It’s no surprise that employee engagement numbers have been abysmal for the last few years (and if that is a surprise, you need to read our blog more often.) According to Gallup, engaged employees comprise only around 30% of the workforce.Until engagement numbers dramatically increase, we are going to continue presenting these trends. By the looks of things, this will be a long term project. Here is what the experts are saying we can expect for employee engagement in 2017.
1) Employee Engagement Will Grow…Slowly
In their latest State of the American Workplace Report, Gallup shares that over 33% of the workforce is engaged. While this may seem like a negative (and it is), these numbers are still an improvement over recent years. In 2013, the level of US workforce engagement was under 30%. A ten percent increase in employee engagement in just three years is very encouraging.
So why the rise in engagement? Is it a shift in performance management strategy, or advances in HR technology? Gallup feels that shifts in engagement depend on “factors related to an organization’s performance management and human capital strategies”.
2) Performance Management Technology 2.0
In their latest report, Predictions for 2017: Everything Is Becoming Digital, Bersin by Deloitte is focused on how technology continues to change our lives and workplace cultures. The ubiquity of mobile devices means that we are always on, sending and receiving messages and accessing seemingly infinite media platforms 24 hours a day.
3) Data Focused HR and Management Software
While we’re on the topic of technology, let’s talk about people analytics. This often takes the form of management software platforms where people are asked metrics-based feedback questions. Employee productivity (performance relative to stated goals and key objectives within a specified time frame) will now be measured and catalogued.
4) Organizational De-structure Will Improve Employee Engagement
Based on their latest Human Capital Trends study of over 7,000 companies worldwide, Deloitte found that the vast majority of companies (92%) don’t think that they are organized correctly.
Many are shifting away from a top-down hierarchical structure to more horizontal or lattice type structures. The former exists to create individual teams for scalable efficiency, but today’s markets are not optimized for those factors since rapid innovation has increased the speed and quantity of competition. You can scale a department via a hierarchical structure and then have your entire product offering supplanted by a crafty competitor.
These shifts will improve employee engagement by allowing people to be more effective at what they do and by seeing the impacts of their contributions. We know from studies in behavioral economics that people are motivated by seeing their contributions, which in turn increases employee satisfaction and morale.
5) Performance Management Strategy Will Change
Bersin and his team predict a massive shift where basically every leader in every business will have to be focused on employee wellness. In the report referenced above, they share extensive data on how productivity and workforce engagement has slowed, while the amount of hours worked has increased and vacation time taken has decreased.
Likewise, author and productivity expert, Tony Schwartz, has written extensively on the topic of burnout and its effect on employee performance. In this post, he categorized employee engagement as a negative.
6) More Employee Recognition Programs
Gordon Tredgold, founder and CEO of Leadership Principles, shares that recognition is the key to employee engagement. That’s a bold claim that he backs up with Gallup research from an employee feedback survey.
Two-thirds of employees, who said they hadn’t received any recognition in the last seven days, were twice as likely to say they would leave the company as the other workers when asked.
Of course how employee recognition is delivered impacts how it is received. Is it specifically tied to work performed, or a baseless platitude designed to keep employees happy? How frequently is it given? Is it shared publicly across the team to amplify the impact? Is it accompanied by a tangible reward?
7) Performance, Culture, & Engagement – Together
Our CEO, David Hassell, has written at length about the importance of building strong work cultures, how to foster employee engagement, and how to manage employee performance. Last year, David shared how organizations have historically thought of those three critical factors as separate and distinct. In the coming year, as performance management becomes more of a holistic practice, managers will consider them together.
Why does employee engagement persist as a focal point for performance management experts and HR leaders? Because it is directly linked to other factors that matter to every business owner. According to Gallup, engaged teams show dramatically higher job retention rates and lower absenteeism, 17% higher productivity, and 21% greater profitability.