The easy thing to do, as we look forward to the year ahead, would be come up with a label. Something snappy. Maybe like, “The Year of Employee Engagement.”
That certainly would be a worthy sentiment. Analyst firm Forrester has already predicted that the employee experience will move to center stage in 2019. But if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, doesn’t every company always proclaim to take employee engagement seriously? Especially when we’re all preparing New Year’s resolutions?
Unfortunately, there’s often a gap between words and deeds, intentions and reality.
So, with that in mind, let me offer a more realistic vision of what will be in store for 2019 – one that’s not quite as pithy. It’s the year that companies will make employee engagement a priority or else suffer the financial consequences.
Employees now hold the upper hand.
Unemployment is hovering at the lowest levels in decades. There are more than seven million unfilled job openings. Employees are quitting their jobs at the fastest clip since 2001. Workers have begun “ghosting” their employers like they’re bad romantic relationships.
Employees today also have elevated expectations for companies when it comes to how they want to be treated in the workplace. If employers don’t meet those expectations, people can quickly find other companies that will. That helps explains the emphasis on job perks meant to keep workers happy. (Catered lunches and so on.) But that’s not what employees crave most. They want their companies to truly connect with them in ways that make them feel like they’re valued, heard, and have a sense of purpose.
Don’t just take my word for it.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal featured a fascinating story, “Why Perks No Longer Cut It for Employees.” The story cited the work of Jim Harter, who oversees Gallup’s annual employee engagement survey. Companies that rank in the top 10 percent in engaging employees posted profit gains of 26 percent through the last recession, compared with a 14-percent decline at comparable employers.
Here was the Journal’s take-home message: “What will distinguish the most profitable companies from the rest in the coming year won’t be whether they offer foosball or free food. It will be whether leaders foster a workplace culture where employees feel a sense of belonging, like their jobs and trust their managers to help them move on to a better one.”
Another article on Entrepreneur.com about the ways employee engagement makes companies more competitive noted a Harvard Business Review study that discovered more than 70 percent of business owners believe engaging the workforce has directly driven greater company success.
Finally, Forbes Insights and the SilkRoad talent management firm just co-published research that reinforces why it’s good business to create a good work culture for employees. A survey of 212 U.S.-based CFOs found:
- The primary cause of turnover is poor employee engagement, and only four in 10 CFOs believe that 75 percent or more of their workforce is truly engaged.
- Turnover accounts for 25 to 50 percent of labor costs for one in four CFOs, and one in 10 say it’s more than 50 percent
- Productivity is the top benefit of having engaged employees
Now, I have a vested interest here. My company, Dynamic Signal, is the leading Employee Communication and Engagement Platform for enterprises. We enable organizations to connect with their people – anywhere, anytime, and on the devices they prefer. We see the magic that happens when employers connect, engage and activate their entire workforce – not just the people at desks.
But doesn’t it just make sense (not to mention dollars and cents) that employees will be more motivated and productive when they understand their role in the organization, where the company is going and how their work is important?
When you know you matter, you’re more likely to stay and contribute to success. On the flip side, Gallup research is clear that poor employee engagement can cripple productivity because talented workers are the quickest to leave when they are disengaged, the most expensive to replace, and may take other high performers with them out the door.
The challenge that organizations face is that it’s not easy reaching everyone – especially at big companies.
You see, there are two distinct groups in every company when it comes to communication and engagement: those who are drowning and those experiencing a drought. The people working in offices often can be sinking in a sea of information as they’re overwhelmed by endless pings, alerts, and emails. But employees who typically don’t sit in front of computers are cut off from that communication stream because there’s no way digitally to reach them.
When there’s a balance, though, everyone has what they need to do their jobs and know what’s going on in the company. The best organizations realize that communication is the foundation of employee engagement. And in turn, employee engagement sets the stage for great customer experiences. It builds trust, alignment, and makes everyone feel more invested in their jobs, products, and companies.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to solve that challenge.
So, rather than put a label on the new year, let’s just agree that building employee engagement is simply the way of the world now. Companies either get it, or they don’t. And the businesses that do will see the most success in 2019 while the others will decline.