New employee engagement trends emerge every year — what can we do in 2020 to engage employees and maintain great levels of performance?
The New Year is a fresh start for us all — it presents an opportunity for us to reevaluate. We can look back on previous years and put our companies under the microscope. What steps have we made to genuinely improve employee engagement? How engaged are our employees? What can we do differently and what organisational strategies can we use to make a meaningful difference to our workforce?
Over the past few years, we’ve seen some great strides in our understanding of employee engagement. As each year passes, we learn more and we tweak our strategies to (hopefully) get the best results. But what does 2020 have in store? Below, we explore 10 employee engagement trends that will dominate 2020.
It’s also worth discussing and exploring roadblocks to employee engagement within your organisation. Check out our 10 barriers to employee engagement.
1. Companies Will Look to Technology to Improve Employee Engagement Levels
There are several employee engagement strategies companies can put in place, facilitated with the use of effective employee engagement software. Technology can be used to gather employee feedback, create a safe space for employees to share their ideas or concerns while enabling employees to self-reflect.
Employee engagement initiatives have, historically, tinkered at the edges of the experience without tackling the problem of work engagement. Research has proved, time and again, that the factors which best improve engagement are all linked directly to the jobs that people do. That might sound obvious, but engagement initiatives are often geared towards improving the experience of being in the workplace: for example, better coffee or fruit, wellbeing initiatives like massage and exercise or social events. The right technology allied to the right questions can uncover issues that directly affect the flow of work: professional relationships, for example, or the right resources to enable someone to do their job more effectively.
As we move into 2020, companies will begin to assess the quality of their software and determine whether it is well-suited to improve engagement, enhance communication and further their organisational objectives.
2. An Increased Focus on Employee Recognition
This year, Deloitte published a survey that canvassed the opinions of over 16,000 individuals. The survey’s findings revealed the importance of employee recognition. It showed that three-quarters of employees are happy to receive a simple “thank you” for their daily efforts, as opposed to a monetary reward, a celebration or a gift. The survey went on to explore how employee recognition is associated with increased levels of engagement and lower rates of turnover. Recognition makes the work environment more positive and encourages everyone to be more productive.
Unfortunately, employees aren’t getting the recognition they deserve, with only one-third receiving recognition when they went the extra mile for work and only one-quarter feeling highly valued at work.
This situation is something we need to address in 2020, with progressive companies leading the charge and reaping the rewards. There are a number of employee recognition ideas you can implement today. Remember, they don’t need to be high-cost to be effective. Managers just need to remember to be mindful of discretionary effort and acknowledge it when they see it.
3. Personalised Retention Methods
It can be difficult to engage and retain employees, particularly when you are dealing with a multigenerational workforce. However, employee engagement methods need to be high on your priority list. With unemployment at its lowest rate in decades and with the war for talent a pressing issue for employers, companies need to go above and beyond to retain the top performers they have.
Retention methods need to be personalised to your company and your employees. The first step is to find out what engages and motivates your employees and then act on it. Are they looking for opportunities for advancement? Are they motivated by perks such as travel incentives or bonuses, or are their motivators more intrinsic? Begin by carrying out employee surveys to get to the bottom of what your employees want. Once you are armed with that information, you can go about improving your engagement levels and employee retention rates in 2020.
4. Employee Engagement Surveys Will Become More Commonplace
As we move into 2020, employee listening strategies will become increasingly important. Employees want to be heard — they need to have a voice — and managers should be there to listen. Companies can hugely benefit from employee insight. It can result in increased efficiency, heightened levels of employee engagement and improved morale. One listening strategy that can yield great results is the employee survey.
With employee engagement surveys, companies can focus on one particular issue, canvas opinion anonymously and set about improving systems and processes within an organisation to enhance the employee experience. Employee surveys can cover all aspects of the employee’s interaction with your company — but it’s recommended to stick to one issue at a time, to focus on individuals and to dive deep into core concerns.
Importantly, business leaders need to take action following employee surveys. Employees will quickly tire of employee surveys if they realise nothing ever changes or improves as a result. There’s no sense in wasting time and effort asking employees for their opinions and getting them invested in the idea of change only to stagnate and refuse to adapt.
At Clear Review, we recommend complementing employee surveys with continuous feedback. These one-on-ones allow managers to discuss change about to take place. It also gives employee and manager the chance to exchange thoughts and feedback about these changes, allowing for increased engagement and buy-in.
5. To Retain and Engage Employees, Professional Development Will Have to Be Prioritised
If you’ve recruited well, you will have hired ambitious, motivated employees who are passionate about their work. If you’re running your company well, they will be engaged and invested in the success of your company. This means they will want to learn more, they will want to advance and they will want to do so with you. So in 2020, your company will need to address opportunities for professional development for your employees. What do they have to look forward to? Are they at a dead end, or do they have a clear path to progression? Do they know exactly what is required of them to move up?
When promising employees feel they have avenues for advancement, they will become quickly disillusioned and disengaged, which increases the likelihood of them looking for opportunities elsewhere. Don’t let your company fall into this trap.
