Four Major Employee Engagement Trends for 2021

Across all industries, the pandemic has changed employees’ lives.

The past year has been one for the history books: a global pandemic has disrupted work as we knew it, and a move to remote work has affected companies large and small. No corner of the globe has been spared from upheaval.

Workers suffer increasing anxieties as they balance working from home and keeping up with their responsibilities.

As a result, employees’ priorities have altered, too, making it especially critical to pay attention toemployee engagement to ensure a productive workforce.

The level of employee engagement directly correlates to a company’s profitability. Engaged employees are more productive, satisfied and do not leave the company.

What has changed in the past year? We look at four major employee engagement trends in 2021.

1. Employees value flexibility

Remote work

One of the biggest employee engagement trends in 2021 is the emphasis on flexible work arrangements: Remote work is here to stay. Whether your employees are in the office next door, or half a continent away, companies need to adapt, adjust, and accelerate to meet their needs.

Gartner survey of company leaders found that 80% plan to allow employees to do remote work at least part of the time after the pandemic and 47% will enable employees to work from home full-time. In a PwC survey of 669 CEOs, 78% agree that remote collaboration is here to stay for the long-term.

Companies like Google and Facebook allow employees to work from home until June 2021 and July 2021, respectively.

In addition to Facebook, Google, and Twitter, many prominent companies have offered their workers the option of remote work forever—or for an extended period. These companies range from a wide variety of sectors, including Coinbase, Lambda School, Shopify, Square, Upwork, Amazon, Box, Salesforce, Zillow, PayPal and Viacom, and several others, Forbes reported.

Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics estimates, “Twenty-five to thirty percent of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.”

Seventy-seven percent of the workforce say they want to continue to work from home, at least weekly, when the pandemic is over.

Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics

According to research by FlexJobs, 75% of workers said they experience greater productivity at home. They said they encounter fewer distractions (74%), less stress from commuting (71%), and fewer office politics (65%).

The consensus seems that the widespread availability and ease of use of technologies to collaborate and stay in constant contact, such as ZoomSlack, Google Hangouts, and other services, enabled people to adapt to the new work-from-home setup smoothly. 

Yet remote work places challenges on employee engagement. More than ever, communication is essential so that all workers receive the right information about organizational policies and respond in kind.

Also, make sure that your employees have the right expectations about their remote work. Are you clear about how many hours you expect employees to work each day?

You also need to ensure that remote workers feel a part of their team; the importance of video calls and Zoom as mentioned.

If your remote workers hit their goals with their schedules and output, reward them.

Shifting employee priorities

According to a Ketchum study, almost two-thirds of American workers (63%) say that the pandemic has prompted them to dramatically reevaluate their professional priorities.

The study found that traditional engagement topics such as career development take a back seat to new issues. According to their research, more than half of workers (52%) now say that feeling safe at work is more important than being promoted. At the same time, 79% say that employer values are more important to them than before the pandemic.

If you recognize your workforce’s priorities, you can tailor communication to them in a personal way, whether via videos or digitized information, that will be memorable and helpful.

Employees first

Now is the time for your company to employ a “people-first” culture, one that shows appreciation for employees and recognizes achievement company-wide.  Elevate the “human” in human resources, and acknowledge that remote workers, based out of their home offices, may have needs that were not apparent when working out of headquarters. Make sure that your employees feel connected even though they work from home. Recognize their good work and the extra effort they make.  Whether you allocate a home office budget to remote workers or schedule a weekly video conference for your team, be aware that you need to adapt to the new reality. (Both Google and Facebook are allocating a $1000 budget to employees for their home office needs.)

Diversity and inclusion

Just because fewer employees are working out of the headquarters, or regional locations, does not mean that your company can diminish its emphasis on providing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. If you have a diverse, fair, and just culture, you will have an innovative and engaged workforce.

Read more about how to diversify your international workforce at What is Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)?

Brand ambassadors

A well-educated workforce with direct knowledge of your brand’s benefits can serve as your ambassador.  Give these employees a chance to shine whether they are promoting your brand via social media, YouTube, or other channels. If they are well-informed about the company and new developments and products, these motivated employees can broadcast your brand’s value.

Opportunities

Many employees working from home need to overcome obstacles to keep up with their daily output: whether it is distractions from the realities of home life (children, spouses); or the lack of interaction with professional colleagues.  Recognize that employees who have overcome these difficulties gracefully show the grit and determination that you want on your team.  Look for chances to advance them and lead others with the same positive attitude.

