by Sharon Florentine

16 employee engagement trends that will shake up IT in 2016

Feb 03, 2016
CareersIT JobsIT Leadership

Employee engagement will remain a top organizational concern this year. These 16 predictions for 2016 will help you better gauge the tech worker landscape.

In an era of Glassdoor-driven transparency, every corporate decision can now be put on public display for all employees and potential employees to view and consider. This kind of exposure is pushing organizational culture and employee engagement into the spotlight and making engagement a major competitive advantage, according to a recent Bersin report by Deloitte, “Culture and engagement: the naked organization.”

To grasp how this emphasis on employee engagement will affect organizations in 2016, survey and peer-to-peer recognition platform TINYpulse reviewed data from the more than 400,000 employees worldwide that use their solution. We spoke with TinyPulse leadership teamto find out what this data means, highlighting 16 trends to watch for in the employee engagement space for 2016.

1. Engagement remains a top concern

TINYpulse predicts that employee engagement will remain a number-1 concern. Not only do 87 percent of organizations polled in the Bersin by Deloitte survey believe culture and engagement to be some of their top challenges, 50 percent believe the problem is “very important.”

“This isn’t a one-time-solution kind of problem, so expect this trend to carry on throughout 2016. It will continue to top companies’ lists of priorities since employee engagement is the core of so many vital components of workplace success,” says Dora Wang, TINYpulse’s content marketing specialist and author of TINYpulse’s 2015 Employee Engagement report.

2. The major theme will be personal accountability

The findings from TINYpulse’s 2015 Employee Engagement report show that employees are owning personal accountability in their workplace experience and taking it upon themselves to advance in their career. “Fulfilling their potential looms large in their minds. Companies will find more success in engagement strategies that involve employee initiative and make them an active part of the process,” says Wang. Whether that’s in adding additional responsibilities, continuing education, leadership training and/or succession planning.

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3. Professional development opportunities will affect turnover rates

With personal accountability looming large in employees’ minds, professional development will be a major concern. “Organizations must understand and work to address this need: Bersin by Deloitte’s report found that learning and development issues jumped up the list of talent challenges. Opportunities for growth will be vital — and the lack of them will pop up frequently in exit interviews,” Wang writes in the report.

4. Onboarding will need to evolve

Onboarding will need to become a more active, future-oriented process that allows employees to hit the ground running with a plan for their growth within the company. Without it, employees will flounder, says David Niu, TINYpulse CEO. “Onboarding should move beyond the old standby of a stack of paperwork and passively watching presentations — it has to lay out a plan and engage new hires. The importance of professional development only cements this need,” Niu says.

5. Coworkers will play a vital role

Another major theme throughout TINYpulse’s 2015 Employee Engagement report is the importance of an employee’s peers. Peer relationships can make or break the workplace experience. “This is in line with our findings from previous years. In 2013, our data showed that the correlation of happiness with coworker rating was 23 percent higher than with direct supervisor rating. And in 2014, employees told us that peers are the number one reason they go the extra mile at work. In other words, the importance of peers for workplace happiness has been consistently high and will get even higher. Hiring the right people will be instrumental in the success of your existing employees,” says Wang.

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6. Watch for employees to manage ‘sideways’

It’s not just about managing upward or downward anymore. As employees embrace their personal accountability, we’ll see an increase in managing “sideways,” too, as workers push their peers to be the teammates they need. A potential cause for friction, yes, but with proper guidance from management, this can be a great opportunity for employees to play an active role in keeping themselves and their peers engaged and productive, according to the TINYpulse report.

7. Peer-to-peer recognition will grow

The percentage of employees giving peer recognition has grown over the past couple years, and in 2016 it will become the dominant form of employee recognition and appreciation, according to TINYpulse predictions. “The trend has been in place for some time: Our 2013 report showed that, when offered a simple tool to do so, 36 percent of all workers will provide peer recognition on an ongoing basis. Our 2014 report showed that, when offered a simple tool to do so, 44 percent of all workers will provide peer recognition on an ongoing basis. This points to a need for organizations to support employees in making one another feel valued. They’re a rich resource for workforce appreciation that’s just waiting to be tapped,” Wang says.

8. Watch out for a new hidden turnover risk

The job market recovery and declining unemployment rate will uncover a new attrition risk: the “middle of the pack” employees who are neither strongly engaged nor terribly disengaged. The low commitment level of these workers may not have been an issue when it was an “employers’ market” and alternate job options were scarce. “As more opportunities open up, these workers will more easily drift away. To avoid scrambling for replacements, companies must get ahead of the trend and save those whose engagement can be saved — and let go of those who can’t,” Wang says.

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9. Minimum wage increases will be a win for companies

Higher required salaries might seem like a drain on company resources, but the investment will pay off. Relieved of financial stress — and possibly the additional stress caused by the need for a second or even third job to make ends meet — employees will become more engaged and productive, the TINYpulse report predicts.

10. Millennials will dominate workplace culture

Since millennials became the largest generation in the workforce this past year, they also will exert majority influence on company culture. This means that workplace values will shift to those prioritized by this generation, from collaboration to social responsibility and work-life integration, according to Niu.

11. The handoff from the old guard will be rocky

As the retirement of Baby Boomers accelerates, we’ll see the transition to a workforce led by Generation X and millennials. Two out of the three jobs that will open up for college graduates will result from retirements, according to Georgetown’s Center for Education and the Workforce. One major con predicted by the report, the loss of institutional knowledge as the old guard makes its exit. A major pro, a workforce that’s less tethered to “the way things are” will toss out practices that are based on outdated assumptions, the TINYpulse survey predicts.

12. Younger employees will shift the definition of leadership

As baby boomers retire and younger employees fill supervisory roles, the nature of leadership will evolve. “Look to swing towards more collaborative and less hierarchical management best practices. With the workforce embracing personal accountability, this leadership style will have a great wealth of energy to tap into,” Wang says.

13. There will be a greater push for transparency

Millennials have grown up with information being instantly accessible, and with constant and continuous feedback on their performance, so with their voice in the workplace increasing, you’ll hear them pushing more for management transparency, too, TINYpulse predicts. “This will be a boon for young and old employees alike, since our data has shown that transparency from leadership has a high correlation with employee happiness,” according to Niu.

14. More feedback processes will become two-way

With the workforce placing more and more importance on both collaboration from leadership and their own personal accountability, look for more feedback processes to become reciprocal. Performance reviews? Forget the one-way road; they’ll become a loop — or disappear altogether, according to Niu.

15. Those same feedback processes will become more frequent and critical

Collaboration and transparency can’t happen without feedback. And feedback that comes late is nothing short of useless. Successful organizations will be those who take the pulse of employee issues — monthly, weekly even daily — instead of waiting to do it once a year. Faster information will mean faster reactions and better outcomes, envisages TINYpulse.

16. People analytics will present a temptation that leaders should resist

With the growth of people analytics, it’s easy to buy into the fallacy that management and employee engagement decisions should be driven solely by data. But don’t mistake data for information. “Leaders must make the commitment to initiatives that may seem less objectively efficient — such as one-on-one meetings and qualitative feedback — but that deliver greater satisfaction and higher engagement levels, or risk ending up with one-dimensional results,” Niu says.

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