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Employee engagement is top-of-mind in the HR industry these days. In many ways, it might be one of employers’ biggest pain points. In this tight job market, it’s easier for employees to jump ship — and that’s a big headache for HR. Employers now are working more diligently to retain their key talent who are apt to go elsewhere to seek the working environment they desire.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, it costs a company, on average, six to nine months of an employee’s salary to replace her. So, for an employee making $40,000 a year, that’s $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses. Others predict the cost is even more: That losing a salaried employee can cost as much as twice their salary, especially for a high earner or executive-level employee.
Think about it. Salary and benefits are important, sure. But in this job market, employees can find what they are looking for in a compensation package. So, what makes the difference? It’s employee engagement — the extent to which an employee’s personal goals and interests align with the vision and goals of the company.
Organizations with highly-engaged employees outperform the competition by 147% in earnings per share, according to Gallup. More companies are realizing the effect that improved employee engagement is having on employee performance, retention and productivity. A G2 Crowd survey reported that in 2019, companies will increase their spending on employee engagement by 45%.
This year has all the makings of being a pivotal year for employee engagement with retention being equally, or even more as important, as recruitment. HR professionals, and companies as a whole, need to review employee engagement practices to make sure their strategy impacts retention, production and performance.
What’s ahead in 2019 for employee engagement? Here are my predictions.
Employers will put much more focus on employee engagement. An analysis from PwC says the new standard for employee engagement is fulfillment — the feeling people have when their work and their motivations are aligned and they gain a sense of meaning and purpose as a result. Others say it’s the employee experience — that it’s more than better perks and benefits. It’s ensuring that employees have positive, meaningful interactions with the organization at every step. Whether it’s employee engagement, fulfillment or experience, 2019 is going to see more employers, and the industry itself, paying much more attention to employee engagement.
Flexibility will be all-important. Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce, have made it loud and clear that they want more workplace flexibility including the ability to shift work hours (such as starting the day earlier or later) and working from home one or two days a week. Turns out that non-millennials are saying the same thing. Look for companies to incorporate more flexibility into company policies this year.
The annual performance review continues to be on its way out. The trend away from the annual performance review in favor of more frequent, real-time reviews and informal feedback will start to take hold in 2019. Ongoing communication is a much more effective tactic. Millennials, in particular, like at least monthly review format/commentary. In addition, steps for development, growth and mentoring can influence an employee’s satisfaction and desire to stay with the company.
Employee appreciation will move to a year-round activity. Call it what you want — recognition, appreciation, etc. But it’s not about an end-of-year holiday party or an employee of the month recognition. And it doesn’t have to always be about the cost of doing it — a manager’s thanks and lunch brought in at the end of a big project can go a long way. This year will see more attention to demonstrating employee appreciation on a year-round basis and rethinking the ways in which we can show it.
Companies will add benefits that satisfy employee lifestyle needs. Employee engagement no longer is one-size-fits-all. Employees have various lifestyle needs that companies can address that show they care about employee life stages. For example, more attention is being paid today to the needs of nursing mothers, and many companies are providing lactation services. For example, Goldman Sachs last year started paying for nursing mothers to ship breast milk to their homes when they travel. PwC introduced a phased return-to-work program following parental leave. Look for companies to identify and add more unique benefits in 2019 that show their employees they care about their life stages.
Employers will take a much more holistic approach to wellness. Gone are the days when employee wellness meant providing a gym membership and orchestrating an internal health fair. In recent years we have seen companies start broadening their wellness approach. Happy, healthy employees are generally engaged employees and that involves addressing all aspects of wellness. According to the University of Maryland, there are eight mutually-interdependent dimensions of wellness — physical, mental, emotional, social, occupational, financial, purposeful and environmental. They don’t have to be equally balanced, and employers likely can’t address all of them. 2019 will see employers studying the holistic wellness approach and making changes that fit their particular organization and their employees the best.
Gamification will be adopted more widely. Whether it’s for onboarding, benefits communication/understanding, wellness programs or other employee engagement tactics, gamification will be considered and adopted more widely this year. Gamification techniques can be used as well to increase use of intranets, social media platforms and mobile communication. Look for employers this year to create more apps and digital games to increase employee engagement.
Employees who feel their companies care about them are more engaged and dedicated to company success. Those of us in HR need to pay as much attention to employee engagement this year as we do to compensation and benefits in order to succeed with employee retention.