Why is Employee Engagement Important in 2023?
Last updated on November 15, 2022 at 09:53 pm
Employee engagement has been a workplace buzzword for some time. But in 2021, we saw our first decline in engagement in the US in a decade. Why? Because most organizations don’t understand what drives company engagement (hint: it’s not beer fridges). After a global pandemic, supply chain crisis, civil unrest, rising inflation—the list goes on—people started to check their priorities. Engaging employees is about so much more than employees having fun “perks” at their workplace. It’s about values, purpose, wellbeing, and so on. And whether or not companies start getting this right will dictate what companies will thrive or fail.
What Does an Engaged Employee Really Look Like?
We tend to get a lot wrong about employee engagement. But one of the biggest misnomers is that an engaged employee is automatically productive and high-performing. While there probably is a lot of overlap, they aren’t one and the same. If we focused on different drivers of engagement, we’d get there.
But the truth is, engagement measures how committed and involved an employee is at work. It doesn’t mean they are amazing at their job or a team player. But rather, do they like coming to work? Are they committed to trying to do a good job? Getting great results comes down to how well we can activate our employees.
What We Get Wrong About Employee Engagement
The biggest mistake we see companies making is creating engagement programs that only apply to office workers. I think that’s part of why companies are now panicking about the remote vs. hybrid vs. in-office debate. We’ve invested too much in channels and strategies that are optimal for someone at a desk in a corporate office. But 80% of the global workforce works on the frontline and not in offices. If you’re only trying to move the needle for 20% of the workforce, then you won’t see much change in overall engagement levels. We need to invest in strategies that engage employees wherever they work.
The second problem we see is that companies miss the mark on what actually engages someone. Instead of ping pong and kegs, why not learning and development? Instead of just public recognition, why not recognition and more responsibility? Employees want to feel valued and respected. And they want to feel like their work means something.
Rather than assuming what employees might want, why not ask them what they need? If you focus more on communication, training, career growth, connecting their role to the larger purpose, and so on, you are far more likely to have more productive and high-performing employees.
Why Employee Engagement Is Important Right Now
Improvements to engagement have been lagging over the last few decades…but now more than ever we need to focus on the right engagement strategies, for the right employee groups.
Frontline workers, in particular, are exhausted. They have either felt like their organization didn’t value them or like they are expendable. So it is going to be essential to build back employee trust and give these essential, deskless employees the support they need.
What You Should Be Doing to Improve Employee Engagement
We need to make some fundamental changes to retain our employees and engage them. We suggest starting with an internal communications audit to determine where the existing holes are in your strategy. You may find that you aren’t reaching your deskless workforce as effectively as you thought you were.
And then you need to focus on the employee experience. This is foundational for engagement. Right now, the experience for frontline workers isn’t great. They are burnt out. They aren’t feeling recognized or appreciated. Use your audit to learn how you could reach these employees better and then communicate with them more, open channels for employee feedback, lead with empathy, and start recognizing them for their contributions in better ways than a periodic newsletter shout-out.
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