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5 employee engagement trends for 2019… and beyond

Chris Hyland | 5th August 2019

Ever since workers’ rights were legislated and you could no longer use brute force or fear to boost productivity – employee engagement has been the most important catalyst for business success.

Employee engagement is an “issue” that every business leader must think about. No, it’s not going away. No, it isn’t just a buzzword/phrase. Yes, it will become increasingly more important… especially when you consider the rise of AI and machine learning!

There’s never been a point in time when a business’s people haven’t been the principal catalyst for its success:

Do you think the Eiffel Tower would look so impressive if it wasn’t for its amazing team of builders? It would still be a little prototype model gathering dust on an architect’s desk somewhere.

Do you think Henry Ford would have manufactured the Ford automobile and revolutionised modern transportation?
He certainly didn’t build every car by himself…

Do you think your business will still be around in 5 years if your entire team is disengaged?
Productivity and performance will suffer, and no one will want to stay or join your business. Not good!

So what trends can you focus on now to reap the benefits of employee engagement for years to come?

become a purpose & Belonging-driven organisation

  • Teacher – “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 
  • John Lennon – “Happy”

As children, we weren’t asked what we want to do when we’re older… we’re asked what we want to be. This suggests a sense of belonging and ownership. As we get older, we all come into work and do a job. Sadly, we aren’t all lucky enough to feel like we belong, have a true sense of purpose and ultimately “be” our job. We may have failed our ten-year-old-selves by not becoming dragon slayers, astronauts or explorers… but we mustn’t fail our staff and allow them to become disengaged!

As a business leader, you must create this sense of belonging and purpose for your people. Otherwise, no one will feel truly engaged or valued (the number 1 workplace happiness influencer in our global study). On top of this, Mercer’s 2018 Global trends report suggests that “Thriving employees are three times more likely to work for a company with a strong sense of purpose.” This has not changed in 2019 and will likely never change!

What can you do?                                     

Here are some quick strategies to help you become a purpose-driven organisation:

  • Create a shared company vision: Ask your people to help co-create the vision and display it everywhere to serve as a reminder.
  • Communicate the importance of each role: It’s important to communicate how everyone plays a specific key part in the business to help them understand how their efforts are valuable and why they help contribute to something bigger. This must include details of how everyone’s efforts positively impact the company and its customers.
  • Recognise & celebrate achievement: By recognising good work and explaining how it ties into your company goals and vision – you will demonstrate how purposeful it is.
  • Share customer success stories: Nothing demonstrates how important people’s work is like a customer testimonial! Most successful initiatives are the culmination of many people’s efforts and creativity… so don’t forget to tell everyone that their efforts appreciated by the customer and by you.

Lead with compassion & empathy

“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” – Oprah Winfrey

We’ve all heard the saying “People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses.” If our leaders inspired and motivated with a compassionate and empathetic approach then retention rates would certainly be much higher! 

A compassionate leader is authentic, trustworthy and most importantly understands their people. In order to make compassionate decisions to try and improve people’s working situations, a modern business leader must demonstrate empathy. 

Empathetic leadership is the ability to understand your workers’ perspectives and to put yourself in their shoes. If you make efforts to understand everyone’s views and to see where they’re coming from you will be in a stronger position to make business decisions that will benefit your people.

Developing an empathetic approach is one of the most effective people skills a business leader can learn. Empathy is a skill and the one thing all skills have in common is they can be learned and developed. The best way to understand your people and improve empathy is to communicate regularly with them, undertake training and read my next point around people analytics…

Utilise people analytics to measure employee engagement

“What gets measured gets managed.” – Peter Drucker

We live in an era of big data and instant insight – spawning a need for people analytics. This includes various solutions including pulse surveys. This involves sending out regular surveys to your people, gathering their feedback and analysing it to spot trends and areas for improvement. You can then create action plans to make them happier, combat concerns and boost engagement. All of which will facilitate huge cultural and business improvements.

People analytics allows us to easily analyse employee engagement, predict behaviours and create a regular and open dialogue with your people to ensure they have a voice and feel valued.

The stats:

In Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report, it says “84% of respondents viewed people analytics as important or very important.” The report also says that only “8% of organisations report they have usable data.” This is staggering when such a high percentage of respondents see the value in people analytics and gathering data on their people! Don’t let yourself become one of the 92% that don’t have powerful people data!

focus what people do best & enjoy most

We all want to work on the things we enjoy the most and are best at. It’s deeply satisfying to be good at something and it results in happier people leading to better output. So much so that enjoyment of role was the second highest factor in our global workplace happiness report.

Discover your workers’ interests and strengths by simply asking them! Then make efforts to assign related projects that align with their interests. This will result in improved productivity and higher creativity, which is closely linked with happiness and enjoyment of job role. It also shows you are an empathetic leader that listens to your people.

put diversity & inclusion on the agenda

Culture is king. In order to have a rich culture comprising of varying viewpoints, it’s essential to focus on diversity & inclusion.

  • Diversity is about representing different backgrounds to help your business advance and benefit from a wide range of outlooks. 
  • Inclusion is all about creating an environment where everyone feels welcome and has a positive experience. It also ties into the first point around belonging and purpose.

You can’t afford to ignore the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace. A Glassdoor survey found that “Two-thirds of job seekers (67%) believe a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.” Whether or not your business is interested in creating a diverse workforce, it’s likely your next hire will care!

Employee engagement is here to stay

By taking small steps to ensure your people are engaged and happy at work, you will start to build a business of the future! Your people will feel proud to work for you and will become your greatest advocates and ambassadors. They will be motivated by more than just a paycheque which will help to drive your business and create a culture of trust and hard work. This translates to better productivity, higher retention rates and improved profits. It’s win-win for everyone.

Employee engagement is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Using any of these strategies in isolation will be effective but the best results will be unearthed when you implement all the above strategies in tandem.