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5 Employee Recognition, Engagement, and Experience Trends to Act on Now

There are always new employee engagement trends that seem worthy of implementing in the workplace. The challenge is determining which ones truly have staying power.

You want to put time and effort towards the trends that will not only make a significant impact on your organization today, but create positive change in the future. Here are the five leading trends we are seeing now that will still be relevant for organizations in the years to come.

Trend #1 — Defining the Employee Experience

Employee experience has been a buzzword, but most definitions use words like culture and the physical, everyday experience of work. For us, employees are the foundation of culture, which is shaped and evolved through everyday workplace experiences. There’s a symbiotic relationship between the experience at work and the culture of your organization.

To ensure that your overall employee experience is reflective of your company’s culture, take time to evaluate your organization’s mission and values to find opportunities to create a consistent experience based around this.

Also, consider what your employees may personally value, such as a work/life balance or flexibility within their work schedule.

Flexibility is a priority for many people. A 2019 Staples Workplace Survey finds that 9 in 10 employees say allowing for more flexible work arrangements and schedules increase employee morale, and 67 percent of them would consider leaving their job if it was less flexible.

#1 Action item: Ask yourself how you can embed more flexibility and consistency into your workplace experience. Consider creating a document of principles for flexibility. Perhaps you believe that one day a week or month your team can work from home or at their favorite coffee shop. You could include a morning check-in on that day to get in sync, and then let your team work when and how they prefer. Track their performance over a given period to serve as a test case for other teams in your organization.

Trend #2 — Inclusion and Culture

Diversity and inclusion continue to play a role in building a positive organizational culture. Creating an inclusive workplace where employees can feel welcome and develop a sense of belonging among their peers boosts morale and encourages productivity. An inclusive environment also allows employees to feel comfortable sharing their perspectives, which can ultimately lead to greater innovation. A Harvard Business Review survey of 1,700 organizations showed that more inclusive companies drove 19 percent higher innovation revenues and 9 percent higher margins.

Inclusion also plays a significant factor when job candidates are vetting potential employers. Research shows that 63 percent of employees wouldn’t accept a job without first knowing that the organization is actively inclusive.

#2 Action item: When thinking about inclusion and how it relates to culture, consider ways to foster commonalities among your workforce. Consider hosting social events that are geared towards general interests, hobbies or team building activities that can bring a diverse set of employees together.

Trend #3 — Recognizing Gen Z

Generation Z (Gen Z) continues their march into the workplace. Like all generations that came before, Gen Z employees have their own set of preferences and context that they bring to their new jobs.

One interesting attribute is that Gen Z prefers to receive consistent feedback on their work and job performance. An EY study found that 97 percent of Gen Z is receptive to receiving feedback on an ongoing basis or after completing a large project, while 63 percent preferred to receive timely, constructive feedback.

#3 Action item: Ensure that feedback is given in a way that is most effective for employees. Since timeliness is the most critical factor that organizations can control, try to set goals for your team of responding to issues or providing feedback within 72 hours, with incentives for achieving 95 percent response rates from managers and employees.

Trend #4 — Meaningful Performance and Feedback Conversations

Employee feedback and performance management is undergoing a transformation process. Gone are the days of employees receiving the bulk of performance feedback during an annual review. Industry analyst Josh Bersin recently wrote that feedback requires action, and action requires a combination of “culture and technology.”

Instead, companies are now incorporating more frequent pulse conversations or are revamping the traditional review processes to include linking performance to business strategy, creating a structure for consistency in feedback and providing any necessary context that can foster improvements.

#4 Action item: Timeliness is one of the most critical factors for successful feedback. It’s also important to create a sense of context and safety for performance conversations, where managers and employees can have frank conversations. One way to start is to solicit criticism and feedback yourself: In her book Radical Candor, author Kim Scott recommends this “go first” mentality to make two-way candid conversations much easier and more open.

Trend #5 — Health and Well-being Is a Significant Priority

Having happy and healthy employees is a priority for many organizations. Employees not only agree, they are doubling down on how they are prioritizing decisions about work.

For example, employees are willing to give up thousands of dollars for better health. Research this year shows that 41 percent of employees would take a 10 percent pay cut for an organization that cares about their wellness.

It’s not just about physical well-being, either. A report showed that 81 percent of workers said that stress has a negative affect on them at work and can even cause them to miss work.

#5 Action item: Is your recognition strategy fully supporting your health and well-being initiatives? If not, you’re likely missing out on opportunities to engage and motivate employees to bring their best selves to work. Consider starting a #walk channel on your workplace communication tool to gather your team together for 10-minute walks around the parking lot.

These five trends are directly affecting organizations. As you consider each one in the context of your business strategy, we recommend identifying areas that you can actively change in the short term, as well as identifying more difficult initiatives to begin a more comprehensive plan in the long term.

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