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7 Hot Trends in Employee Engagement

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By Daryl Horney

Employee engagement is a hot topic and a workplace platform that will only increase in importance. Companies that already implement employee engagement programs and strategies are reaping the benefits, and it is showing in their bottom line. They are creating new customers, becoming more innovative and have a satisfied workforce that is going beyond the call of duty.

This year we witnessed the first employee engagement awards in the U.S. and the fourth HCI Employee Engagement Conference that will take place later this month in San Francisco. In the world of management consulting, agencies are expanding their services to include employee engagement, and attention to the topic is evolving in the academic community as well.

So, what direction is employee engagement headed? Who owns employee engagement, and what does its future suggest? Below are seven characteristics and themes I see emerging in the sphere of employee engagement.

1. Ownership: Employee engagement


Internal communication is a two-way exchange. Because employee engagement involves direct communication with elements from HR, L&D, sales, marketing and PR, it is will be critical for employees not to be inundated with messages from every department.

Employee engagement needs to be centralized, and I believe ownership lies with internal communications. An organized placement of employee engagement programs and strategies will make the most impact when employees know there is a centralized place to go to and receive information.

2. Face-to-face meetings with internal communications


Face-to-face meetings will be central in the maintenance and enhancement of employee engagement programs. I do not believe surveys, electronic communication or a private network such as an intranet will replace the value of face-to-face meetings. In fact, I believe face-to-face meetings will increase and become more organized in structure.

The future of face-to-face meetings will be all about two-way communication that will be used to support professional development initiatives and knowledge creation. Face-to-face meetings will provide an environment where employees will have the opportunity not only to vent, but also to offer solutions and be part of innovative pilot programs. Face-to-face communication will be critical to building relationships with management and potentially assist in the holistic decision-making processes.

3. Reputation through transparency


Companies do everything they can to manage and protect their reputation. As we all know, a bad reputation can have severe consequences. PR will no longer solely manage a company’s reputation. A company's reputation will be managed by its employees and customers through the social media outlets they use. This will create a type of transparency that will reveal how a company treats their customers and their employees.

Reputation will no longer be dependent on how a company reacts to a crisis or what its marketing slogan suggests; instead, reputation will be driven by behavior and employee authenticity. Employees will become storytellers and brand ambassadors more so now than ever before.

4. Professional council


How many times have we thought we could fix it ourselves, only to make it worse? Recently, I had a leaking pipe under my sink. After a few minutes of observing the situation, I decided it needed a new rubber seal. Long story short, I should have called the plumber. The small leak that would have cost me $150 ended up costing me over $1,000 in water damage.

I have seen too many companies try to implement their own employee engagement programs without knowing how -- ultimately failing and having to call a professional to put them back on track. It’s all right to outsource and ask for support from professional organizations.

5. Integration and individualization


Employee engagement programs will become more enhanced and integrated in employees daily lives through technological advances and social commitment. Companies will produce their own apps that will allow employees to have access to company information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Engagement programs will go beyond the typical on-boarding process, latest CSR initiative or newest well-being program; it will go deeper into individual spiritual well-being. In other words, employee engagement programs will become more individualized and segmented. There will be more choices to pick from, like ordering from a menu. Employee engagement programs will not be forced on employees, but will be encouraged.

6. Dialogue and trust


More often than not, managers have unknowingly undervalued their employees. They micromanage, do not provide positive feedback and fail to invest in employee relationships. Many companies still do not invest in employee engagement programs, however, they pour vast amounts into public relations, marketing and advertising activities.

When companies merge or are acquired, there is a lack of dialogue about what is happening and what it changing around them. Employees lose trust in their company and their confidence drops as a result. Management’s lack of detail to employee relations creates a trust gap between management and the employees on the front line.

Without an integrated strategic employee engagement program with effective transparency, companies cannot establish the trust they need to have between management and their front line employees. This trust is the lubricant that keeps the corporate machinery spinning and it needs to be supported with open dialogue and face-to-face meetings.

7. Start now


Years ago I took a class in partnership with the University of Michigan. It’s called “Model Thinking.” What I took from the class is one very important lesson, “For every idea you have, there are ten other people thinking the same thing.”

Who develops the idea first? I don’t want to be the one thinking; I want to be the one doing. It’s extremely important to have that competitive advantage. You might be losing some of your best employees before they start.

Prospective employees, especially millennials, look at a company’s reputation, employee engagement programs and benefit packages. There’s a reason everyone wants to work for Google, Salesforce, Instinctif Partners or the SAAS Institute.

In conclusion


We cannot predict the future. However, we can look at current trends to identify the shaping of employee engagement in the workplace. The future of employee engagement is now. It is taking responsible action and opening up communication channels that enable employees to share their thoughts and concerns, and participate in the future growth of their company.

Employee engagement will help teams work cohesively and remove layers of bureaucracy resulting in faster decision-making and clearer management accountability. Todays’ employees want to be an active participant in their company’s culture. They want to know how they fit in and how they are making difference.

What are your thoughts and predictions?

Image credit: Flickr/Paolo Margari

Daryl Horney is co-founder and senior advisor at SMART Leadership Consulting.

3p Contributor

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