13 Employee Engagement Trends for 2021
It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.
~ Charles Darwin
Darwin might not have quoted the above line concerning business, but his words seem to echo in the business world, now more than ever. And managing people is no exception.
Employee engagement is a very abstract concept. It is the “emotional connect” that an employee feels towards its organization. What makes one feel connected to an organization and motivates to deliver her/his best varies from person to person. It also changes with what is happening in and around the world.
We live in a world where trends change in the blink of an eye. A practice that is working fine today might not be applicable tomorrow. The same goes for employee engagement.
With every new generation in the workforce, employee engagement trends change drastically. Forward-thinking business leaders and managers must keep themselves updated on these engagement strategies.
Listen to our podcast: Developing and Sustaining Employee Engagement.
13 Employee Engagement Trends for 2021
1. PEOPLE-FIRST CULTURE
In 2021 we are looking at the rise of a culture-first decade. Employee engagement, which seemed like an exciting concept at the beginning of the last decade, is now an obvious business goal. There is an urgent need to elevate company culture or risk losing top talent. Companies like Hilton, Salesforce, American Express are setting the stage for companies to implement strategies to reinvent company culture.
A people-first culture can bloom only when every individual feels cared for and respected by the people organization, starting from top-level to bottom. It is a path that every organization must venture on.
2. MORE PROMINENCE TO WORK-LIFE HARMONY
Embracing flexibility will become a highlight in the employee engagement space in 2021.
Seeking work-life balance is not a new concept, but the desire to meet it is much higher.
Most job functions don't require employees to be at work every day physically. And the new-age employees are taking full advantage of it.
Constructive policies at work such as work-from-home options, flexible office timings, remote working options only go to prove this point right.
This is, in fact, a very cost-friendly yet highly effective employee engagement trend. It is a path that companies ought to take.
75% of workers said they experience greater productivity at home. They said they encounter fewer distractions (74%), less stress from commuting (71%), and fewer office politics (65%). (FlexJob)
62% of millennials are willing to switch to the gig economy within the next 2 years. (Deloitte)
3.CLOUD-TECHNOLOGY WILL CONTINUE TO REIGN
Cloud tools will continue to make noise in the human resource management landscape.
A 2018 study from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that 75 percent of surveyed companies now have at least one HR process in the cloud.
Technology has already emerged in every facet of human resource management. Technology has been integrated into Employee benefits platforms, employee recognition tools, performance management tools, to survey tools. It has made it easier for organizations to deliver better and quicker results.
These tools are a win-win proposition to both employers and employees. The current generation is the generation of digital nomads, and the best way of engaging employees remotely is by leveraging HR technology.
Cloud products have already made their place due to their efficiency and user-friendliness. More and more companies will move into this space in masses.
Investing in the right engagement tools will become crucial for companies in 2021.
4. INFLUX OF AI AND ML
In the past few years, we have seen efficient and sophisticated HR tools making their way to people management. The trend will only rise further by the massive inundation of ML and AI in the workplace.
Many tech-forward organizations have already started using AI and ML in various work functions and receive a good return on their investment. They have been quite successful so far.
AI is boosting robust communication and personalized actions in the workplace. HR departments can make more informed, analytics-driven, and logical decisions. The data is also helping managers understand the drivers of employee productivity.
The influx of AI and ML will be a notable employee engagement trend in 2021.
5. REDEFINING "HUMAN" IN HR
Technology will become a more significant part of the picture in building an engaged workforce.
The need of the hour is to blend our technical prowess with a compassionate approach.
The World is advancing digitally at an unbelievable pace. But people still inherently seek compassion, appreciation, and recognition. Elevating the “Human” part in HR will become very important in the digital age.
Emotional intelligence and technology are the most critical aspects of any business today. And if you can bring them together, it would create wonders in the corporate scenario.
Millennial employees seek a greater sense of belongingness to their organization. They want to feel valued and recognized. A good company culture coupled with compassionate leaders will offer the ultimate job satisfaction.
Hence, embrace technology by all means but do not eliminate the need to form better interpersonal bonds with them through compassionate leaders.
6. DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN THE WORKPLACE
Building a global working environment is the need of the hour. Diversity and inclusion need to prevail.
Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns that are above the national median for their industry. (EY)
When people from different parts, ethnicities, traditions and social structures come together, they bring new and unique ideas to the table. They offer a fresh perspective on matters and more ways of problem-solving. The combined result is a much-needed global outlook to matters in hand.
When you have a diverse, fair, and just culture, it results in a more innovative, creative, and engaged workforce.
But diversity without inclusion is like an Indian curry without salt.
Representation is just one piece of the puzzle. Inclusion is the binding force that will hold all the elements together. Diversity can only sustain when organizations are successful in creating a sense of belongingness for all employees.
7. GENDER EQUALITY, WOMEN EMPOWERMENT AND WOMEN SAFETY IN THE WORKPLACE
In the past few decades, the role and position of women in society have changed radically. Women's literacy rates have shot up. They are gaining more degrees than men and form a considerable part of the workforce.
Despite these incredible advances, women still have to face a many challenges, from sexual harassment, pay parity, lack of security to gender biases and pregnancy discrimination. The list goes on. These issues are so prevalent that women often consider them as accepted norms. These hurdles create mental disturbances and personal crises. It also limits their professional growth trajectory.
Thankfully, movements like #Metoo and #TimesUp have created a steer on social media in the present scenario. Women are finally standing up against the injustices held against them in the workplace. They are taking a stance and sharing their stories.
