The “New” Employee Engagement

Rick Tucci • November 29, 2021

No doubt, the pandemic has taken a toll on employee engagement programs, as organizations have struggled just to keep their people working; first to retain jobs and then to retain employees who, for various reasons, are reluctant to return to the workplace.

With momentum building to a more normalized, though in most cases, modified workplace, leaders are scrambling to reinvigorate or launch new initiatives designed to improve the "employee experience." Of critical concern is strengthening employees’ connection to the mission, values, and strategies of the organization.

However, there’s a problem. The shift to remote, hybrid, and mixed-attendance workplaces has raised the bar for what employees are looking for from their organization. A recent global study by McKinsey & Company indicates that, across the board, employees want and expect more flexibility in their work hours, whether working remote or on-premise. They want to spend more time on meaningful work and less time participating in programs and initiatives that don’t have a clear purpose and personal benefit.

For sure, employees still want to be valued, listened to, and recognized by managers. But, in the new workplace, this research suggests traditional employee engagement methods such as surveys, feedback and listening sessions, town halls, suggestions systems, and the like may no longer be enough to strengthen employee connections to their organizations. The result is diminished willingness by employees to go the extra mile when required.      

How can leaders close this emerging employee engagement gap? In our experience, it’s no more complicated than leaders making a renewed effort to engage employees in their “agenda.” This requires translating strategic priorities into opportunities where employee ideas can make a real difference. It also requires rediscovering what real employee engagement has always been about: Valuing the potential in employee ideas for improving performance and being willing to empower employees to put their ideas into action. 

Engaging employees by trusting the wisdom of their ideas is not a new strategy. But it can be a big leap of faith for some leaders, particularly in times of uncertainty. How can leaders find the intersection between what the organization needs to accomplish and where employees can add value and find additional meaning for their efforts? Here are four simple criteria for making the connection:

1.      Can employee ideas improve results on this key objective?

2.      Will employee engagement speed implementation?

3.      Will employees be motivated to work on this objective?

4.      Are all leaders onboard with empowering employees to put their ideas into action?  

By rediscovering the foundations of employee engagement (along with investing in the tools and coaching resources to ensure success), leaders can achieve bigger and faster results, while strengthening their people’s connection to the organization.

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