HR leaders have identified improving employee engagement as one of their top areas of interest. Subtle changes are slowly taking place in organizations worldwide, allowing leaders to focus more on keeping their talent happy and satisfied.
2017 studied talent very actively through people analytics. As per the High Impact People’s Analytics Study by Bersin by Deloitte, 69% of companies had taken active steps to improve the way they look at people, up from only 10-15% before. There has been an increase in adoption of HR software to help streamline employee engagement processes and giving real-time and actionable insights for better results.
Here are some top trends that 2018 will witness:
1. A superior employee experience
The rise of the millennials in the workforce and their preferences, catalyzed by the rage of digitization has led employees to expect a much more fun, engaging and end-to-end solution (as they call it) to their woes. 2018 will see companies and their leaders focus on how to achieve an outstanding employee experience across the lifecycle of an employee. Factors such as work environment, team relationships, professional growth opportunities, company culture, and recognition will be looked at from a fresh perspective. Organizations just cannot afford to ignore low engagement levels in 2018.
Employees will become like customers, and their overall happiness will matter as much as customer satisfaction. Current trends will make leaders focus on examining their current employee journey map, and optimize it for their employees. Technology such as pulse feedback tools, employee wellness apps, learning apps, mentoring, and productivity tools will be explored and experimented with by HR. This will lead to deeper analysis and understanding of talent and what keeps them engaged in a digital age and beyond.
2. Continuous learning
Research by Tiny Pulse shows that a lack of career direction is a great source of employee disengagement. If an employee does not see avenues for growth or reasons to have a long-term association with a company, he/she will likely be leaving soon. This likelihood of employees leaving the company due to lack of learning opportunities is getting recognized by companies.
2018 hence, should see companies invest in the career development of their employees to make them feel fulfilled and worthwhile. Remote working is a reality of today’s work environment and companies have to leverage on the talent that likes to work from distributed locations. However, employees who primarily work out of the office have complained about being paid less attention to when it comes to their career development. Even companies with a remote workforce will start paying more attention to their staff and execute strategies that will help them engage their workforce through career development plans.
95% of millennials are willing to pay for their own professional development and training.
Investment in professional development of candidates is critical to retaining them. Organizations in 2018 will be providing their employees engaging learning opportunities that fits their lifestyle, along with regular coaching, mentoring and feedback that will give employees the direction to become what they aspire to be.
3. Work life balance to take momentum
Work-life balance has been misunderstood in the past. Companies have tried to achieve this in the most ineffective ways possible. Examples include spending money on ping pong tables or Beer Fridays. However, work-life balance is a lifestyle issue, which requires careful planning and a game of foosball in the office cafeteria will definitely not help achieve this overnight.
2018 will be about understanding employees better and what work-life balance means to them. Instead of forcefully taking initiatives to bring fun into the workplace, there will be an increase in efforts that incentivize work-life balance. The biggest example is that by offering employees the flexibility to handle work in a way that suits their lifestyles. More and more employees are asking for options to work remotely so that they can find a balance between their personal and professional lives. The gig economy is a reality and more and more people are heading into consulting or freelancing. Employees want to be in control of their own time prioritization and organizations need to accept it, sooner or later. Employers need to trust their best talent and experiment with different ways of getting work done, without compromising on being professional about it at the same time.
Companies need to identify high performing employees with skills to deliver great work, self-regulate and meet deadlines on time. Once that is done, companies will need to do everything they can to retain them. Because, if such collective behaviors are not supported, employees will be more than happy to look for opportunities elsewhere.
4. Culture over compensation
Company culture has never been more important from an engagement perspective. It is no longer a topic discussed in closed conference rooms or only known to people working in it. Glossy terms on the career page of the company’s website are also not enough. Today, culture is a global phenomenon and known to everyone.
According to Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, the top predictor of workplace satisfaction is not pay. It is the culture and the values of the organization, closely followed by the quality of the senior leadership and career opportunities for the employees within the company. Reviews from Glassdoor data also showed that culture and values of the organization become more important as the income of an employee increases. However, this not deny the importance of compensation as being one of the top factors that job seekers consider when evaluating potential employers. Once that is made, the next question to ask is what steps can improve employee engagement, morale, and productivity.
The behavior and interactions of employees within a company on a daily basis can change a company’s culture. Even a small issue like an email or the phrases used while conducting a meeting can drive or hamper employee engagement levels. Politics or gossip are bound to make businesses fail, and cannot go ignored. Employee behavior and reactions to daily activities need to be tracked to understand what is going on. A good way to do this could be to use new tools for employee engagement and feedback in order to track and measure daily interactions. 2018 will take culture way more seriously by understanding these issues.
5. Diversity and inclusion
The rise of the global political environment has escalated the issue of employee sensitivity to diversity and inclusion. Burning issues such as immigration challenges, nationalism, terrorism have seen a massive steer in discussion in the media and press. The rise of social media has also contributed immensely to this as anything that revolves even slightly around this topic gets viral in a matter of seconds.
Every action is being scrutinized and analyzed which is why organizations need to know what is concerning their employees. This issue of fairly including diverse identities in an organizational setup is directly linked to employee engagement, human rights, and social justice. With the increasing complexity of today’s political, economic and global business environment, many large organizations define themselves as global entities which have made religion, gender, generations and other identities as a business reality. Along with this, research has proved that diverse and inclusive teams perform much better than their peers.
In 2018, leadership will step up and play a huge role in achieving this kind of a utopian structure within organizations. Leaders in organizations will pursue changes in processes and systems to measure and evaluate diversity levels across departments and geographies. Employees from diverse backgrounds should be encouraged to speak up and let out their thoughts in anonymous surveys.Including diversity as a part of a broader employee engagement strategy has become a necessity and is no longer just an option.
6. Relooking at performance management
The biggest debate in the last couple of years was a choice between the traditional review system or adoption of a completely new process that debunks the old. Performance ratings have had their fair share of criticism and new methods have been applauded everywhere. But learnings over the years have shown a new perspective – reviews are not going to die.
Ratings are important, especially when decisions relating to pay and promotions need to be undertaken. If promotions are not done effectively, it can bring down the morale of employees. Harvard Business Review surveyed over 400,000 U.S. workers in the past year and found that when people believe promotions are managed effectively, they are more than twice as likely to give effort at work and to plan a long-term future with their company. Without any formal value being assigned to performance, it becomes very difficult to decide on the pay scale of an employee. This is why ratings are still done behind closed doors, without any input from employees being evaluated.
Ratings are also a preference for high performers as they take it as a form of recognition for the work they are doing. Any kind of replacement then makes them doubt the validity of reviews. Even from an employee satisfaction standpoint, research that has shown that when the process is fair and applicable to all, employees are more willing to accept undesirable outcomes. Without an empirical way of coming to decisions, employees are mostly left in the dark as to how exactly they were assessed.
Organizations are slowly realizing that getting rid of ratings altogether and the absence of a measurable rating system does not aid in effective compensation planning. Continuous feedback, which has gained wide popularity as a concept can also work when managers have an inherent interest in helping employees improve performance. Goal management should be used to as a way to facilitate more frequent and productive conversations between managers and their employees. Facebook has brought back its rating system and has reinvented it, but putting employee development, continuous feedback and transparency as core areas.
The new system is not the complete abandonment of ratings. Instead, it identifies new ways of making performance reviews a continuous and transparent process, without letting go of reviews. The wisdom of 2018 is to use modern performance practices for focusing on employee learning and growth, while also keeping the scope traditional reviews open.
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