Why is Employee Engagement Important in 2021?
Employee engagement has been a workplace buzzword for some time. And, for the most part, employee engagement levels globally haven’t changed much in the last few decades. But largely, I think this is because most organizations don’t really understand engagement and what drives it (hint: it’s not beer fridges, although that’s nice). And this is because most engagement programs are largely for office workers. 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 yeah, you won’t see much change in overall engagement levels. So, why is employee engagement important in 2021? Because the frontline has been through a lot in the last year, and the organizations that really excel in our new normal will be the ones who try to make a difference for their frontline teams.
The Employee Engagement Fallacy
We tend to get a lot wrong about employee engagement. But one of the biggest misnomers is that an engaged employee is productive and high-performing. While I think there probably is a lot of overlap, they aren’t one and the same. But they could be. If we focused on different drivers of engagement, I think we’d get there.
Instead of ping pong and beer, why not learning and development? Instead of just public recognition, why not recognition and more responsibility? Instead of 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.
Whether they were furloughed or have had to remain on the front lines during the pandemic, frontline workers are exhausted. They have either felt like their organization didn’t value them or like they were expendable. It is going to be essential to build back employee trust and give these essential, deskless workers the support they need.
Things shouldn’t “go back to the way they were” once the pandemic is over. Let’s make things better for the deskless worker. Let’s engage them. Communicate with them. Ask for their input and feedback. The results will likely amaze you.
What You Should Be Doing to Improve Employee Engagement
So, if we aren’t going back to the way things are, we need to make some fundamental changes. 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 teams as effectively as you thought you were.
And then you need to focus on the employee experience. This is foundational to 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.