Hopefully, 2021 will see more and more constructive steps taken to mitigate these challenges.
Creating a safer and more balanced work environment will become a prime agenda for companies in the coming decade.
8. EMPLOYEES AS BRAND AMBASSADORS
Employees play a much bigger role in this generation for corporate branding. Technology has caused a massive change both in influence and how corporates approach branding.
An employee gets 561% more engagement on a message shared on social media than when the company shares the same.
An employee has 10 times more followers on social media than their employer.
Organizations who have jumped on the employee branding wagon transform their employees into brand ambassadors and increase productivity. Also, we are looking at a steady rise in the impact of employee review. According to 2017 study, 41% of job seekers rate employee reviews higher than any other source.
To have a numero uno employee branding endeavor, you need to keep a few things in mind.
You should educate your employees about the company’s value. Your employees cannot tell a story they are unaware of. You take a few formal steps like conducting brand training to achieve this.
One more thing you should take care of is recruitment. It is quite difficult to make great brand ambassadors out of misfit hires.
Last, but definitely the most important part, is employee engagement. Marketing your company culture will only take you so far. Your company should be great, and a fun place to work, or else see the attrition rates touch the roof.
To have a successful employee branding campaign make sure you map out your goals and communicate with your employees. And no rushing, please! You should announce one fine morning that from 1 pm, your organization will start the employee branding campaign!
9. AMPLE OPPORTUNITIES FOR CAREER GROWTH
Employees today seek career progression in their profession more than anything. They want to be in a job that helps them grow as an individual, personally and professionally. They want to shape their careers with every job role they play progressively.
Facilitating career growth in the job will become one of the top-seeking employee engagement trends in 2021.
47% of higher educated workers said a limited career path could get them to leave for a better opportunity (Randstad)
The Gen Xers and Gen Zers in the workforce would never consider a place where growth is stagnant. To retain them, organizations must foster an environment where they can learn, grow and advance. Companies should invest more in learning and development programs and proper mentoring programs.
Additionally, within the organization, growth should be visible and consistent. You should make Promotion and recognition practice a frequent, timely, and fair affair.
10. WORKPLACE WELLNESS
60% of companies offer wellness programs to employees. Whereas only 14% of companies have identified the culture of health. (Optum)
More and more companies are taking up wellness initiatives for its employees. 2021 will only take this employee engagement trend further.
Employees spend a huge amount of their waking hours in their workplaces. Naturally, health has a lot to do with the company's work environment and work culture.
“A healthy mind resides in a healthy body”. Naturally, a healthy individual outperforms others.
Health has a direct correlation with the productivity and performance level of employees. Hence, the bottom line of the company.
Offering a sound corporate wellness program is a financial as well as a moral responsibility of an organization.
11. PRIORITISING MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE
In 2021, much focus will be given to mental health and creating a stress-free work environment.
Poor mental health is one of the biggest issues in the workplace today. It causes a loss of over 70 million working days every year.
The top five stress symptoms are fatigue, sleeplessness, aches and pains, anxiety, and weight gain.
Desk-bound employees are one of the prime sufferers of mental illnesses. They are so engrossed in the rat race of the corporate world that they often neglect their mental health. The result is a bunch of stressed employees in the workforce.
Surveys and case studies have repeatedly revealed appalling data about the mental health of employees.
The good news is, it brought with it the wind of change and awareness. People are now becoming more aware and concerned about taking care of their mental well-being. The stigma associated with mental health is also slowly fading away.
Employers and managers can play a unique role in supporting mental health in the workplace. The aim should be to address the issue, create awareness, identify the factors triggering stress, and taking the necessary steps to create a healthier work environment.
12. INTERESTING AND CHALLENGING WORK
Top reasons for leaving a job: insufficient pay (44%), limited career paths (43%), lack of challenging work (30%), work-life balance (28%), and lack of recognition (27%)*.
Exciting and Challenging work is one of the prime and long-lasting motivators for employees. Your employees might continue to work in the absence of interesting work, but they will not put their heart and soul into it.
This phenomenon is prevalent in the case of GenX and GenZ employees. They are critical thinkers and challenger-seekers, and problem-solving is in their inherent nature.
Hence, creating interesting and challenging work will be an Employee engagement trend that every company must acknowledge.
Employers and managers can play a special role here. A good performance management system, welcoming suggestions, and setting goals are some ways to do so. Doing so will attract the right talent as well as retain employees for the long run.
13. MILLENNIALS AND GEN Z FRIENDLY EMPLOYEE BENEFITS:
Employee benefits must evolve from traditional ones to more creative ones.
Millennials already form the largest section of the workforce. They will soon form half of the workforce in the next one year and three fourth by 2030. And they will be followed by Gen Zers (who will be even harder to impress and retain!) A watch on 10 years of tenure or a turkey on holiday season won’t work anymore.
The talent acquisition system is changing at a stunning rate. The number of companies is increasing, and economic stability has become a reality. Companies are now competing with one another to attract the best talent.
The job profile, including the perks and benefits offered by a company, plays an important role.
Millennials and Gen Zers put particular emphasis on the job package. They prefer unique, personalized, and thoughtful employee benefits and perks.
They love diverse and flexible choices. Most companies now adopt a point-based reward system for gifting and rewarding employees to give them more freedom over their perks.
Other millennial-friendly benefits offered by companies are:
Free snacks, Napping rooms, Free breakfast, paid holiday, Paid fitness memberships, vacation time, etc.
These were some of the trends that we foresee for the coming year. If you have any more suggestions and inputs, do let us know in the comment section below. I’m excited to hear from you!