In the HR realm, employee engagement is often a top priority along with productivity, finance management, and recruiting. But what does high employee engagement look like in today’s world? Why does it matter? Who plays a role in engagement? Does engagement look different for each generation? And finally, how has the pandemic affected employee engagement?
These questions are top-of-mind for HR professionals, especially as we begin to navigate the “new normal” and post-COVID recovery. Before we dive into the ins and outs of employee engagement, here are a few important stats to know:
Though 71% of business executives state that employee engagement is crucial to a company’s success, the reality in the stats is that the majority of employees, both remote and in-person, feel unengaged — and this has only been exacerbated by the circumstances of the pandemic.
And, as the stats above show, generational differences impact employee engagement as well. For instance, even though Millennials make up the large majority of the workforce, they are the least engaged generation. This, among many other issues, is driving the push for better overall employee engagement in the workforce.
With the large scale shift to remote work here to stay, HR plays a key role in remote employee engagement. This guide covers everything from basic definitions to engagement automation tips so that you can not only keep employees happy, but also spend more time on higher value HR tasks.
Employee engagement is exactly what it sounds like — the degree to which employees engage, feel passionate about, feel valued, and are committed to their organization. More specifically, remote employee engagement refers to the extent in which remote employees/off-site employees feel engaged with the team, their work, and the business. With work-from-home here to stay, remote workers often feel less engaged and connected with the company, which can negatively impact overall productivity levels and business performance.
There’s no exact science to measuring employee engagement, as it looks different for different companies, different industries, and different people. However, a good way to gauge engagement levels remotely is by simply communicating with employees on their work, their passion levels, their career goals, and any concerns they may have in the workplace.
Remote employees who are engaged tend to:
HR is often tasked with employee engagement as a whole, but it’s important to understand that each and every member of the organization plays a different role in keeping a remote workforce engaged.
HR plays a role in every step of remote employee engagement, from creating and putting an engagement strategy into action, to using tools to track progress and personally reaching out to employees to gauge the success of initiatives.
HR is responsible for:
Leadership sets an example for the entire organization’s culture, tone, and attitude towards remote employee engagement. If employees understand how important remote engagement is to senior leaders, they’re more likely to follow suit or speak up if they don’t feel heard.
Senior leaders are responsible for:
Managers have similar responsibilities in comparison to senior leaders, with the exception of one key difference — employee relationships. Because department managers and mid-level leaders work daily with team members, they serve as a trustworthy advisor, often with the “inside scoop”.
Managers are responsible for:
To improve employee engagement in a remote setting, it’s important to go straight to the source. Employees aren’t only your most valuable asset, but they also provide valuable insights on what’s working and what isn’t working within your initiatives.
Employees are responsible for:
Now that we know employee engagement is a true team effort, let’s cover why it’s important to dedicate time and resources to these initiatives.
A Gallup survey shows that highly engaged employees are less likely to be obese, struggle with chronic diseases, and more likely to live a healthier lifestyle (exercise and food). This is because workplaces with strong engagement initiatives in place typically respect employee health needs, including:
When employees are not engaged, challenged, or utilizing their strengths in their roles, they are more likely to leave their current role. Engaged remote employees see a future at their company, and feel their personal needs are being met or heard.
With Millennials occupying the majority of the workforce, retention is even more crucial. This is because 6 in 10 Millennials are open to new job opportunities at any given time, and 21% of Millennials have changed jobs within the past year, which is a whopping 3x the number of non-Millennials surveyed. If engaged, though, millennials that align with your company culture will stay even longer than other generations. They’re also 59x more likely to recommend your organization to peers — so the satisfaction of Millennials will actually help build brand awareness and market your company.
Highly engaged workplaces see nearly 41% less absenteeism within their workforce — likely because employees that understand and support the company mission are excited to come to work every day. This doesn’t mean that highly engaged employees don’t need breaks, but rather that employees with patterns of absenteeism may be struggling in their role.
Even with a people-first strategy, productivity is still a key metric that companies use to measure success. Employee engagement is a crucial piece of productivity, and research even shows that highly engaged employees are 17% more productive than their colleagues.
Additionally, Millennial workers, the largest generation in the US workforce, are the most tech-savvy workers in organizations. Thus, every organization and engagement program should feel the pressure to engage this specific generation (among all of the others) in order to ensure maximum workplace productivity.
Engaged employees not only ask questions and reach out when they need support in projects, but they also provide innovative solutions and ideas for the business.
Because satisfied employees are more productive and offer stronger customer service, there is a direct correlation with company sales. Organizations that are highly engaged record nearly 20% more sales than organizations with unengaged team members. So, investing time and money in your employees to make sure they feel connected, appreciated, and engaged, will literally pay off in the long run.
To fully empathize and understand your employees’ needs, it’s extremely important to recognize that employees of different generations may need different things. With up to 5 generations working alongside each other, let’s talk about the unique generational needs that HR needs to be well versed on.
Though the large majority of The Silent Generation is retired, of the 20 million adults in this population, they still make up 1% of the workforce. To engage these team members with extensive knowledge and life experiences:
With a greater percentage of older adults (65+) participating in the workforce than ever before, Baby Boomers are an extremely valuable and important generation to engage. To better engage the Baby Boomer generation in the workforce, make sure to:
The middle child of the generations, Gen X employees are integral parts of our work teams. This workforce prioritizes autonomy, resourcefulness, and self-reliance. As an HR manager, make sure to:
As the fastest growing generation in the current workforce, keeping Millennials engaged should be top-of-mind. Here are a few ways to specifically attract and retain Millennials in the workplace.
