Employee Engagement 2021: Popular Trends and What to Expect

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2020 brought an unpleasant surprise for communities, organisations, and companies. Some industries faced more significant challenges than others, but the shockwave affected nearly everyone. One consistent remained despite the sudden changes – the importance of employee engagement. 

Organisational leaders need to develop increasingly remote (and reliable) ways to keep workplace culture healthy despite the physical distance. The rise of technology such as IoT, AI (artificial intelligence), cloud systems, and machine learning can help bridge the physical gap – but they are ultimately tools. The real driving force lies in a leader’s ability to make logical decisions in the face of unprecedented trouble – and this “pragmatism” is more pronounced now than ever. 

Employees are still the most valuable assets in an organisation, and it will stay that way regardless of technological development. We still need bright minds to run the show on a granular level, make small judgment calls that matter, and work together to fulfill organisational objectives. Employee engagement is more than a flavour of the month but rather—the blueprint for organisational success. The only difference is the way that leaders convey their message and continue to inspire their precious stakeholders. 

It’s 2021, and the world is not yet out of the woods. Modern leaders need to combine dynamic thinking with advanced digital technologies to engage employees in a novel landscape. 

The Revolution of Managed Services 

While disengagement at work is commonly associated with the lack of career progression or growth opportunities, sometimes this could suggest that employees don’t enjoy what they do at work any longer. The passion has fizzled out, and one possible reason is job misalignment that resulted in unexpected duties. 

For example, an enthusiastic applicant for a frontline customer service role might find work scopes overwhelmed by non-service related tasks such as data entry paperwork. While such scenarios might arise from unclear job descriptions, sometimes things inevitably happen along the way in the complexities of a workplace environment, where employees need to double up. 

As a result, some employees may find themselves taking on additional tasks (usually mundane and misaligned with their job interests) and slowly slipping towards disengagement. Thankfully, now there are many viable options to reduce the stress and burden on your full-time employees – through the rise of managed services. 

Scott Clark, the VP of managed service company NTT Ltd, shares a reason for outsourced services, “businesses need a high quality, standardized solution that they don’t have to staff themselves, build themselves, and they’re looking for a price point that hits their willingness to pay. “ 

Managed services come in many forms. The term relates to an external vendor who handles specific organisational tasks. While traditionally, most organisational leaders confined managed services to the realms of IT (i.e., occasional visits from the friendly IT repair guy), there are all kinds of services available in the digital age – and they may become more prominent through 2021. Modern outsourced services include marketing, business strategies, cleaning, supply chain management, and the list goes on. 

For example, cybersecurity has become increasingly vital as more organisations migrate to the cloud, leaving their networks at risk. Rather than relying on internal IT employees and overloading them with new cybersecurity measures, leaders can turn to a managed service provider with the expertise to keep systems running in top shape. 

Organisational leaders tend to look at ways to engage employees actively, but sometimes offloading stressors may be the way to go. Through managed services, organisational teams can focus on what they do best and devote themselves to doing it better in the long-term. 

AI Communication and Employee Training 

Communication drives collaboration and, eventually, employee engagement. Artificial intelligence (AI) can help strengthen remote communications in newfound ways. For starters, predictive analytics can provide actionable insights on worker satisfaction levels, enabling employers to anticipate employee behaviour, including reasons for engagement and causes of attrition. 

Advanced predictive analytics software can automate employee assessments based on digital interactions and help identify at-risk employees before they decide to jump ship. Modern AI-supported analytics run on real-time employee data, resulting in more insightful and relevant findings than manual (and sporadic) workplace surveys or feedback tools. 

As such, organisational leaders will have the means to spot negative factors at the workplace without delay and minimise the risk of losing a valuable employee. Additionally, AI-analytics can help predict an organisation’s future position and determine employees’ training needs to keep up with changing industry demands. 

Essentially, AI may provide more organisational leaders with the once-elusive data to effectively align employee training and development needs with immediate and long-term business growth. 

However, with all technology, the style of implementation and consistency of tracking/ checking-in will drive an AI solution’s effectiveness and employee engagement. 

Greater Focus on Empathetic Leadership

Disruption was a headlining word in most of 2020. The new year might see an increasing need for empathy among the workforce, with many people facing unemployment, health scares, and pay cuts. Organisational leaders need to raise greater awareness of their communication style and prioritise work-life balance as more individuals realise the importance of spending time with loved ones. 

Employees will continue to look to leaders as beacons of hope and financial security. Additionally, leaders need to recognise the subtlest signs of psychological distress among employees as the economy and industries remain volatile. Some organisations may consider  virtual employee engagement initiatives such as Zoom-based escape rooms to lighten the mood and improve collaboration skills. 

Regardless of the employee engagement approach, it’s crucial to keep things flexible. Flexi-work hours and workplace arrangements have shown an increase in productivity, creativity, and engagement in 2020, and leaders are likely to maintain such structures into the current year. 

 It is impossible to tell what 2021 holds at this juncture, but the modern workplace seems ready to rise from the COVID crisis, and employee engagement will be its fuel. 

StrengthsAsia has helped many individuals and corporate clients empower leaders throughout the region by enabling breakthrough experiences for both leaders and followers. If you wish to learn more about the Strengths Leadership Program, please reach out to us here.

A devotee at the altar of language and a celebrant of expression. Laurenzo has written for various SMEs, MNCs, startups and international brands over the last three years. He specializes in topics of psychology, lifestyle, employee management, and digital trends.

Maalikka is the latest addition to StrengthsAsia’s team of marketing and content extraordinaries. As an avid reader, writer and learner, she’s always on the lookout for new information online or interesting conversations to inspire her. Her other passions include gaming, Netflix and cats.

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