Employee engagement trends of
2019 HR must know
Zeta | January 25, 2019
Employee Engagement Trends 2019

Some say it helps retain employees. Others say it ramps up revenue figures. Some others say it helps employees deeply care about their workplace and work. There’s no doubt that an engaged workforce presents many benefits. The pressing question here is how do you engage?

In a day and age where workforce's are an amalgam of 3 or more generations, it’s easy to see why employers find themselves in a fix wondering not just about how to engage their workforce but also how to have a meaningful impact through engagement. A good place to start is by tuning into the latest trends and expectations in the employee engagement landscape, and from there on fine-tune your engagement strategy based on your annual employee satisfaction survey results. Here’s what the employee engagement trends look like in 2019.

A culture that encourages collaboration with employees across teams, and one where managers practice an open door policy is likely to keep millennial employees happier and more engaged.

1. Think all-round wellness at the workplace

When it comes to wellness, not all’s well at workplaces today. Statistics from a Harvard Business Review survey show that 1 in 2 employees is exhausted due to social isolation, physical exertion and stressors at work. Worn out employees certainly don’t make for the most engaged audience, which is why workplace wellness initiatives have grown pivotal to employee engagement strategies. Where many workplaces who believe that they have a wellness-first approach get it wrong is in sticking to the realms of gym memberships and fitness classes and not exploring much more. To truly make a difference to employee wellness and in turn engagement levels, employers need to think holistically with their wellness strategy, looking beyond physical fitness, factoring in mental and emotional well-being; bonus points if you thought financial wellness.

A growing number of HR professionals say that they’re giving mental health a higher priority when compared to physical health while chalking out their employee wellness plans. The focus here is on educating and offering employees helpful resources to cope with mental health issues and stress, whether it’s through personal counselling or support programmes. Some progressive employers are taking another step forward to offer mental well-being sick days to employees, a great way to break the stigma and show support to employees.

Financial well-being is another initiative worthy of mention in the current engagement landscape. Employers are easing the burden of financial worries and planning by not just educating employees but also helping them take financially-wise decisions whether it’s through tax-saving salary structures or smart employee benefits.

2. Trust technology to do the magic

Today, technology has percolated into so many aspects of our lives, both in and outside the workplace. Leveraging technology to drive engagement is simply a matter of meeting people where they’re already at and comfortable in - and there are many ways to do it. Online recognition tools, for instance, are helping in fostering a culture of appreciation among employees - what better way to drive positive engagement with peers and managers? In-office social networking tools where employees share their achievements and interests are offering numerous bonding opportunities that are a means to engage and measure to check-in on engagement activity levels.

Messaging apps that facilitate effective communication and collaboration are in demand, as they allow employees across locations and teams to connect and engage with each other. It’s come down to identifying the weakest engagement links in an organisation, and nearly always you’ll see that there’s a piece of technology that can solve the problem.

3. Know your millennials

It’s no news that millennials are going to account for a majority of the workforce in the coming decade. And that means workplaces are evolving to fit in the interests of a generation that does not mind not fitting in. It’s a tricky affair, no doubt. A while ago, employers thought engaging millennial employees meant setting up ping pong tables in office spaces and taking the team out for customary monthly lunches, among other “cool” workplace initiatives. A while later, employers learnt that these perks alone are not enough to keep the engagement rates up among millennials. Of course, we’re not saying pack up your ping pong tables or deny your employees of delightful office-sponsored gastronomical experiences; what you want to do is also serve up something more substantial and meaningful to keep your millennials engaged in the long-term, after you’ve roped them in with your cool office perks.

Flexibility, for instance, can be a deal-maker for millennial employees. Remote working, telecommuting, flexible work hours and unlimited paid vacations make millennial employees feel that you care about them and their interests and more importantly that you “get them”. Millennials value a sense of belonging which often precedes engagement. Culture is another important factor, which when done right, can fuel millennial engagement. A culture that encourages collaboration with employees across teams, and one where managers practice an open door policy is likely to keep millennial employees happier and more engaged.

4. Make feedback more frequent

It takes just a couple of minutes to give feedback, and yet, many organisations wait until end-of-year appraisal season to initiate the feedback process. The problem with limiting feedback to annual appraisals is that there is no give-and-take or performance review that happens during the better part of the year.

A single supposedly tell-all rating is slapped on the backs of employees at the end of each year, leaving them more confused about their performance than they were to start with. Throw in the fact that there are monetary hikes and incompetent review models like the notorious bell-curve involved in appraisal processes, and you see why the focus shifts from the actual feedback to something else. More importantly, lack of feedback leaves a gaping hole of disconnect and disengagement, which only grows bigger the longer you go without feedback. Consistent and timely feedback, on the other hand, leaves employees engaged and tuned in with what’s expected of them, what can be improved and where they’re expected to go, meaning they are more connected and engaged with their jobs.

Organisations mindful of this are encouraging frequent one-on-one feedback sessions between managers and team members. Skip-level and peer-to-peer feedback sessions are also good platforms for employees to present their opinions, concerns and suggestions. When there are open feedback channels across all levels, there are fewer communication barriers, making it easier for employees to speak up and know that they’re heard. Reciprocity and open communication are at the heart of employee engagement after all.

Developing a high-engagement culture does not happen overnight, and needs consistency. Unlike most business problems there isn’t a secret formula or rule book to engage employees. It takes understanding what engagement strategies your workplace needs and what would make a difference to your employees to develop a well-rounded engagement strategy. Once you set the ball rolling it helps to measure the impact through frequent surveys to see if your engagement score is on track.


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