Engaged employees are the secret weapon of successful organisations of any size. If your people are happy, committed and empowered, they’ll stay with your business. Your customers will get a better experience, you spend less on recruitment and re-training, productivity soars and absenteeism plummets.

2016_MAR_AUSNZ_PEOPLE - 8 Employee Engagement Trends For 2016

So given the changing demographics and expectations of our workplaces, what can we expect for employee engagement in 2016?

Email is dying

If you’re relying on email to communicate with staff and foster collaboration, it’s time to re-think. Millennials are now the largest generation in the US workforce and will form 50% of the global workforce by 2020. But they’re not the only generation that turns to a smartphone first for news, apps, videos, pictures or ideas. We all crave instant access to information, and your workplace platforms need to work on mobile.

Check out Hipchat (from local superstars Atlassian) and Slack for new tools for communication.

Expect the rate of change to get faster

As former GE CEO Jack Welch once said, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”

Your company cannot control the rate of change on the outside. But it can impact the inside – and that’s the role of HR. Engaged employees will notice what’s happening outside your window, and empowered employees will bring new ideas to the table. That’s the key to staying one step ahead of change in your market.

It’s time to create a ‘start-up culture’

Big enterprises are now looking to entrepreneurial start-ups for cues on how to innovate. Agility is the name of the game – if you remove the fear of failure (within reasonable parameters for performance) you can give people a chance to run with their ideas or challenge the status quo.

Your most talented staff want to be inspired. They want to feel the passion behind your core purpose. If they don’t feel excited, they’ll probably leave you soon for a more agile business – or start one of their own.

Measure engagement more frequently

Employee engagement is too important to leave to an annual lengthy survey. Use online tools like Tinypulse and Cultureamp to check in weekly or monthly, and make sure things are on track.

Bring the ‘human’ back into HR

What employees really want is to be happy at work. They want to find meaning in it, develop positive relationships with colleagues, and feel a sense of achievement.

Given we are at work for a large proportion of our waking moments, that’s not an unreasonable ask. So make sure you’ve articulated your business purpose clearly, and that your staff benefit programs tap into our very human needs. To feel pride in your work, and to be recognised for your effort and outcomes, can be powerful motivators.

Make learning more accessible

Small businesses have no excuses for avoiding their obligation to continually train and develop staff. There’s also no excuse for making your teams sit through boringly irrelevant PowerPoint presentations.

eLearning platforms make it simple and affordable to give staff more choice over what, where and when they learn. UDemy is just one example. Staff can log in and complete a snack-sized course in just a few hours on any mobile device – from powerful public speaking to mobile UX design. It’s a great way to motivate people to take responsibility for their own professional development – and you get the feedback on how they’re progressing.

Give people more options for real recognition

It’s time to put people first when it comes to your workplace rewards and recognition program. Does your 54-year old executive assistant want the same things as the 24-year old grad? Probably not.

It’s been proven that showing some appreciation stops people leaving their jobs. That’s no surprise. But money is not the all-powerful motivator you might think it is. There’s no ‘trophy’ value to a small bonus – but giving staff a choice of experiences, products or even discounts on the things they really need can provide more long-term and meaningful value.

Broaden your wellbeing focus

HR programs have incorporated ‘wellness’ for years, because healthy staff are good for business. But now there’s a shift beyond gym memberships and fruit boxes to a more holistic view of employee wellbeing.

In the US, Virgin Pulse’s 2015 survey of 1,000 full-time employees found financial wellbeing topped the list of factors employees wished their employers cared more about (40 per cent). Meanwhile, a recent Australian survey of 1,617 workers found a strong business case for employers to care about their staff financial wellbeing, with 39 per cent saying they spend at least two working hours per week thinking about their finances.

More than half said they’d be interested in an employer-provided financial wellbeing program, with online tools, retirement planning and budgeting support topping their wishlist.

It’s clear employees want more than a paycheque when it comes to being engaged at work, and it’s now possible to help them stretch every dollar they earn even further. That’s why Employment Hero now combines an HR platform with payroll and employee benefits that provide real value – from cheaper phone and energy plans to helping them save for their dreams.

Ben Thompson Employment Hero

Employment Hero provides businesses with the practical HR tools to manage the full employment lifecycle.