How to get Engaged in Employee Engagement: Defining Employee Engagement

Today’s business world is changing rapidly.  Companies who want to be successful are being challenged by new measures of success.  As new generations of workers become a more significant part of the workforce, employers are challenged to adapt to what factors motivate employees.

Unemployment numbers have dropped to record lows and employee confidence in the workforce is on the rise.  Employees are much more confident in seeking new employment.  As such, employee retention and recruiting are at the top of the list of business leaders’ concerns.  One of the key factors to consider in this changing environment is employee engagement.

What is employee engagement?  Forbes author, Kevin Kruse, defines employee engagement as follows:  Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.  He goes on to state that employee engagement is not specifically employee happiness,  or satisfaction.  The emotional commitment mentioned in his definition refers to the employee’s and the company’s goals being more closely aligned and the employee is engaged in the company’s success rather than simply working for a paycheck.

While millennials are now the largest segment of the workforce, employers must continue to realize it is still made up of 5 or more generations of employees:  The Silent Generation, Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y (Millenials) and Gen Z (Nexters).  In 2016, according to a Pew poll, Millennials composed 35% of the workforce making it the largest generation in the workforce.  33% are Gen X, 25% are Boomers, while Gen Z and the Silent Generation round out at 6% and 2% respectively.

Each generation has their own expectations of how the workplace should operate and if employers are not prepared to adapt, they will find they are at a disadvantage in regards to employee engagement as the workforce shifts to the newer generations.

The Silent Generation has traditionally been about loyalty and duty.  Many of this generation would spend their entire career at one company.  The Boomers are more about career and self-worth.  They may be more materialistic than the other generations and are more driven by titles and personal success.  They prefer person to person communication, and like the Silent Generation are team oriented.  Gen X is more independent and prefer to solve problems on their own.  They were the first generation to actively use the internet, but likely learned it as young adults.  They focus on results and tend to ask for feedback only when they need it.  Gen Y (millennials) are the first generation to use the Internet from a young age.  They may be seen as over-confident due to overly affirming parents.  They are good at multitasking and typically expect much more feedback and rewards in the workplace than the previous generations.  Work/life balance is more about life than work, and they put an emphasis on corporate social responsibility more than previous generations.  The newest generation, Gen Y, is expected to be more focused on life style than money and career success.  Gen Y is also considered to be more team oriented and prefer face to face communication.  Everything old is new again.

Understanding each generation and their work place goals and motivators are extremely important in developing a focus on employee engagement.  The leading motivators such as title and money are being replaced with lifestyle and continuous feedback.  Employees are becoming less materialistic and more concerned with social responsibility.

With this in mind, the annual review with a pay adjustment may be considered less effective than in years past.  The ability for an employee to receive instant feedback and recognition may ultimately lead to more engagement than previous motivator to improve on an annual review.  Recognition for a job well done is changing.  It is also important to note that an approach heavy on command and control may be less effective than team activities and celebrating smaller goals more frequently.

As part of the overall employee engagement strategy employers should also consider investments in technologies better suited to the changing needs.  Today’s workforce is much more technology oriented and they expect better, more mobile communications with the company.  They expect to receive information and feedback more frequently and wish to be more involved and up to date with the social culture of the company.  Modern HCM systems from Cimplx address these challenges and more.

It is my intent to continue this as a series of articles with the next being How to get Engaged in Employee Engagement: Quantifying Employee Engagement (next week).

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