5 Employee Engagement Trends for 2020 and Beyond

Stuart Sinclair - January 21, 2020

Engagement is an issue all business leaders must tackle. As more employees begin to view development as a crucial part of their job, ensuring they’re engaged with your business is vital.

Times are changing. Employees want to feel their work has purpose, is meaningful, and helps propel the business forward. Gone are the days when the only thing that counted towards development was tenure.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement can be whatever your business needs it to be. It’s incredibly complex and no matter how you define it, engagement is more than just ensuring people are happy at work. It’s about leaders ensuring their employees are committed to their role. It’s about employees wanting to go the extra mile.

For employees, it’s about bringing their freshest ideas to the table every day. For an employer, it’s about fostering a positive environment and ethos that produces excellent business outcomes.

At its core, engagement is defined by understanding your part to play – and playing it well. How that comes about is down to the company’s approach to engagement and the culture surrounding it.

A sense of belonging plays a large part in employee engagement, and ensuring people feel like they belong and add value to the business goes a long way to helping them achieve their potential.

Why is employee engagement important?

Employee potential can manifest itself in many advantageous ways. When employees bring their best, most innovative ideas to the table, businesses flourish.

Approaching employee engagement correctly can help your employees feel satisfied and happy in their work. In turn, they produce higher quality work for your business. The mental health and wellbeing of employees is more important than ever before, so ensuring your business environment caters to, and enables staff to be heard, is key.

Having an engaged workforce actively helps your business in many ways. It allows you to retain your best workers, with a 2018 Korn Ferry survey revealing boredom to be the primary reason people switch jobs. By keeping the talent at your business, you ensure a high skills and expertise threshold.

Engaged employees also boost productivity in the workplace and have fewer absences, with disengaged employees costing the UK up to £70 billion a year. But crucially, employee engagement is important during difficult or challenging periods. Your team will be ready to meet them head-on, and having a reliable, competitive team behind your business is crucial to success.

What will define employee engagement?

Employee engagement is going to play a bigger role in business in 2020 and beyond. We’ve rounded up five of the key trends that look set to shape how employees and culture come together in the workplace.

Trend #1 – Promoting a culture that puts people first

The workplace, and the way we work, is changing. By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce and the transformation is already underway. No longer do people expect to be rooted to their desk from 9 to 5. Instead, flexibility and agility are on the agenda.

Millennials are engaging with their work in a completely new way and expect companies to put forth a culture that promotes a healthier work/life balance. That flexibility is crucial to the newest generation of workers, who prioritise experiences over simple monetary satisfaction. In fact, a recent survey undertaken by QuickBooks reveals that 76% of workers believe flexible working hours is the best incentive their employer could offer.

As more businesses digitise their processes, for many workers there are fewer definitive reasons to come into the office. Enabling employees to work flexible hours, or even remotely, gives them a greater degree of control over their professional lives. Trusting employees with their own time management, increasing autonomy, inspires greater effort. Studies have shown that employees feel more productive when working from home (avoiding the stress of commuting) and feel happier more generally.

This idea of a ‘people first’ culture extends to the office itself. Agile workspaces are becoming the norm – this includes open plan areas, resting rooms and more. Anything that promotes employees coming together to share ideas and values helps keep them engaged and passionate.

Find out how an employee engagement app can play a pivotal role in delivering an employee engagement strategy

Trend #2 – Real development within the role

Keeping employees engaged is a challenge many businesses face. Offering workers the opportunity to grow and learn new skills is a key method of retaining your talent. Millennials want to make a difference and feel empowered in their role. A failure to develop will lead to stagnation and them seeking jobs elsewhere.

According to a recent study by Randstad, 43% of workers cited a limited career path as the reason for leaving their job. The fact is employees want growth. Development aids with role clarity, which is crucial to a worker’s professional identity. An enormous 74% of workers believe they aren’t fulfilling their true potential at work, so reimagining how your company offers professional development can help to re-engage those that are struggling.

Likewise, feedback is incredibly important to workers. Employees that receive little to no feedback are more likely to be disengaged with the work they’re producing.

