There was a positive spin last year with employee engagement matching its all-time high as per Aon’s report in 2018. This rebound from a dip since 2012 was largely seen to be driven by the biggest markets in Asia and in Africa.
With a positive change like this, the importance of what employee engagement will be like in the future is starting to get an overwhelming curiosity. The most important development is the shift of power to the employees who are more demanding than ever. They want more exposure to senior leadership, strengthening of skills and continuous career growth, among a host of other benefits.
The shift in the understanding of employee engagement
For most of the years, employee engagement as a term has been confused with happiness or satisfaction. Because of this misunderstanding, efforts towards creating engagement kept getting concentrated towards superficial ideas. Remember that whole era of ping-pong tables and beer Fridays? It was soon realized that temporary spurts of happiness do not ensure long-term commitment.
Engagement is a far more psychological concept. It is the level of emotional investment that an employee voluntarily is willing to put in towards the growth of his company. And this level gets defined by each and every small incident that he experiences in a day at work. The drivers of employee engagement can vary from basics such as job security to something as complicated and diverse as a culture. Each of these areas is mutually exclusive and equally important.
Let’s take a look at the trends in employee engagement that 2019 is most likely to witness:
In Deloitte’s Global Human Trends Report of 2017, 94% of respondents reported that “agility and collaboration” are critical to their organizations’ success. Organizations are increasingly becoming team-centric and collaboration matters more than ever in today’s world. This is why we see such an explosion in the market for collaborative tools and technologies.
A study by Stanford found that even the mere perception of working collectively on a task can supercharge our performance. In the research, participants who were primed to act collaboratively were found to stick to their task 64 percent longer than those who worked in silos. The collaborative group also reported higher engagement, lower fatigue levels, and higher success.
In 2019, organizations will move towards supporting and promoting a collaborative working space. Leaders and senior staff will have to step in and play an active role in building values that can ensure collaboration. The entire way an organization works, right from the attitudes of leaders, behavior, the systems in place, all will be looked at from a fresh perspective in order to enable a collaborative environment.
2. Diversity and inclusion
The rise of the global political environment has escalated the issue of employee sensitivity to diversity and inclusion. Terms like diversity and inclusion are no longer just big words being used for debates, but these very terms have now come to impact brands, corporate goals as well as the performance of employees.
Companies like Facebook, Salesforce, and others are publicly highlighting gender equality and addressing it as a strong issue. The world today consists of people who are highly aware of the complexity of such issues. This is why major companies are always under the scrutiny of whether they discriminate against any particular identities.
Inclusion matters even more to millennials as they want companies to listen to them at work. Hence, it has become imperative for organizations to pay heed to this burning issue, ensuring that they invest in diversity and inclusion efforts. 2019 will see a lot of global initiatives in making working environments sensitive to such issues. If companies want to retain their millennial talent, they have to align their approach with their expectations of inclusion.
3. Advanced performance management tools
Harvard Business Review surveyed over 400,000 U.S. workers in 2017 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. The way performance is being managed in companies will be pondered upon even more seriously in 2019.
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. The way to go is feedback, learning and growth for employees in a systematic and acceptable manner.
This year will see further innovations and investment in performance-enhancing tools around continuous feedback, goal management, and manager training, giving rise to new examples of successful ways to manage performance with an aim to enhance employee engagement.
4. Rewards and recognition
Over the years, health benefits, a raise once a year and vacation time pretty much were what counted as “benefits.” There is clearly no room for such practices in 2019.
Today’s organizations face a much bigger challenge of catering to a workforce that has grown up in a way to naturally have a completely opposite set of expectations. Employee rewards matter more than they ever did. And leaders now understand that rewards need to be agile, holistic and personalized. Giving strategic importance to reward programs is going to become a priority as that is one way of retaining the best of talent. Category leaders are now emphasizing on creating rewards that are delivered more continuously, and that take into account an employee’s contribution to his team and organization as a whole. And this goes beyond work but also focuses on creating learning opportunities and helping employees grow.
5. Work-life balance
In the last two years, more than $2 billion has been invested in venture capital in the well-being market. All of this goes into creating a suite of online videos, applications, and tools that help people through stress and improve their mental and emotional health. Global corporate wellness market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 5.5% CAGR to reach revenue of $63.26 billion by 2022, as per a recent study from IndustryARC.
What has led to this demand from workers and society at large is the presence and acknowledgment of a huge amount of stress at work. Studies have shown that more than 40% of all workers face high stress in their jobs, the negative effects of which spill over to other areas of their lives. Missing targets, tight deadlines, pressure, office politics and long working hours have made most workers lives miserable. This makes them question a lot of things about their work lives, and even their existence. The latest example is that of the city of Mumbai in India, where a jaw-dropping 31% of professionals suffer from stress.
Organizations have started understanding the importance of such holistic wellness programs. According to Deloitte’s survey, Global Human Capital Trends Report 2018, two-thirds of organizations now state that well-being programs are a critical part of their employment brand and culture. However, it also states that there is a huge gap between what organizations are offering and what employees actually expect or value.
6. Quality of senior leadership
According to the Global Human Capital Trends Report, 2018, people are frustrated that financial gains have failed to improve individual lives, offer political stability or address social issues. People have less trust in their political and social institutions which is why they are turning to business leaders to fill the void.
People are increasingly turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges and demanding that organizations serve a social purpose.
~ Laurence Fink, CEO – BlackRock
The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer reported that people worldwide place 52 percent trust in businesses to do what is right. The same trust placed on the government is 43 percent. People are increasingly losing faith in their political systems, and shifting their focus to business leaders. Large organizations are expected to do them but and contribute to social causes such as income inequality, health care, diversity, gender disparity and the like.
Such expectations are causing tremendous pressure on organizations, but also creating opportunities. Large organizations are focusing on their contribution towards creating a positive relationship with their internal and external environment and tackling social issues that need pressing attention.
The hyper-connected nature of workplace presents the opportunity to analyze the data related to interactions among workers and the outside world. It also means treating the workers and everyone outside the system in a fair and just manner. Expectations are no longer just about financial growth, but also in the physical and mental spheres of employees.
Thoughts, comments, suggestions? Let us know in the comments section!