Employee engagement may not be the best term for the pratice of creating happier and more productive employees, but the goals just stated are still top of mind for the most ambitious and growth-minded companies going in to 2018.
Here at TINYpulse, we see engagement data every day, as one of the industry leaders in collecting continuous feedback from employees. From common culture drivers that often get the ire of employees anonymously, to engagement initiatives that the leadership in an organization may take on, we’re perfectly placed to see what’s coming down the pipeline in the coming year.
PS. READ OUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
Here are the 7 trends that we’re most excited about, that we think will change the landscape for how employers connect and relate to their employees in the next year. Wherever possible, we’ll highlight examples of pioneers leading the way, and support with data from our own recent research. And if these sound like something your workplace is taking on, we’d love to hear from you in our comments!
A focus on employee career pathing
Our research shows that not having a clear career path is one of the major culture drivers for why your workforce may be unhappy. Increasingly, companies are recognizing that employees who don’t have a sense that they can grow at an organization are likely to leave.
Going in to 2018, we’re certain that we’ll be seeing more companies that want keep their employees around put their money where their mouth is, and invest in employee career development. This is especially true for companies with a remote workforce. In fact, our recent State of Remote Work found that of employees who work primarily out of the office, one of the biggest complaints they have is minimal conversation around their career development.
If you’re someone who manages others, make sure you’ve thought about a trajectory for each of your employees. Have you connected recently to talk about their career goals? Are you facilitating reaching those goals so that your team can grow and develop their own core competencies? If you’re not, prepare for those high performers to go find someone who will.
Engaging and hiring older employees
Unemployment is low, and especially for companies that require highly skilled individual contributors, it can be hard to find the right fit for the job—even with millennials flooding in to the workplace. It turns out, reengaging older workers who are non-participants in the job market can even be up to 25% cheaper than poaching an employee from a similar company.
Older workers bring a unique value to any organization that they join. With many more years of expertise and a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, seasoned employees also act as mentors and role models for the younger more junior members of the team.
Especially since lifespans are getting longer and retirement ages are getting older, it’s important to speak to the increasing number of people who want to keep contributing and coming in to the office after 65. The trend to work later into life is only going to continue to grow as our healthcare access and quality increases, its going to be more necessary than ever as birth rates continue to decline.
Work-life balance becomes more than a dream
You may be asking yourself why work-life balance is on this list—it’s not a new concept, and most organizations have some policies in place trying to support the practice (whether or not they get used). But that’s exactly the point—spending money on amenities like ping pong or an in-office keg to make work feel more like life is a practice that we’ll be seeing less of in 2018.
Instead of initiatives that try to bring fun into the workplace, we see an increase in the hiring successes of companies that facilitate and incentivize work life balance. More and more, employees are asking for the flexibility to work remotely, so that they can find the right balance for their lives. And a whole demographic of people is headed into consulting or freelancing so that they can be in control of their own time prioritization. Especially in the place of retirement.
If you’re hoping to snag these high performing employees who have the skills to self-regulate and meet deadlines, then you’re going to need to offer them the flexibility to actually attain work life balance. If you’re not supporting those behaviors, your employees might find themselves much happier being self-employed.
Looking for someone who does it well?
In that vein, it’s quite possible that unlimited pto becomes the standard in 2018. Where work life balance is an old mantra with tons of research to back it up, unlimited pto is a young experiment—but with tons of success coming for those who have tried it. Currently, less than 2% of companies in the US offer unlimited PTO, despite numerous benefits.
For one, companies that have unlimited pto programs generally only see that their employees take one more day off a year than they would have otherwise. And not tracking pto means companies save tons in paying out unused vacation time, and administrative hours.
Perhaps the best perk of having an unlimited pto policy, it means that it’s a quick task to identify the people who are highly accountable and contributing at work, and those who are unengaged—they’re going to take advantage and are perhaps even a long-term drain on the company.
It’s a policy we have here at TINYpulse that has instilled a culture of trust in the office, and gives us time to recharge after weeks of working down to the wire.
Engagement becomes social, instead of hierarchical
Perhaps one of the biggest arguments for why term employee engagement is so terrible, is that it focuses on the wrong things at every level. Employees are people, and focus on how to “engage” them means that your attention is on their productivity and commitment, when it should be focused on their experience.
As Aaron Hurst brilliantly asks us: “You are on your deathbed (many years from now, don’t worry). You reflect back on your life and your career. Your conclusion? “I was engaged.” No way.”
And it’s true, being engaging focuses on the wrong things—instead employees want to know that they make an impact, and have meaningful relationships. And that means at work too. As this Inc.com article explains, most of the key factors related to how successful and happy your employees are fall into the category of their “social” experiences at work.
The best way to move the needle on this is to connect with your coworkers first and foremost as people. What are their aspirations? Their challenges? Build the lasting relationships that will make your team feel supported and cared for. They are more likely to support and care for your organization in return.
More tools and functionalities to support employee success
All of these things culminate to one similar idea: “Are you giving employees the tools they need to succeed?” If you’ve offered them the flexibility to work from home, or take time off when needed, and you’ve got a career path for them to follow, are you making sure they have the resources to be successful in their goals?
From your individual contributors in the tech field, to nurses and doctors, to hog farmers (yes really!), every employee is going to have different needs to being successful. Often times that might be more mentoring, or more specific direction with their goals. Or it could mean identifying if there is specific software, or hardware, or tool that might make their jobs easier.
For instance, remote workers have stated difficulties with staying looped in at the office, especially for all the in-person meetings that they have to video conference into. A Meeting Owl video conferencing camera might make it easier to facilitate not only communication, but a sense of belonging to the team, since even visually it gives you a seat at the table. Making life easier for remote workers is important, since our research shows that companies that support remote workers experience 25% less voluntary turnover.
See Owl Lab's Meeting Owl in action here
It’s a good practice to occasionally check in with your team and ask: “is there anything you need to be successful?” You may have ideas of how to help, but ultimately, an employee will know what they need best, especially if they’re hitting roadblocks in their work.
The death of the annual survey, officially
Having a social engagement strategy means being more communicative with employees, and inviting conversation about the concerns or suggestions that they have. In that vein, annual surveys, which have been on the decline for years, are really the last lingering relic of a time where feedback was barely solicited and almost never acted on.
If we want to be employers who are committed to collecting continuous, ongoing feedback, and acting on it, then moving past the annual survey into something more real-time and iterative will facilitate that.
At TINYpulse, we’ve done extensive research on the perfect questions, frequency, and length for employee surveys to be successful at not only engaging employees, but also increasing a culture of communication and community in the office.
The added benefits of something like rolling pulse surveys rather than one big annual survey include: decreased admin costs to distribute and process the survey, real-time analysis (rather than after months of synthesis), and a better understanding of your change-over-time.
And, be sure to read our other blog content: we've got a ton of insight on the best practices for responding to feedback and creating solution-based conversations with your employees.
It’s exciting to see wide-spread change in the way that employers are thinking about increasing engagement in the office. Generally, the focus is shifting towards meeting people where they are, and providing them with the tools to be successful, rather than with token benefits that might focus on making them happier.
If you’re going in to 2018 with a renewed effort to trust your employees, communicate with them, and support them, chances are you’re on the right track!