ perceptions and behaviors and their impact on performance. Managers can then decide how to shift things to increase engagement. In Sean’s consulting, he melds analytics with qualitative feedback by looking at aggregated data from employee opinion surveys as well as self-reported behaviors. “Over time, organizations can track how their employees’ engagement changes and how it relates to key performance indicators (KPIs), such as sales, customer satisfaction and attrition.”
Josh Bersin also chimes in with his article, “The Geeks Arrive In HR: People Analytics Is Here.” According to Bersin, the shift toward “big data in HR” began in 2011 and exploded rapidly. He predicts that people analytics will be its own department that will look at work efficiency, turnover and the people-issues that drive customer retention and satisfaction. In the coming years, businesses will rely on hard data to pre-empt disaster by determining when employee engagement will suffer or when people are considering leaving.
- Technology will focus on the employee.
Bersin explains that the HR technology market moves in 5-7 year cycles of rolling-out, implementing and replacing technology. We are now in a transitional phase between two cycles. One of the biggest employee engagement trends we are seeing is the arrival of a “new breed of pulse tools, feedback apps and anonymous social networking tools”. These advanced performance evaluation methods for having regular check-ins with employees to understand where they are being challenged will eventually replace annual performance reviews.
Business is a living, breathing entity. It undergoes change, grows and recedes, gets broken and heals. The people are the individual cells that work together to ensure that the entity is healthy, productive and thriving. In 2018, the brain (leadership) had more performance management tools at its disposal to predict and improve employee engagement. Maybe in 2019, Gallup’s survey will report a positive radical shift in how people show up to work.
David Mizne heads up communications at 15Five, continuous performance management software that helps employees grow and develop in just minutes each week via a lightweight weekly check-in, OKR tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s and reviews. To learn more about unlocking your team’s potential, please visit www.15Five.com. You can also read more of David’s articles on The Next Web & The Economist, or follow him on Twitter @davidmizne.