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Why employee engagement is changing (and what you can do about it)

Written by: Stephanie Hanlon
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As the world of work continues to change, here's how to adapt your employee engagement and culture strategies to follow.

Before the ball even dropped on the new decade and the current climate befell, experts were predicting big changes in the world of work, especially as they relate to employee engagement and culture. With an increasingly tight labour market and crowd-sourcing opinion sites like Glassdoor gaining in popularity over the last decade, employers are trying now more than ever to get ahead of the competition. Here are four ways employee engagement is changing and how you can adapt your strategies to follow:

Recruitment, pre-boarding, and onboarding

Potential employees are coming into the job search armed with more information than ever before about your organization and your competitors. According to a 2019 Harris Poll, 68 percent of employees believe their experience as a job candidate reflects how the company treats the people who work there. A defined culture, employer brand and employee value proposition (EVP) will be crucial to setting your organization apart in the war for talent. If you don’t have these defined yet, your first step will be an important one to ensure clarity and consistency not only in the recruiting experience but the entire onboarding journey. The EVP, in particular, allows for a consistent story to be told in every interaction your brand has with an employee, from the time they’re recruited to their first day on the job, through major work milestones, and ultimately their decision of whether or not to refer others to come work for you.

While leveraging the EVP and a strong market position, you should also consider:

  • Opportunities for experiential marketing techniques at virtual recruitment events (e.g. virtual reality (VR) company tours)
  • Aligning with hiring professionals to ask interview questions and provide scenarios that tie back to your company’s values and EVP
  • Creating a pre-first day experience leveraging communications and rewards for early alignment with your employer brand (e.g. sending a brand/culture video, having their team create a memorable digital piece, a personalized checklist for their first week or month)
  • Journey mapping the onboarding experience through their first 180 days of employment
  • Creating a comprehensive communication, training, and recognition and reward strategy for the first six months
  • Analyzing existing employee turnover and recognition data to identify areas of focus for employee retention efforts

Manager enablement, talent mobility, and leadership development

Managers are on the front-line for representing your employer brand and can often make or break the employee experience from day one. When these managers see a future for themselves within the organization, they are more likely to visualize and encourage this mobility in their direct reports. Internal talent mobility helps organizations grow and differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Few organizations have the resources needed to conduct the training necessary to upskill, resulting in the need to conduct expensive external searches to fill high-level positions. You may want to consider partnering with an organization that has insight into identifying high-potential employees alongside the ability to develop custom approaches to learning that will maximize technology resources and result in seamless skill development with a targeted group.

The recent World Economic Forum report estimates over 50 percent of all employees will require significant reskilling and upskilling in the next three years. For training and development across your organization, regardless of role, the future promises growth in alternative training methods including:

  • VR
  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Virtual experiential learning
  • Podcasts and e-Books

Data analytics

Employee recognition platforms have long offered engagement dashboards and metrics tied to how employees and managers are interacting with the platform itself. To leverage this data and get a larger picture of the organization's engagement, begin correlating it with other business metrics. Some correlations to consider include:

  • Aligning employee performance data to recognition experience (Are your high performers getting recognized enough? Are they more likely to recognize others?)
  • Determining how responses to key recognition and reward-related questions from employee surveys relate to recognition experience and behaviour (e.g., “I’ve been recognized in the last 60 days”)
  • Tying recognition experience to employee turnover to identify areas of the business that would benefit from targeted communication, training, and rewards
  • Identifying key moments in the employee journey that would benefit from a targeted recognition experience (e.g., have a recognition touchpoint every 30 days in the first 90 days of onboarding to increase the number of employees staying over six months)

Employee surveys and recognition behaviour reports yield good information on areas of opportunity, but few organizations have the tools needed so managers and leaders can take action to improve their results. Managers and leaders are more likely to follow through with an action plan when they have a detailed content library and a recognition and reward strategy for carrying out the plan. Behaviours to reward and recognize can include:

  • Creating an action plan using provided tools and presenting to leadership
  • Completing an action plan
  • Completing specified objectives from the action plan

Ultimately, recognition data provides a launching point for organizations to begin identifying and pushing the right levers to increase overall happiness at work.

Rewards

A great employee recognition strategy also includes an inspiring rewards strategy. One of the best rewards organizations can offer right now is ultra-motivating, ultra-customizable award options. When an employee is given an aspirational reward, they are more likely to repeat the behaviour that got them the award, as well as inspiring others to do the same.

These four areas work together to contribute to the overall employee experience. A defined and transparent onboarding and training plan that is customized to the employee and role begins the employee experience at any organization.

Accessible and unique recognition opportunities make employee recognition simpler, ensuring larger recognition reach and greater employee satisfaction. Leveraging that recognition data then allows organizations to identify gaps in engagement and create a more targeted employee experience in those areas. This often leads back to additional recognition and training opportunities.

Finally, when there is improved employee experience, there are more behaviours aligned to values to recognize and reward. And rewarding with tantalizing award options becomes a memorable way for the employee to align the reward for their hard work back to their organization, resulting in increased effort and reciprocity between the employee and their employer.

Stephanie Hanlon

Senior Account Director, Employee Performance Group, BI WORLDWIDE

As Senior Account Director in BI WORLDWIDE's Employee Performance Group, Stephanie’s primary focus is to consult with clients on their overall engagement strategies and align internal BIW subject matter experts to design cutting-edge solutions to key business challenges. An expert in applying behavioural economics in program design, Stephanie works with BIW’s global clients to deliver measurable results and drive a culture of recognition within their organizations.