Employee engagement has been a hot topic for years, and its influence continues to make headlines. Gallup has been tracking U.S. engagement since 2000, and countless studies over the past 17 years have verified the tremendous impact engagement can have on corporate success. The most recent “State of the American Workplace” report found that high engagement levels are directly associated with lower turnover, absenteeism, and even workplace theft, as well as higher productivity, profitability, and sales. All these factors significantly impact the bottom line, so it’s no surprise that 85% of executives rated engagement as an important or very important priority for their companies.
Why the stagnation?
What’s concerning, then, is the consistent lack of improvement in engagement statistics. In 2016, 34% of U.S. employees were engaged—compared with 31.7% in 2015, 29.3% in 2013, and 30.7% in 2011. In fact, Gallup’s U.S. employee engagement rate has remained relatively stagnant since it first began tracking these metrics, despite substantial corporate investment. Why the disconnect?
Unfortunately, many engagement initiatives have been unfocused and ineffective. It’s not uncommon for executives to roll out one-time surveys or a new workplace perk and feel like they’ve done their part for engagement that year. Even more thorough and thoughtful programs can focus merely on measuring engagement without offering tangible tactics to improve it, which provides insight but doesn’t enhance outcomes. In order for engagement programs to be truly productive, they need to be ongoing, data-driven, and capable of providing actionable feedback leading to lasting change.
For years, any attempts at developing this feedback loop were cumbersome and prohibitively time-intensive. But today’s new tech tools are changing that.
Technology supports engagement initiatives
Through advances in artificial intelligence, HR leaders are now able to easily pinpoint their disengaged or flight-risk employees and leverage historical data to discern which leadership actions will have the greatest impact. The predictive and prescriptive functionalities of today’s leading HCM solutions have far-reaching implications for everything from performance to succession management, but the potential to improve engagement is particularly exciting simply because engagement influences so many other key HR metrics.
And since one of the most effective ways of tracking corporate engagement is through direct employee feedback, new developments in natural language processing (NLP) are game-changing, empowering leaders to easily deploy pulse surveys that can accurately and succinctly convey employee sentiment. These surveys can be scaled across entire organizations or targeted to specific workforce demographics, distributed at regular intervals, or triggered by certain events.
Armed with real-time data reflecting the most pressing issues for their people, executives can actively measure the impact of specific engagement initiatives and leverage predictive capabilities to decisively inform next steps. Essentially, today’s emerging AI tools enable leaders to have a powerful, strategic, and measurable impact on their engagement metrics—and nearly everything else in the process.