Employee engagement initiatives: five things HR needs to know



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4 mins


Before embarking on your next employee engagement initiatives, make sure you know the challenges that lie ahead – and how to tackle them 

1. Low engagement is a serious problem

Employee engagement around the world has become a real problem, with research from Gallup finding that just 21% of the world’s employees were engaged at work in 2021. In fact, employees who are not engaged at work, or, worse, are actively disengaged from work, cost $7.8 trillion annually, globally, in terms of lost productivity.

Plus, low employee engagement has a direct bearing on other human capital problems, including employee turnover, performance, and absenteeism, all of which affect profitability. 2023 research by jobs board Monster.com found that almost all – 96% of US workers – will be looking for a new role in 2023. That’s extremely bad news for employers trying to attract and retain a strong workforce. High staff turnover is costly for organisations because you need to consider the cost of recruiting a new team member, training costs, the potential loss of intellectual property to a competitor, and the resulting upheaval to teams – all of which ultimately affect the bottom line.

2. Traditional employee engagement initiatives are flawed

Traditional ways of finding out how employees feel – such as annual surveys, 360-degree surveys, focus groups, and ad-hoc surveys – are flawed, experts say. “They are all useful methods, but are discrete snapshots with little correlation between then. As a result, they tend to be blind to trends, lack agility and employees see them as manager-driven activities. They also tend to give you little or no warning of employee issues until it’s too late,” says David Godden, VP of sales and marketing at employee engagement survey specialists Thymometrics.

3. Employee engagement initiatives are a core strategic focus for HR

“The role of HR is to continually monitor employees and assess the results of their efforts,” says Godden. Real-time engagement tools – either standalone tools, or those that are built into central HR software – help teams to “tap into the daily ups and downs of an organisation, with clear indicators of what’s working well and what needs improvement,” he adds. “The data is more accurate, timely and relevant. Problems can be identified, and strategic action taken, quickly. These timely interventions will help employees stay connected to the organisation and its goals.”

4. Always-on employee engagement doesn’t have to be hard

One of the reasons why annual surveys have been popular is that HR departments can outsource their creation, compilation and analysis to a third-party provider – swiftly removing one item from their ever-growing to-do list.

But, says Godden, always-on employee engagement initiatives aren’t difficult if you have the right tool. Thymometrics’ engagement survey, for example, enables employees to anonymously provide feedback on a number of key themes whenever they want. As well as assessing employees’ satisfaction on key themes, the tool also asks them to rate the importance of each element – so HR can better identify the areas that require their most immediate attention. In-built reporting dashboards enable HR and managers to instantly analyse results by, for example, subject, team, or location, and identify trends over time to assess the impact of interventions.

And there are even simpler ways to monitor the mood of your employee base. Ciphr HR, for example, includes a simple sentiment analysis tool, prompting employees to rate their mood, based on a sliding scale, with a single click. HR teams can analyse the resulting data and reach out to any employees who regularly report to be feeling unhappy at work, helping to uncover and stem problems before they become more serious and disruptive to normal operations.

 5. But employee engagement initiatives do have to be supported by cultural change

“Employee engagement must be a leadership responsibility – not just an HR one,” says Godden. “Moving to always-on feedback may require a shift in your organisation’s thinking. But it can have an enormously positive effect: it can help to improve your employer brand, and reflects the trend for greater organisational transparency that we are seeing with the growth of social media and Glassdoor. It’s all part of the new world of work where the individual has to be highly valued.”

Want to find out how Ciphr HR’s sentiment analysis and communication tools can help you boost employee engagement? Or how to integrate third-party employee engagement tools such as Thymometrics with Ciphr’s HR platform? Contact our friendly team now to find out how we can help with your employee engagement initiatives.

This article was first published in April 2018. It was updated in May 2023 for freshness, clarity, and accuracy.