Any person that is responsible for people in a professional setting - whether they be business owners, CEOs, department heads or team leaders - will have thought about engagement and wellbeing.
On the surface level, it makes complete sense that our people will perform better when they are engaged and well. It also makes sense that our lives will be more enjoyable when our teams are engaged and well due to high productivity, low turnover and low absence (all of which reduce leaders time spent worrying and firefighting).
Regardless of the clear-cut benefits, employee engagement is still something organisations struggle to prioritise and give this area the time it deserves. Simply feeling like it's the right thing to do isn't enough to make it happen (we all know being active is a good thing to do yet most of us struggle to make it happen). When we understand that it's not just a nicety but a necessity for business success it's much easier to grant it the time it deserves.
So let's explore the four reasons why employee engagement is has become a necessity in 2022:
1) Pace of Change
Modern technology has changed everything about the way we live and work. Two of the most significant changes this has brought to businesses are:
1 - A highly competitive global market
2 - Faster, Cheaper, Better ways of producing goods and services
Both of these things aren't going to disappear, they're going to speed up. What does this mean for businesses? It means that you need agile teams with a positive attitude towards change. We, humans, are creatures of habit. We want to do what we already know because for hundreds of thousands of years that's what kept us alive. Constantly being open to and actively looking for change isn't our natural state - it requires high levels of employee engagement. It requires teams of employees that are so committed to the success of the company that they're willing to choose the right (uncomfortable) path over the easier (comfortable) path.
A business that isn't open to change is at risk of quickly being left behind in today's marketplace. Regardless of how open to change and innovation a business owner or CEO might be, if the managers and employees aren't engaged the change will always take too long or not happen at all.
2) Job Choice Abundance
A short read of George Orwell's 'The Road to Wigan Pier' published just 80 years ago highlights how dramatically the job landscape has changed in recent years.
Just 80 years ago when many of our parents and grandparents were alive the UK still struggled with mass unemployment. People would queue to maybe get work in a mine. The conditions of this work were something most of us would not be able to survive today.
Again technology has played a significant role in changing this. It was predicted by many that technology and machines would make humans obsolete in respect of jobs. So far that hasn't come to fruition. Technology has reduced the number of manual labour jobs in the UK but has also created more jobs in service-based and technical industries. In May 2022 the BBC announced that for the first time since records began, there were more job vacancies available than unemployed people in the UK.
When jobs are scarce and people are struggling for money, organisations are almost guaranteed high levels of retention regardless of engagement levels. When jobs are available in abundance, people are naturally going to demand more from their work. In considering this a lot of companies are responding by trying to make their employees as comfortable and happy as possible. In my opinion, this is a mistake. Employees don't just want to be comfortable and happy, they want to be engaged. They want to find meaning and purpose through their work and to feel like something bigger than themselves. This isn't achieved through perk boxes, gym memberships or bonuses (although all are nice add-ons). It's achieved by driving high levels of engagement.
3) Service-based economy
The UK, like many other developed countries, has shifted away from a predominantly production-based and toward a service-based economy. Our schooling system and inherited management systems are built around a production-based economy.
For a production-based company of the past employee engagement levels were nowhere near as important as they are in a business today, why?
In the not too distant company of the past, a business required the bulk of its people to complete relatively simple tasks repetitively. An employee's level of engagement within a company does not have a major impact on their ability to complete simple repetitive tasks. Even if it was blindingly obvious that a person was completely miserable in their job, it didn't stop them from reliving their required output.
Fast forward to today. Most of our businesses are service-based. What happens if you walk into a service-based business and just one employee doesn't want to be there? What happens when you call your mobile phone provider and the person on the phone clearly can't be bothered to listen to your concern? In a service-based economy employees have to be engaged otherwise customers at best complain and at worst leave. If we want our people to be positive with our customers, we need to do our best to ensure they feel valued in and enjoy their work.
4) Prioritising health
Our final point has been happening slowly over the past 10 years but was boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Once again revisiting our past, when jobs and job variety was less abundant, people were fiercely loyal to organisations. They appreciated the jobs they had and feared unemployment. Many would not give a second thought to working overtime to support the success of the company.
Today that is changing drastically. Not only are people no longer fiercely loyal to companies, but they are also beginning to prioritise their health over their careers and extra income. We're already witnessing companies that are heavily reliant on staff working overtime struggling to deliver their services and having to rethink their strategy. COVID-19 gave the majority of the population of the UK (and the world) a chance to experience life without work. For many people, it led to the realisation that they had been sacrificing much of their life to work more and more.
All this leads to a need for companies to achieve the same amount of productivity in less time. What is the best way to do this? Through good levels of employee engagement. When employees are genuinely committed to the goals of a company or department they are engaged. If employees have high levels of engagement when you give them less time to achieve goals, they achieve them often to a higher standard. In 2021, in response to struggling to fill hundreds of roles, Atom Bank announced they were shifting to a four-day work week. They quickly had a 500% increase in job applications and as of November 2022 have also seen dramatic reductions in sickness absence.
Engaged teams, managers and employees are one of the most essential components for business success in the modern-day. Not only do engaged teams improve business performance, but they also make business more enjoyable. At Better Happy, we believe that businesses are the key to health and engagement in the modern-day. Your business already has everything it needs to support high levels of employee engagement and wellbeing you just might not be utilising what's available to you.
If you would like some help improving employee wellbeing and engagement levels in your business request a call or check out our pricing below.