Trend #3 – An increased focus on employee wellbeing and inclusion

As workplaces become more modern, so do the attitudes within them. Businesses with an increased focus on employee wellbeing see less turnover in their staff and the benefits of healthy, happy employees go a long way to helping organisations thrive.

Employee wellness programmes are best utilised and implemented when they’re tailored to meet the needs of the individual employee. Those needs may be related to their physical or mental health, but they may also be a part of a wider spectrum that encompasses social and developmental aspects. This is all part of the increasing work/life ‘blend’ we’re seeing in 2020, which is likely to become the norm in the coming decade.

People are less focused on separating their work and their personal lives. Instead, the idea is to engage with work in your own way. Because of this, staying healthy and working are more entwined than ever and comprehensive wellness systems are appreciated by employees.

Throughout 2020 and beyond, businesses will need to be more attuned to mental health issues developing in the workplace. Poor mental health causes the loss of over 70 million working days every year. The good news is businesses are becoming more aware. The stigma surrounding mental illness is disappearing and it’s thanks in part to employers playing a crucial role in addressing issues in the workplace. If employees feel they’re being looked after, they’ll be more engaged and more likely to produce great work.

This goes for diversity and inclusion within the workplace as well. Discrimination remains very real in the workplace and throughout 2020 and beyond, one of the biggest trends regarding employee engagement will be the promotion of workplace inclusivity and female empowerment in their roles. Inclusion in the workplace helps to create a feeling of belonging and promotes cohesion. Employees will remain engaged if they feel their contributions are valued and accepted.

To promote a people-first culture within the workplace, employers will need to take steps to make their businesses safer and fairer for all.

Trend #4 – A new era of employee benefits and recognition

Millennials value experiences. Employees today want more from their work than ‘just a job’ and so traditional rewards and benefits aren’t as compelling as they once were. The newest generation of workers wants flexibility in their roles – more control over their working hours, part-time opportunities, and other rewards that might enhance the employee’s everyday situation are often more enticing than simple compensation.

This trend resonates through all areas of employee engagement – starting with flexible working hours becoming the norm in many businesses. Employee wellness systems are also among the more unconventional benefits employees expect from their job. As work and personal lives begin to meld, there's a greater desire for time away from the office. Additional paid holiday means more employees feel they’re able to focus on achieving a healthier work/life balance. With time being viewed as a ‘valuable currency’ more than ever, the link between allowing employees to manage their time with engagement is clear.

Effectively linking recognition with progress is also important for engagement. Delivering rewards indiscriminately can devalue them. Instead, rewards should be given for a reason. Rewards and recognition can help keep employee engagement high and smarter rewarding, along with innovative new types of reward, will be a trend to watch in 2020.

Trend #5 – A greater sense of purpose

The most engaged employees, however, are those with a sense of purpose. There’s a purpose behind every job role and understanding that is the best way to keep employees engaged. If an employee understands their role, their very reason for what they do and why they turn up every day, that is where the passion to do well stems from.

Stimulating that sense of purpose and making sure employees know they’re valued is going to be a major trend in employee engagement throughout the next decade. When an individual is aware of the impact of their work, it becomes easier to collaborate as part of a fully formed team. Millennials are after a different kind of job – one that means something to them. Simply turning up and getting on with a job you don’t like is becoming less of an option to the newer generation, who want meaningful work. This sense of purpose contributes to employee wellbeing, helping you to cultivate a healthier workplace.

There’s a growing desire in many to feel as though they’ve made a difference and that difference can be felt within your business outcomes. Younger employees want to foster a connection to the business itself and its mission, rather than simply clocking in for something that means very little to them.

A sense of purpose can help motivate employees. As an employer, you can help them find meaning in their work. When they’re passionate about the business, workers will produce superior outcomes.

Engage your employees

Moving into 2020 and looking beyond, keeping your employees engaged remains an incredibly important – and difficult - task. The job market is more competitive than ever and holding onto your top talent should be a priority.

These trends give an idea of the ever-shifting face of employee engagement in the workplace, but it’s up to you to make the most of the potential your team offers. Cultivate a sense of purpose in your team and reap the benefits of an engaged workforce.

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