6. Companies Will Focus on Highlighting and Communicating Their Purpose
This year, it was revealed that Millennials want to work for purpose-driven companies. They want to know what their company stands for, to understand its values and to feel aligned with overall purpose. And it needs to be a purpose worth having. Social responsibility is a huge concern for modern employees, with 75% of Millennials saying they would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company.
2020 is the year to discuss your company purpose — if you don’t have a clear idea of what it is and if you can’t articulate it succinctly in one sentence, your employees aren’t likely to understand it or feel aligned with it, either. Get back to basics and question what your company is driven by, what it wants to achieve and how it intends to achieve these goals. From there, your company can begin communicating its purpose and motivating and engaging your employees as a result.
7. Companies Will Learn to Manage an Alternative Workforce
It has recently been revealed that the Gig economy in Britain has doubled, accounting for nearly 5 million workers. This news speaks to the modern employee’s desire for autonomy and flexibility. They want to work on their own terms, at times that suit them. This doesn’t mean they want to slack off — they want to work hard, but they don’t want to feel tied down or restricted in a way that makes them feel less motivated or engaged.
Over recent years, workplace flexibility has become a real focus for companies. As we move into 2020, companies will need to make genuine efforts to deal with the practicalities of what this means for their processes. They need to embrace alternative workers — contract workers, freelance workers and gig workers — and explore how these employees will manage in their organisation. What changes need to be made to accommodate and engage them?
In particular, companies need to figure out how to keep alternative workers involved. When you have a mixture of in-house and off-site employees, the ones who aren’t there day-to-day can sometimes get overlooked. Companies must look at how their performance management systems can be tailored to accommodate alternative workers, how they can streamline communication and how recognition programmes can be introduced to ensure they are engaged and motivated.
8. Compassionate Leaders Will Earn Loyalty
As the years go by, our idea of a great leader evolves. Gone are the days of the intimidating, authoritative leader. This isn’t the type of leader who will engage or motivate modern employees. According to Doctor Brad Shuck and Maryanne Honeycutt-Elliott, the modern leader needs to be compassionate:
“[…]Higher levels of engagement comes from employees who work for a compassionate leader.”
Employees want leaders who can sympathise and discuss concerns. They want leaders to support them, create a safe environment to address grievances while offering tools, suggestions and resources in their time of need. Compassionate leaders need to prioritise frequent, authentic communication, be reliable and level-headed — and empathetic.
According to Forbes:
“More and more companies find that adequately engaging employees through fostering emotional connection results in stronger ties, higher loyalty and overall better profits. Connecting with employees’ unique talents and skills helps create a network of engaged and creative people who feel secure and positive emotions about the way they make a living.”
When it comes to employee engagement and leadership in 2020, what we need to remember is employees rarely leave a job — they leave a boss.
9. An Increased Sensitivity to Employee Burnout (through Employee Wellness Efforts)
In 2019, we saw the World Health Organisation (WHO) declare workplace burnout an “occupational phenomenon” that may warrant medical attention. Although it is not classified as a disease or a medical condition, it is now a well-defined syndrome that occurs through experiencing chronic workplace stress (and not managing it well).
According to the WHO, burnout has three characteristics:
- Depleted energy or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job (something we would recognise as disengagement) or cynicism or negativity about one’s job
- Reduced professional efficacy
The WHO’s acknowledgement of the problem of burnout has brought the issue renewed attention. In 2019, we learned 70% of employees claimed their health was affected by workplace stress. A further 41% have been absent from work due to stress. Companies are waking up to the fact that to engage employees at work, they need to make sure they aren’t overdoing it and they aren’t burning out.
Companies can address employee burnout in a number of ways. We imagine the following becoming more common in 2020:
- Holistic health and wellbeing strategies
- Discussions between manager and employee concerning workload, realistic objectives and overworking
- A stricter policy dictating employees take their annual leave and that they limit their working hours each week
- Workplace flexibility, to make employee workloads and work demands more manageable
- A review of salaries to ensure employees are compensated fairly and competitively.
Although fair wages won’t prevent burnout, it’s known that financial worries are top concerns for 94% of employees. Inadequate salaries result in employees feeling an imbalance between the stresses of the job and the rewards.
10. Work-Life Integration Will Overtake Work-Life Balance
There has been a lot of discussion around work-life balance lately, but not as much conversation about work-life integration. We predict this will change in 2020, as employers wake up to the fact that employees don’t want a strict, unyielding barrier between home and work — they want to integrate the two. If they decide to check social media at work or leave the office for a quick coffee with a friend, they want the freedom to do so. Equally, they want the opportunity to check work emails after traditional office hours, perhaps when work is on their mind and they are more motivated to get their tasks done.
Are you looking for employee engagement software to boost levels within your company? Clear Review has helped hundreds of companies gain a real picture of where they stand with their employees and what they are working towards. To find out more, request an employee engagement software demo today. If you’d like to know more about how we’re transforming engagement in the workplace, read our new eBook.