7 Employee Engagement Trends to Expect This Year

Employee engagement is top-of-mind in the HR industry these days. The tight job market is continuing, driving employers to work more diligently to retain workers who are apt to go elsewhere to seek the working environment they desire.

“2019 has all the makings of being a pivotal year for employee engagement,” said Purchasing Power® Chief People Officer Racquel Roberts. “Retention is equally as important as recruitment in a tight job market. In fact, HR and companies as a whole need to review employee engagement practices to make sure their current employees stay around,” she added.

“People are a company’s most important asset,” Roberts continued, “and everyone wins when employees are engaged.” Organizations with highly-engaged employees outperform the competition by 147 percent in earnings per share, according to Gallup. More companies are realizing the effect that improved employee engagement is having on employee performance, retention and productivity. A G2 Crowd survey reported that in 2019, companies will increase their spending on employee engagement by 45 percent.

What’s ahead in 2019 for employee engagement? Here are Roberts’ predictions on the trends for this new year.

  1. Employers will be putting much more focus on employee engagement.An analysis from PwC says the new standard for employee engagement is fulfillment – the feeling people have when their work and their motivations are aligned and they gain a sense of meaning and purpose as a result. Others say it’s the employee experience – that it’s more than better perks and benefits. It’s ensuring that employees have positive, meaningful interactions with the organization at every step. Whether its employee engagement, fulfillment or experience, 2019 is going to see more employers and the industry itself paying much more attention to employee engagement.                                                       
  2. Flexibility will be all-important.Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce, have made it loud and clear that they want more workplace flexibility including the ability to shift work hours (such as starting the day earlier or later) and working from home one or two days a week. Turns out that non-millennials are saying the same thing. Look for companies to incorporate more flexibility into company policies this year.                                              
  3. The annual performance review continues to be on its way out. The trend away from the annual performance review in favor of more frequent, real-time reviews and informal feedback will start to take hold in 2019. Ongoing communication is a much more effective tactic. Millennials, in particular, like at least monthly review format/commentary. In addition, steps for development, growth, mentoring – all can influence an employee’s satisfaction and desire to stay with the company.                                           
  4. Employee appreciation will move to a year-round activity.Call it what you want – recognition, appreciation, etc. But it’s not about and end-of-year holiday party or an employee of the month recognition. And it doesn’t have to always be about the cost of doing it – a manager’s thanks and lunch brought in at the end of a big project can go a long way. This year will see more attention to demonstrating employee appreciation on a year-round basis and re-thinking the ways in which we can show it.                                              
  5. Companies will add benefits that satisfy employee lifestyle needs. Employee engagement no longer is one-size-fits-all. Employees have various lifestyle needs that companies can address that shows they care about employee life stages. For example, more attention is being paid today to the needs of nursing mothers such companies are providing on-site lactation services. Last year, Goldman Sachs even started paying for nursing mothers to ship breast milk to their homes when they travel. PwC introduced a phased return-to-work program following parental leave. Look for companies to identify and add more unique benefits in 2019 that show their employees they care about their life stages.                                    
  6. Employers will take a much more holistic approach to wellness.Gone are the days when employee wellness meant providing a gym membership and orchestrating an internal health fair. In recent years we have seen companies start broadening their wellness approach. Happy, healthy employees are generally engaged employees and that involves addressing all aspects of wellness. According to the University of Maryland, there are eight mutually-interdependent dimensions of wellness – physical, mental, emotional, social, occupational, financial, purposeful and environmental. They don’t have to be equally balanced and employers likely can’t address all of them. 2019 will see employers studying the holistic wellness approach and making changes that fit their particular organization and their employees the best.                                
  7. Gamification will be adopted more widely.Whether it’s for onboarding, benefits communication/understanding, wellness programs or other employee engagement tactics, gamification will be considered and adopted more widely this year. Gamification techniques can be used as well to increase use of intranets, social media platforms and mobile communication. 2019 will see employers creating more apps and digital games to increase employee engagement.

“Employees who feel their companies care about them are more engaged and dedicated to company success,” Roberts concluded.


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