The Future of Employee Engagement - Beyond Analytics and Surveys

Employee engagement has been one of the critical drivers and most focused topics for years. Organizations increasingly expect ‘more from less’ from the productivity standpoint as digitalization finds its way in how organizations and teams operate internally and externally with customers. Therefore, the level of employee engagement is the critical driver of productivity. Although there are various definitions for employee engagement, my simple definition is the employee’s emotional connection with the organization and motivation to take the extra step toward its mission. With the pandemic having a seismic effect on businesses and the workforce in terms of how and where work is performed, improving employee engagement is even more critical for organizational success. As Simon Sinek says, “When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute”.

What are the levels of employee engagement? According to Don Rheem, [i] there are three levels of  employee engagement

[i] Rheem, D. (2017). Thrive by design: The neuroscience that drives high-performance cultures. Charleston, SC: Forbes Book

Actively Engaged: Highly engaged and transform the workplace into a hub of productivity

Engaged: Focus on their work and deliver with a positive outlook 

Actively Disengaged: Physically present but disconnected from businesses, typical clock-punchers do their job without motivation to go the extra mile.

According to Gallup, the pre-pandemic engagement rate in the U.S. was 35%, and surprisingly though the engagement rate has gone up during the pandemic with working from home to 39%.  

Cost of Disengaged Employees: The actively disengaged percentage of nearly 45% impacts the bottom line significantly with increased sick days, tardiness to work, demoralized teams,  missed deadlines, increased customer complaints because disengaged employees create disengaged customers, more turnover. According to Gallup, employee disengagement cost $350 billion every year in lost productivity and $2,246 per disengaged employee

Drivers of Employee Engagement: Extensive research has been done on this and identified Organizational Drivers and Management Drivers. HR has a pivotal role in engaging employees, but employee engagement is more of a business issue than an HR issue and needs all hands on deck.

Tools To Measure: Technology helps organizations connect, interact with their workforce; nearly 86% of executives believe technology has a greater role in employee engagement today than a few years ago. The explosive growth of machine learning, NLP, crunches big data - from email response times, UAM- user activity monitoring via computer keystrokes, networks to measure engagement, etc. Still, the time-consuming employee engagement surveys play a crucial role as they are great predictors of employee behavior, a tool for employees to express their thoughts, and a vehicle for changing behavior.

I am looking forward to the upcoming session “ The Future of Engagement Analytics Won’t Come from Surveys” at the SHRM Annual Conference and Expo in Las Vegas. This session will cover areas to look to build capability—new ways to amalgamate and analyze data to draw new insights and create a meaningful program. I hope to see you all there.


[1] Rheem, D. (2017). Thrive by design: The neuroscience that drives high-performance cultures. Charleston, SC: Forbes Book






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