Employee engagement has been a chronic issue in the talent world, and the challenge has only intensified now that many employees are working remotely. For at least two decades now, the percentage of employees who are considered engaged in their jobs has hovered around the 30% mark. At various points, this metric has budged a few points above or below, but in general it has remained largely unchanged despite extensive efforts and myriad employee engagement strategies designed to increase it.
During the pandemic, we finally saw some degree of movement as employers stepped up at the outset, driving engagement to a new high of 38%. As the racial injustice protests swelled, engagement dropped back down to 31%, only to rise again to a record peak of 40% in late June to mid-July 2020. Unfortunately, by September, it had dropped back down to just slightly above normal levels at 35%. Clearly traditional employee engagement strategies are only effective with a small subset of workers, but when employers make a concerted effort as they did in the early COVID-19 days, they can move the needle considerably. With many workforces transitioning to a hybrid model, it’s high time for some new approaches.
Why the new world of hybrid work requires a revamped approach to engagement
Employees’ expectations have shifted after more than a year of pandemic living. We’ve all been changed by this experience, and with new and different responsibilities on their plates, employees’ priorities have changed as well. That doesn’t mean that employee engagement can take a backseat though. Disengaged employees cost U.S. employers between $450 and $550 billion each year. Highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability with 41% lower absenteeism and 59% less turnover. Businesses truly can’t afford to deprioritize employee engagement strategies.
Furthermore, the majority of employees want some say in where they work, meaning that for employers looking to attract and retain top talent, remote work in one form or another is here to stay. Deloitte found that 94% of the US professionals they interviewed believed they would benefit from having the option to work from home at least part of the time. Moreover, nearly one-third of employees say they would go so far as to quit their job if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely. With just one in ten companies planning to require all employees to return to the office, the ascent of hybrid and fully remote workforces is assured. Accordingly, employers need to redesign their employee engagement strategies to accommodate this shift as soon as possible.
3 keys to building a hybrid workforce engagement strategy that drives impact
Employee engagement is a tricky issue, as evidenced by its immovability over the preceding twenty years. Adding to the challenge is the fact that not all employee engagement strategies will apply to all companies. In efforts to make this post as helpful as possible across different industries and situations, we’ve selected our top tips for ensuring you can keep employees engaged and productive no matter where they work:
- Prioritize transparency and accessibility
- Provide all team members visibility into the full slate of employee programming you offer. Keeping everything within one system will promote inclusion by ensuring people don’t miss out on the initiatives that are relevant to them.
E.g. flyers in the lunchroom may have previously been a straightforward way to advertise an event, but now everything needs to be easily available via digital outlets.
- Deliver your programming through multiple channels to ensure equitable access. To the extent possible, all initiatives should be available to all employees, regardless of where they work. Consider making as many events as possible fully digital, in order to level the playing field between on-site and remote employees.
E.g. if you’re running an in-person event, make sure that there is also an option to dial-in to any presentation, and provide breakout rooms for folks who can’t attend in person to still get the benefits of interacting with colleagues.
- Empower employees to lead
- Your employees know what they need to feel happy and engaged, so make sure you’re asking them early and often, and truly listening to what they say. This will pay off doubly in the engagement department, as your programming will be targeted directly to employee needs, and team members will feel heard and acknowledged.
E.g. conducting quarterly surveys to solicit employee input and identify gaps and/or opportunities for improvement in your programming will help ensure your efforts deliver results.
- Collecting employee feedback is a great first step, but there’s also an opportunity to let workers take the reins. Empowering employees to launch efforts that are important to them, from volunteering, to employee resource groups, to sports leagues and beyond, takes the burden off of People teams and shows your workers you trust and value them.
E.g. setting up a process for employees to apply to start an employee group or hold an event makes it easy to offer even more engaging programming with minimal additional overhead.
- Ground your efforts in data
- We know that what gets measured gets managed, so why would you invest in employee engagement efforts without tracking outcomes? Make sure that you’re surveying employees after events and initiatives to see what they thought and how you can do better in the future, in addition to tracking interest and participation levels.
E.g. schedule short employee surveys to go out at the time events and trainings are set to end to collect just0in-time feedback.
- As we mentioned at the beginning of this section, there are a lot of factors that influence employee engagement, so it’s important to set up holistic tracking mechanisms that acknowledge intersectionality and capture a more complete picture. Understanding who is participating in what and how active they are, as well as measuring things like belonging and employee Net Promoter Score over time can help you see what’s going well and what needs some extra attention.
E.g. creating dashboards to track various metrics across the membership in different groups or programs can help you understand what you should be doing more of and/or who might be struggling.
If you’re looking for employee engagement strategies to drive impact for a hybrid workforce, we encourage you to check out our new infographic with stats and programming suggestions to help guide your planning. Some of the information in this post is included there as well so you can have one-stop shopping. On that note, if you want your employees to have one-stop access to all of your employee engagement and company culture initiatives to ensure transparency and access across a variety of locations, check out Workrowd’s platform. We make it easy to keep all your team members connected and thriving through our innovative platform oriented around employee communities. Visit us at workrowd.com or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.