When it comes to maintaining employee engagement, the last few years have been tough. We’ve endured a global pandemic, many businesses were forced to rapidly adapt to new ways of working in order to stay afloat, and then we were confronted with trends such as Quiet Quitting.
It’s been a rocky terrain for HR professionals to have to navigate — and the drivers of employee engagement are shifting.
The statistics themselves don’t paint a pretty picture: 2021 officially marked the first annual decline in employee engagement in ten years, according to Gallup. As of 2022, only 32% of employees are engaged, while 17% are actively disengaged. Millennials and Gen Z are mentally checking out of work, and they’re not too shy about vocalizing it.
Boost drivers of employee engagement
So in such tumultuous times, how do we go about boosting engagement in a meaningful way? Especially considering the cost of living crisis, where HR leaders are being asked to do this despite fewer resources while facing new challenges and talent shortages.
People Insight, an employee survey company, has recently carried out research looking at thousands of employee survey database responses and broader research, to identify five leading trends driving engagement in modern workplaces:
1. Support cost-of-living crisis
The cost of living crisis is causing increased uncertainty for employees. Over half of employees worry about money at least once a week. Each month, 14% of employees around the world struggle to pay their bills.
Money worries are among the most common causes of anxiety, yet the stigma associated with such concerns actually prevents employees from opening up and asking for help.
Employers need to find ways to help their people cope. Though it’s easier said than done, companies need to think of ways to reduce costs for employees and build trust and open communication on this difficult topic.
Bonuses or pay increases are likely not realistic for most organizations at the moment. However, non-monetary rewards can help employees cut costs. Some examples include salary sacrifice schemes, mental health support and employee discount schemes.
Some forward-thinking businesses have also chosen to offer personalized financial support to help employees feel in control of their finances. Companies may consider offering financial literacy advice and coaching. Ultimately, the first step is creating a supportive company culture where employees feel they are able to step forward and discuss their concerns and situation with their manager, who may be able to point them in the direction of relevant tools and benefits.
2. Support hybrid work
Unsurprisingly, employees generally prefer hybrid working. They enjoy the flexibility and autonomy that comes as a result, so offering this as a working option does go a long way to boosting employee engagement – but it has to be done well.
As we approach 2024, companies should take a step back and consider the well-being and engagement of their hybrid and remote workers. They need to feel like they’re a core member of your team. When having virtual meetings, make the effort to have face-to-face video calls to encourage more of a connection. Take the time to shout out the accomplishments of hybrid workers and to highlight their achievements. But perhaps most important is the issue of upskilling and growth opportunities.
Increasingly, employees see opportunities to learn and grow as the top driver of work culture. Employees crave more training, but 58% of employees are afraid their skills have gone stale. What’s more, employees working from home are regularly being ignored in the areas of learning, development, promotions and pay raises.
To boost employee engagement, take time to consider what opportunities could be offered to remote and hybrid employees.
3. Provide well-being initiatives
Well-being continues to drive employee engagement in a very meaningful way in 2023, but employees are more savvy about well-being. They are more knowledgeable and they know what forward-thinking businesses are doing to cater for employee well-being.
Businesses should be creating employee a full range of well-being programs:
- Mental well-being initiatives that support employee psychological, emotional and social well-being at work, and sometimes include free counselling services, meeting-free days and workplace meditation sessions.
- Physical well-being that can include encouraging employees to make healthy lifestyle choices, usually by offering healthy meals or snacks, subsidizing gym memberships or having walking meetings.
- Financial well-being that could include financial education support and other perks and benefits that could save employees money, or updating your company pension scheme to offer long-term financial security.
- Community well-being that includes social, economic, environmental, cultural and political factors. Initiatives may include offering volunteering days on top of annual leave, to encourage people to give back to their communities or local causes.
4. Provide a culture of accountability
Modern employees want a culture of accountability. Employees want to be told when they have gone wrong and how things went wrong. They want this feedback regularly and often, but they don’t want it to be one-sided. In fact, accountability should include managers and leaders, too.
A culture of accountability means taking ownership for delivering results, working together to find solutions and talking openly about issues while holding one another to account. For such organizations, the focus is on outcomes for the organization. It gives everyone a purpose and a mission – you aren’t simply clocking in to work and clocking out.
When it comes to creating a culture of accountability, leaders must practice what they preach. They need to take ownership of what’s happening across the organization and show a commitment to their people by investing in their well-being. Managers should also make it clear that it is OK to make mistakes, looking at them as opportunities to learn and grow, thereby building psychological safety into the workplace.
5. Give women targeted support
Today’s organizations should be striving to create gender-equal working cultures. This goes beyond allowing women to work from home a few days a week. Businesses should ensure that women are being heard and understood. This could mean introducing policies that better reflect the changing needs of women at different life stages. Creating an open dialogue makes it easier for women to ask for help when needed.
Employee engagement isn’t a stagnant field. Nor will the drivers look exactly the same for each organization. While the benefits of increased engagement are well-documented, the real way that businesses can build their levels and create a stronger, more sturdy future for themselves is to keep abreast of what’s going on around them and by having meaningful conversations with employees.