This Year in Employee Engagement: 2016 Trends to Watch

March 7, 2016 Jiordan Castle

Year in Employee Engagement

2016 is the Chinese Year of the Monkey, characterized by ambition, playfulness, adventure, and intellect. The same could be said for this year’s HR and Worker Experience trends, many of which hinge on one overarching theme: employee engagement. Last May, Fortune reported that a record 86 percent of employees were happy with their jobs — the highest percentage in over a decade. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employees felt respected, trusted senior management, got along with their bosses, and felt motivated at work. But in a survey by that reported similar positive findings, 73 percent of employees polled also said that they were “thinking about another job”; 43 percent even said they were more likely to consider a new job than they were a year earlier.

While there are several factors for the uptick in employee happiness and attrition, the following predictions about the year ahead shed light on 3 things: what employees want, why they leave, and what you can do to get them to stick around.

Employee engagement will become a key HR objective

Engaged, empowered workers don’t just make for more productive workers; they deliver a better Customer Experience. In the report “Measuring Employee Engagement: Past, Present, Future,” Gartner analysts predict that “by 2020, 20 percent of organizations will include employee engagement improvement as a shared performance objective for HR and IT groups.” To that end, engagement is no longer a happy hour hobby or distraction to keep people from leaving; it needs to become part of your company’s DNA in order to retain existing talent, boost productivity and morale, and attract forward-thinkers with new ideas.

Gamification will drive corporate goals and planning

At its core, gamification is the use of gaming components to accelerate or enhance things that aren’t games (like your job, unless your job is playing video games… in which case, stop reading now and tell me how the next Zelda game is). Gamification isn’t an entirely new idea to more progressive companies, but in 2016, it will become an essential part of a healthy company culture. Gal Rimon, CEO and founder of GamEffective says, “We’ve seen a lot of interest in gamification in the past year, from companies looking to drive performance and motivation to others recognizing the strength of gamification when it comes to e-learning and onboarding… Enterprise gamification can drive the communication of corporate goals and objectives, show objectives and key results to employees, track performance in real time and coach it.” Whether your company uses gamification to get employee feedback or track activities, gamification itself is primed to take its place in the arsenal of corporate engagement tools.

The despised annual performance review will finally die

I’m not sure if anyone out there appreciates, believes in, or — horror of horrors — actually enjoys year-end performance reviews, but for the vast majority of us who don’t, there’s light at the end of the haunted house-like tunnel; 2016 looks to kill off the annual performance review. It seems that most companies are starting to take employee feedback to heart — most of which says that annual performance reviews are ineffective, inaccurate, and at worst, insulting (a more diplomatic way to put it might be… “surprising”). Kris Duggan, CEO of BetterWorks, sums it up perfectly: “It’s like FitBit sending you your step count once a year. Nobody’s behavior changes.”

According to CEB, a firm that advises corporations on best practices, 46 percent of companies have said that they plan to make a significant change to their review process this year. Many companies have decided to replace annual performance reviews with monthly, bi-weekly, or as-needed conversations between managers and their direct reports. Some will even get rid of all ratings, rankings, and scores, making work more like a playing field and less like a warzone for everyone.

Peer-to-peer recognition will increase

Just as some companies have already made gamification part of their corporate culture, many have also implemented some kind of tool for peer-to-peer recognition, like Salesforce Chatter. Social tools make for a better Worker Experience and empower employees to support their peers, making your workforce feel more valued and respected. In especially large companies, it’s natural for (good) teammates to become cheerleaders for their peers, urging them forward when senior management may be uninterested or unable to do so on a regular basis.

A new attrition risk will emerge: low-commitment employees

The fact is that not everyone in your organization will give 110 percent, and you can’t only cater to the people who do. Employees who are neither very engaged nor extremely disengaged will be the first to go in 2016. The job market is not as barren as it was a few years ago, and employees are taking advantage of new opportunities as they arise. There are several motivators in play when employees decide to leave an organization: the opportunity to take on new challenges, more money, a disconnect from their current company’s vision and/or senior management, no upward mobility, and a simple lack of fun at work. Any combination of these 5 can cause an employee to leave, and it’s up to you, the managers in your organization, and HR to maintain an open dialogue with employees and provide them with the things they want most: opportunities for further engagement — mentally, financially, and socially.

To find out more about empowering and engaging your workforce, visit us at the Appirio Worker Experience Tour — coming to a city near you. And get more actionable insights and learn to boost productivity and morale across your organization from our ebook, The Future of Employee Engagement.


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