As Generation Z begins to join the workforce, it’s important to note how this generation differs compared to the ones before. Make sure to:
Though remote employee engagement follows many of the same trends as in-office employee engagement, here are a few trends that are here to stay with the shift to work-from-home.
Improving company culture towards a people-first approach is crucial in the coming years. When your entire workforce is scattered across the state, the country, or even the world, ensuring that your remote team members feel cared for and respected by leadership and their own peers is a path that all organizations must take to stay competitive.
With the lines between home and office becoming blurred in a remote environment, organizations are becoming more cautious about setting boundaries and flexible policies around work-life balance. Employers will need to take on additional initiatives to encourage employees to log off when they need to, and set boundaries between their home office and their home life.
In order to stay on top of remote employee engagement trends, we expect to see more and more digital tools and cloud technology to support daily functions — from HR software for HR managers to online communication tools, paper is becoming obsolete.
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging have become an increasingly larger focus for HR. When remote employees feel included, regardless of their background or characteristics, they tend to be more engaged with the business, and in turn positively contribute to business profitability, team morale, and retention. Within DEIB initiatives, we expect to see a larger focus on gender equality and women empowerment in the remote sphere, including issues around how to stop women from leaving the workforce, and how to better support working parents.
Understanding and facilitating career growth among remote employees will be a major focus for businesses in years to come. Career progression is positively correlated with high employee engagement — businesses that listen, support, and offer a clear path for advancement are more likely to retain Millennials, Gen Xers and Gen Zers.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought major changes to the standard work setting, and many organizations don’t plan on going back into the office. Remote onboarding with an HRIS can set the stage for employee engagement by empowering new hires from day 1. Here are a few best practices that will aid in online onboarding:
Remote employee engagement doesn’t begin months later — in fact, it begins before an employee even begins their first day. The impression you leave on them throughout their onboarding process gives them an idea of how to stay engaged from day 1.
With the right tactics, it can be easy and rewarding to boost remote engagement levels with creative activities.
Strong mental health is a key component in nurturing employee engagement. With 40% of U.S. adults struggling with mental health as of June 2020, HR plays a major role in supporting employee wellbeing. Here are a few ways to support positive mental health practices for stronger engagement.
Mental health is an often overlooked factor that plays a major role in employee engagement, and it’s more important than ever to evaluate your team’s overall efforts around mental health and breaking stigmas.
Surveys show that loneliness has become a growing concern for the remote employee experience. To continue to foster social connections and let employees know they’re being heard, implement tools for easier interactions, including:
These platforms give employees the power to communicate freely, plan tasks accordingly, and review any documents relevant to their role.
Though we’ve covered a number of ways you can show support for employees, it’s equally important to listen to what employees have to say. Ask employees for feedback on their onboarding experience, their day-to-day, and consider doing so anonymously for employee privacy. Take notes on how to improve the virtual experience, and fill any gaps where employees don’t feel supported.
From these learnings, consider offering additional online training, reimbursing employees for home-office related items, streamlining HR processes, and keeping your policy handbooks up-to-date so your team is constantly in the loop. Pulse survey and employee feedback tools like OfficeVibe, TINYPulse, and 15Five can help employers build great company culture while constantly monitoring employee sentiment.
Your team has likely faced changes in both their personal and professional lives within the past year. It’s important to acknowledge these changes, and establish realistic, attainable goals and expectations. On the personal side, make sure you understand what drives employees, and identify common themes in what your employees are saying. Modify your organizational practices for employee morale around these themes.
On the work/performance side, having a streamlined performance management process helps employees create and follow a clear process to achieve goals and greatness (no guesswork). Standardizing and automating performance review workflows can help you empower your employees with:
Just as you value employee feedback when improving your engagement initiatives, your employees need feedback to feel valued and recognized. The success of your organization ties directly back to the efforts of your team members. Remember to offer positive feedback on what your employees are doing well on, and remind them of the role they play in the company’s goals. Effective employee recognition programs increase the percentage of highly engaged employees within your company.
Especially in the age of remote work, it’s hard to think of physical items or gifts that can express recognition or appreciation for employees. For holidays or simply just because, give your employees gifts that appeal to a diverse set of interests and demonstrate genuine appreciation for your employees’ dedication. You want them to truly feel valued — and sometimes, a stress ball or a keychain just won’t do the job.
We recommend creating a customized holiday gift catalog like we did here at GoCo, which:
The gift catalog included hand-picked items and options of all different themes to cater to our diverse team members.
A surefire way to ensure that your most valuable assets feel valued is to dedicate a day to appreciate them. The key to executing a successful employee appreciation event for a remote workforce is to plan ahead, and take into account any delays you may encounter. A few key components we included in our appreciation event were:
Now that you know some of the best practices for remote employee engagement, you may be wondering: Where do I begin? How can I manage all of these initiatives on my own? With an automated HRIS, you don’t have to take on all of the responsibilities on your own. From better feedback to leadership development, here’s how an HR software like GoCo can help automate employee engagement tasks.
If there’s one thing you’ve taken away from this guide, it’s that remote employee engagement is more than just a pat on the back or a team building exercise. For businesses and HR managers to successfully improve on remote employee engagement, the entire organization needs to be involved. From flexible work policies to supporting career growth, you can see just how important a great employee engagement program can be. With happier, more engaged employees, your business also becomes more profitable, productive, and communicative. The cherry on top is that you don’t have to manually do all of these tasks on your own.
If you’re ready to take your remote employee engagement initiative to the next level, GoCo’s all-in-one HR platform can streamline a handful of these processes, from a great first day experience to detailed performance reviews. By automating operational tasks around employee engagement with workflows, you can focus on creating that people-first and inclusive culture you desire. Take a free tour today.