As the COVID-19 pandemic begins its long shift into endemicity, companies across the globe are facing a new challenge: employee disengagement in light of the Great Resignation. As employees that abruptly shifted to working from home continue to reassess what they really want from their employers, one thing is clear, consistent hours and a regular paycheck are no longer enough; today’s workers need more.
Defining employee engagement in the new world of work
Let’s start by defining employee engagement. This term refers to the degree of employee satisfaction. How committed are they to their company? Do they identify and align with the organization’s values? Are they involved and enthusiastic? Do they feel energized at work?
Understanding engagement will shed light on how your people feel about critical elements of their employee experience, such as workplace culture. Strong employee engagement also offers an array of organizational benefits, from better performance to greater job retention. Moreover, these benefits go full circle; engaged workers experience less burnout, better morale, and a greater sense of wellbeing.
The importance of prioritizing engagement in times of uncertainty
In August 2021, a survey of US employees reported that 65% of workers planned to look for a new job in the next 12 months, these results were a harbinger of the unusual job landscape we currently face. While a Gallup poll reported that 13% of workers are “actively disengaged,” what is even more worrisome to employers is that among those workers, 74% are either currently searching for their next role or keeping an eye out for potential opportunities. Actively disengaged employees can hurt business as they can also make their discontent with their job – and their employer – known to their colleagues. This lack of engagement can ultimately result in lower productivity and poor morale across an organization.
Engagement also becomes increasingly important as Millennials and Gen Z become the dominating forces in our offices. These generations expect their work to be meaningful – and with Millennials alone accounting for 75% of the global workforce, organizations must provide that meaning and purpose if they want to remain competitive.
In 2020, over 1,500 articles were published on employee engagement – the buzz around enhancing the employee experience is clear and when considering the majority of the world’s workforce, organizational leaders looking to attract, retain, and encourage talent must take note. The case for prioritizing engagement is twofold: organizations need to improve retention and resilience while attracting new job seekers, and companies with engaged employees can enjoy a more productive and valuable workforce. This is why executives around the world believe that enhancing employee engagement is one of their top five global business strategies; it is a key element to happier shareholders and a thriving organization.
How to cultivate engagement
Companies looking to weather the current labor market and thrive in the post-COVID work landscape need to make employee engagement a top priority in 2022 and beyond. But how can organizations do that effectively? Here are key recommendations for boosting engagement.
Establish a baseline
Before employers can define and deliver on an engagement strategy, they must first examine the current state of affairs. Organizations should determine how engaged their employees are and what they need to become more engaged. This means leveraging all the tools at your disposal and when it comes to measuring engagement, people analytics tools that provide deep real-time insights will make all the difference.
Identify and transform the employee journey
Research shows that a positive employee experience can increase engagement by 16 times. So once you’ve established your organization’s engagement levels, you must find a way to transform the employee experience. However, this is easier said than done.
Workers are individuals with different needs, and the employee experience varies from one worker to the next. For example, parents working from home have reported feeling more positive about their experience than those living alone – and even within the parent group, fathers report enjoying working from home more than mothers.
Cultivating engagement means taking a nuanced approach to understanding and addressing varying needs. This will require implementing different strategies, such as:
1. Foster Trust and Re-imagine Performance Management: Employees want their ideas heard and respected – and perhaps most importantly, in today’s world of remote work, they want their managers to trust them and focus less on outputs. When management trusts their people to do their jobs and workers don’t feel they are being micromanaged, the benefits are undeniable: 13% fewer sick days, 40% less burnout, 50% more productivity, 106% more energy. And when employees trust their company management, they perform better, which leads to a greater experience for everyone.
2. Create a Culture of Inclusivity: Millennials are the dominant generation in the workforce right now, and they’re also more diverse than previous generations. Today’s workers have fully embraced their individuality – in fact, they want to feel unique. If companies want to attract employees and keep them engaged, they need to make sure hybrid work doesn’t set back diversity initiatives. Organizations will need to create an environment that is welcoming and inclusive to candidates from all walks of life. Make sure your organization goes the extra mile to ensure all feel welcome, accepted, and respected, regardless of their race, gender, or any other element of their identity.
3. Help Employees Find Purpose: Research shows about 70% of employees derive their sense of purpose from their work. Therefore, employers who want to increase engagement should help their employees find that sense of purpose. Employers can do this by recognizing their employees’ contributions and fostering a collaborative atmosphere. Additionally, organizations that want to enhance engagement should structure and align their mission and governing principles around core values their employees embrace. Companies that champion issues like social responsibility and environmental sustainability are much more attractive to job seekers.
4. Decrease Stress and Increase Flexibility: 46% of younger workers (Millennials and younger) reported feeling stressed “all the time.” Perhaps more distressingly, nearly half of younger workers feel their employers “did nothing” to help. It’s no secret that stress has detrimental effects on health, happiness, and quality of work, if organizations want to improve engagement they must take the steps necessary to mitigate workplace stress and nurture their employees’ wellbeing.
5. Rewards and Incentives: The truism “time is money” has never seemed more poignant than in the post-pandemic workforce. Employees want and need flexibility, paid sick time, vacations, and hybrid schedules that allow for greater work-life balance along with opportunities to learn and grow within the organization. Employees want to work for companies that value their off-time. As the pandemic and work-from-home schedules increased the length of the average workday by 48.5 minutes, the need for time-off and workplace incentives has never been stronger.
6. Enhance Communication Efforts: Improving communication in the workplace can have a direct result on output quality. For example, employees who believe their voices are being heard are four times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work. Take time to get feedback from your employees about your engagement efforts, and you’ll likely see positive changes in your employees. In the new world of remote work, ongoing and regular communication that gives a chance for employees to be heard while strengthening their relationships with colleagues and managers will have a resonating impact.
In the current employee-driven market, high engagement is invaluable to every organization. Companies with high engagement have double the success rate of those with low engagement. They have lower turnover rates (25% vs. 65%), 48% fewer safety incidents, have greater communication and collaboration, and their workers are 22% more productive.
Cultivate employee engagement in your workplace using deep behavioral science. Discover Montara’s real-time engagement insights and recommendations today.