Top 3 Employee Engagement Trends to Watch in the 2020s

By: on January 27, 2020

The erosion of the concept of having a “job for life” has arguably had the most significant impact on employee engagement trends. This has shifted the idea of engagement from a matter of how committed employees are to their jobs, to one of how much they’re getting out of their jobs (otherwise known as the “employee experience”). Today, 87% of employees are not fully satisfied with their experience, according to Gartner. So, what do the 2020s have in store for employee engagement?

Employee engagement in the ‘20s

The 2020s will be all about the “voice of the employee,” according to Gartner. This is the idea that analyzing employees’ social networks and feedback channels can lead to organizations gaining further insight into employee engagement levels (full content available to Gartner clients). But what else will employee engagement look like in the 2020s? Here is what we predict the top three employee engagement trends will be over the next decade:

Trend #1: The employee feedback economy will grow even stronger

Back in October 2018, Microsoft-LinkedIn acquired survey company Glint for over $400 million to bolster employee engagement. On the heels of this announcement, SAP acquired employee experience management platform Qualtrics for $8 billion in November 2018. The reason for these acquisitions was to help organizations to collect feedback from both customers and employees to be fed back into enterprise systems to drive data-based actions.

The last few years have seen a rapid expansion in the intelligence and capabilities of employee survey and feedback platforms. Many have text and sentiment analysis functionality, and some have even begun to develop “nudge-engines.” These engines use engagement data to give both employees and managers personalized “nudges” via text, email, or in-app notifications to urge them to complete an engagement-based action. These could be reminders for managers to build recognition habits into their schedules, or reminders for an employee to schedule a development chat with their manager.

sap qualtrics employee enagagement solution screenshot

SAP Qualtrics’ employee engagement solution pinpoints engagement and productivity drivers (Source).

What this means for businesses in the 2020s

The fact that big players in this market are investing in engagement and feedback technology signals that the employee survey is far from dead. In fact, organizations will look to gather even more employee feedback on engagement in real time. They can then build this data into existing HR systems to empower leaders to make data-driven decisions.

Trend #2: A laser focus on preventing employee burnout

Earlier this year, we ran a report on how much people value wellness programs and found that almost 40% of job seekers are turning down offers from companies that don’t offer employees wellness programs. In a war for talent, this shows just how important it is for organizations to invest in initiatives that contribute to a more holistic sense of job satisfaction.

However, earlier this year, employee burnout was officially recognized by the World Health Organization as an “occupational phenomenon“, while two out of three full time employees admit that they always or often feel burned out. Burnout has also been linked to strains on mental health.

While organizations have already begun to address the burnout epidemic, the early 2020s will be focused on initiatives that can prevent employees from getting to the point of becoming burned out. A study by Aetna found that only 25% of employees feel that their organization is providing enough mental health support. Burnout prevention initiatives could well be baked into employee performance plans, including giving employees more control over their goals and having a larger focus on burnout embedded into employee engagement surveys.

What this means for businesses in the 2020s

Over the next few years, HR leaders will work closely with managers to help develop programs and policies designed to prevent and alleviate employee burnout. They will also offer employee wellness programs that include mental health-related benefits.

Trend #3: Agile learning will become the norm

Over 80% of employees want lifelong learning, yet half say that their employers aren’t providing them opportunities to upskill. For a long time, organizations have been providing employees learning experiences via learning management systems (LMS), but using this method alone to upskill your workforce won’t cut it in the 2020s. Using a one-size-fits-all learning solution to meet the needs of all of your employees leads to low course uptake and frustrated learners.

Gartner predicts that by 2023, 70% of organizations that purchase an LMS as part of a human capital management suite “will be forced to purchase an additional learning experience platform” (full content available to clients). Learning experience platforms have been likened to Netflix, insofar that employees are offered a portal of learning content that they can choose from, without waiting for their manager to assign them modules.

In the past, LMS was created as a management tool for leaders, focusing on mandatory training and compliance modules that many learners feel don’t add value to their learning and career growth path. In the 2020s, learning solution vendors will make large inroads into making agile solutions that can cater to a much wider range of users and user preferences, including intuitive course personalization.

What this means for businesses in the 2020s

Employees have shown their cards—they’re more than happy to job-hop if they feel that their development and skills training is subpar. Organizations will be forced to invest in more agile forms of learning and development. This will include allowing employees to steer their own development path via new learning platforms and external content that suits their needs.

Additionally, rather than hiring for skills alone, organizations will begin to hire for behaviors. This is because the onboarding, training, and development of employees via more robust and agile learning platforms will be much more capable of upskilling individuals that may not initially have all the necessary skills for the job.

Psst…What about artificial intelligence within employee engagement?

Artificial intelligence (AI) already has a presence in many employee engagement initiatives, but we think this is just the tip of the iceberg. From gathering real-time employee feedback, HR chatbots, and performance management processes, AI already has a seat at the table when it comes to employee engagement.

What we can expect to see more of in the future are more HR platforms offering sentiment-analysis functionality. This function can analyze large amounts of unstructured employee data, such as text drawn from communication within collaboration tools, in order to glean insight into levels of engagement and inform future engagement initiatives.

How to prepare for future employee engagement initiatives

High levels of employee engagement are paramount to retaining top talent. But there will never be one method or system that will solve engagement issues for each and every organization. The types of engagement initiatives you take on should always reflect the type of industry and workforce you have.

As a basic rule, understanding employee engagement starts with listening to your workforce, and measuring employee engagement levels. For further reading on employee engagement, here’s a list of research that will help you and your organization plan for future engagement initiatives:

You can also start to compare employee engagement software on Software Advice and get information on features and pricing. Our expert advisors are standing by to help and with a fast and free consultation, can provide you with a short list of systems that will be the best fit for your business. Schedule a call here at your convenience.

Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.

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