2. Smart utilization of resources

No list of employee engagement trends for 2021 could deny the influence of tech tools. Employee engagement has been affected by the utilization of technological advances, and some are now a part of the daily landscape of HR departments.

Cloud technology

Cloud Technology is here to stay.  A 2018 PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) study found that 75 percent of surveyed companies now have at least one HR person in the cloud.

Forty percent have core HR systems like an HR management system there, said Dan Staley, a global technology leader with PwC. Another 26 percent of respondents said they planned to move a core system to the cloud in the next one to three years. PWC determined that cloud technology is now advanced enough to handle large payroll systems and other HR functions, and companies are taking advantage of this development.

If your company wants to keep up with the competition using smart technology like the cloud, then it, too, must adapt to these changes.

AI and Machine Learning

Another technological advancement that affects employee engagement is the accelerating AI application to workforce data.  Cristina Goldt, vice president of HCM products at Workday, said AI would enable more straightforward navigation of learning and development options and easier execution of tasks like onboarding, benefits selection, and IT service ticketing.

Machine learning and AI will represent more opportunities for employee engagement in 2021. These advances will enable HR departments to make more analytics-driven decisions

ML can help drive employee performance to map employees’ career paths and set them up for career progression, guiding opportunities that others in similar positions may have taken to move up in the company.

ML can also evaluate performance data without any personal bias for the candidate, often challenging for a supervisor.

With the influx of AI and ML in the workplace, these technologies can boost communication in the workplace, directly affecting employee engagement.

Machine learning is helping many companies see a good return on their investment and, among other things, help them understand the drivers of employee productivity.

3. Employee health and wellness

It is not surprising that employees are placing an increased emphasis on staying healthy. The is one of the employee engagement trends that has been steadily on the increase. 

Companies that have wellness programs to promote employees’ good health find that it has a direct impact on employee engagement and productivity.

survey by Virgin Pulse found that 85% of companies say wellness programs support employee engagement. Approximately 42% of the survey respondents reported that their top reason for implementing a wellness program was to improve employee engagement.

Along with employee engagement, respondents also reported that wellness programs positively affected recruitment, retention, and overall company culture.

Workplace wellness programs are known to build stronger relationships among employees and cut down on feelings of isolation or loneliness.

When employees are encouraged to eat healthy foods, avoid fast foods, get enough sleep and exercise, the promotion of these good habits has a direct

effect on their wellbeing and productivity.

Mental health

It is a scientific fact that increased exercise improves mental health and attitudes. Having an exercise program at the workplace, whether done via Zoom or in person, can aid employees who suffer from stress, burnout, and anxiety.

Remote workers can suffer from isolation and communication problems. A focus on mental health at your company should provide the necessary steps to create a healthy work environment and alleviate stress triggers.

Many experts advise HR departments to promote a culture of wellness within the organization, which will not only boost employee physical and mental health and positively affect morale.

4. Employee engagement trends to wards evaluation of employee experience. 

Employee surveys are useful tools during the pandemic. Companies should get honest and regular feedback from employees to measure engagement and find out if workers are thriving.

Organizations spend around  $720 million per year to measure employee engagement. According to Gallup, only 36% of the workplace is engaged, and 64% are either miserable or merely going through the motions. Experts recommend evaluating employees’ motivation and feeling of security in addition to monitoring their performance, as companies seek to increase engagement.

In Business Solver’s 2020 State of the Workplace Empathy study, 78% of employees would work longer hours for an employer who they thought was empathetic.  Additionally, another survey found that employees are four times more likely to feel engaged and six times more likely to have a positive sense of wellbeing when they think their employer cares about them.

Your company can promote employee engagement by focusing on empathetic communication. You want to demonstrate that diversity and inclusion are essential, and you want to make a personal connection. Tell employees that you care about them. Be creative and know your population. Then speak to them directly. You will see the results by an increase in productivity and performance.

About New Horizons Global Partners

New Horizons Global Partners specializes in the strategic international recruitment of high-level talent to drive your international expansion. Our global headhunters will identify and match your organization to exceptional talent across any industry vertical.

New Horizons stays on top of major employee engagement trends to support you tor recruit and retain the best employees in each location where you operate.  

Request a Proposal