What do employees now expect from the organisations they work for?
Gallup research shows that 79% of business and HR leaders believe they have a significant retention and engagement problem, with 75% struggling to attract and retain the top people they need . Why is this? Simply put, today’s employees demand more from their organisation than just a job – they expect an experience. Employees expect organisations to provide them with work that is both meaningful and rewarding. Studies show nearly 26% of the US workforce are planning to change jobs this year, and it will be the most highly skilled and motivated people who achieve their aim. We are in an era when employees expect organisations to be engaging and gratifying workplaces. With the economic upturn enabling job mobility, organisations cannot avoid investing in employee engagement, because if they don’t then employees will leave and find an organisation that does.
What is the future of employee engagement?
The role of the immediate (line) manager is more critical than ever, and their importance will only increase. Winning managers provide context, facilitate continual improvement, celebrate success, demonstrate emotional intelligence, enable collaboration between teams, invest in team development, create critical relationships, champion pertinent communication, measure progress and translate the strategic framework with their team. Through all these actions they engender trust, connection and commitment. As Richard Crouch states in the CIPD report: The Future of Engagement, the focus will be on working towards the community of the company and this is dependent on the uniform capabilities of immediate managers organisation-wide.
How can employers unlock potential?
Consistent 2-way communication is key to finding out what enables and motivates employees’ performance, and to making the vital transition towards high-engagement, high-performance cultures. Potential will be unlocked by capable immediate managers working on setting up their teams for success – creating employees who understand their purpose; are confident in their own strengths; receive recognition for their achievements. It is crucial to make sure that employees are aware of what is going on in the company at all levels to eliminate the feeling of being a small cog in a large machine; in high-performing cultures employees see the alignment of their actions to the overall achievements of the organisation.
What are the barriers to employee engagement?
Individuals cannot be held to blame for not being engaged. Organisational leaders are accountable for diagnosing the causes of disengagement, and devising the strategies which will build employee alignment and empowerment. Below is a list of the 5 reasons why employee engagement will not come to fruition within an organisation (and frequently the obstacles to success are the behaviours of organisational leaders).
- Leaders are not aware of employee engagement or do not believe it an issue worth considering.
- Leaders are interested in encouraging employee engagement, but do not have the tools to address the issue.
- Top level managers place an emphasis on engagement, but if their immediate managers do not share this belief, or do not have the proper tools, then an engagement strategy cannot delivered to the employees. 
- Organisations perceive employee engagement to be an HR issue, rather than a business issue, so no action is taken by leaders.
- Employees’ take-up of involvement initiatives are not strongly encouraged, particularly at lower levels of the organisation, so leaders are unaware of the changes which need to be made to engage their employees. 
What happens when employers do not focus on engagement?
The flat-lining productivity of UK plc is consistently in the headlines, and is the reason that the Engage For Success Report was equally supported by both Labour and Coalition governments. In today’s society if an employee feels undervalued and neglected, they are only a click away from discovering a new job that may provide them the support and motivation they seek (or at least seem to). According to the HRMagazine, 58% of British workers do not feel thanked enough for their work and due to this 41% of these workers say they are demotivated. Such organisational basics are fundamental to employee productivity in a knowledge economy, and for our productivity to grow organisations should look at the engagement of their employees as much as launching an initiative on Lean or Six Sigma. A focus on employee engagement is as much a business basic as consumer insight and partner management, and therefore sustained organisational success is dependent on your employee engagement strategy.