The Future of Employee Engagement

Cathy Brown, Engage for Success

27/09/2016
Categories: Guest

At the Benefex Client Forum in July, we were lucky enough to be joined by the wonderful Cathy Brown from Engage for Success. She shared her expertise on the world of employee engagement, and what she thinks it will look like in the future.

The landscape of employee engagement is changing. Advances in technology, shifting dynamics between different generations at work, and the ever-growing trend of flexible working are all contributing to your employees’ engagement in their role at work. Company culture is becoming an ever-increasing factor in recruitment; we spend so much time at work; why can’t it be fun? We’re more productive if we have fun at work. So, the question isn’t “is employee engagement changing?” it’s “how is employee engagement changing, and how can I prepare?”

Managing changes

It’s 2016, and the world of work is very different to the one a lot of us entered into 40, 20, or even five years ago. Advancements in technology are undoubtedly the biggest contributors to these changes, and will probably continue to be so; as more and more tech-savvy Millennials enter the workforce, workplace technology is going to need to keep up with their expectations in order to keep them engaged and productive. However, when it comes to engagement, the ‘human’ side of HR is still as prominent and influential as ever. The people you work with (and for) are going to the biggest influence on your engagement, so what’s going to be most important when it comes to handling change is a paradigm shift in how we manage our employees…

A matter of trust

If you can't develop trust in the workforce, then you will have a huge issue around engagement. Navigating the changing landscape of engagement will be down to the joint effort of HR and line managers. If it’s approached as a “tick list”, with an engagement review or survey once a year, the chances are your employees won’t buy into the company culture and will become disengaged. However, if people are approached by HR or line managers using their authentic personalities, it’s going to have a more positive affect. Essential to building trust is showing your employees that all staff – on every level – practise what they preach when it comes to engagement schemes, and this will all start with the CEO.

You can run, but you can’t hide

Our confidence is returning when it comes to job security, which means that we’re being more vocal about where we work and if we’re engaged. Glassdoor and similar sites get over a million hits a month; companies need to impress the talent out there if they want to recruit the best. Company culture is being brought more and more into the public forum; our general use of day-to-day social media is revealing ever more about a company’s approach to engagement. This is not going to go away! If anything, the line between work and social media is becoming more and more blurred.

Working with your grandma

We mentioned your Millennial staff earlier, but it’s also important to engage with your older staff! As people are living longer and retiring later, you’re bound to find the age range of your workforce is broadening. It’s a huge challenge to tackle all the interests of a diverse workforce, but it’s a good problem to have, and a problem you’ll need to learn to navigate sooner rather than later. Research has shown that your younger employees will actually benefit from working with your staff aged over 50. The reason being that, when challenged by someone in their 30s or 40s, an employee in their teens or 20s will exude that natural rebellion against someone they view as a parent figure. However, when working alongside someone over 50, the dynamic changes to one of a child and grandparent; hence, less friction. Implementing engagement strategies aimed directly at the older members of your team is bound to have an overall positive affect on them, and subsequently, their co-workers.

How the brain works at work

We know so much more about how the brain works on a day-to-day basis. The findings of this research has been a catalyst for more and more companies to build a flexible working framework. Flexible working not only helps those who care for dependents and those who work remotely, but it can be a real engagement driver for those employees who do are not necessarily at their most productive between 9 and 5. Employees who perhaps suffer with certain physical or mental health issues may find that flexible working increases their productivity and motivation tenfold. It doesn’t just show that you’re aware of the statistical benefits behind flexible working, it shows you care as well. The technology is there to allow flexible working, why not use it if it’s going to keep improving engagement?

The Four Enablers of Engagement

At Engage for Success, we champion employee engagement and are blazing the trail for HR professionals to take their company culture to the next level. When it all boils down to it, there are four main things you need to do to future-proof your employee engagement scheme:

  • Show visible, empowering leadership, providing a strong strategic narrative about the organisation, where it’s come from, and where it’s going. In other words, be transparent about your plans for your organisation; your employees will appreciate being in the know.
  • Your line managers are key to engagement. You need to ensure you’re actively encouraging managers who:
    • Focus their people and give them scope.
    • Treat their people as individuals.
    • Coach and stretch their people.
  • Ensure there is an employee voice throughout the organisation to reinforce and challenge views, between functions and also externally. Employees are seen as central to the solutions.
  • Ensure there is organisational integrity – the values on the wall are reflected in day-to-day behaviours. There is no “say-do” gap. Remember what we said about trust and how it starts at the top? That is the key.

Cathy Brown is Executive Director of Engage for Success. She is a proud sci-fi fan, an avid Twitter-er, and Morris dancer.

Engage for Success is a voluntary movement, championing employee engagement as a way of making sure each day is a great day at work. Why not take a look at their website?

Need help with your employee engagement scheme? Give us a call on 0844 963 0023

Why not check out the highlights of our Client Summer Forum? Keep your eyes peeled for the flamingos.

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