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5 Evergreen Strategies for Employee Engagement in the Future Workplace

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Employee engagement is an organizational performance strategy. It’s also a highly personal equation—every person has a unique relationship with their work and employer. This is the reason increased engagement has eluded so many well-intentioned enterprises. You can’t fix low engagement with broad-brush programs alone. The magic happens on the frontlines, one employee at a time.

With headlines like “Will a Robot Take Your Job?”, conversations with leaders often turn to discussing what needs to be done to create an engaged workforce in the future. I think the following five strategies will make a difference as your organization flexes to reflect changing markets and workplace realities. These strategies can also work for you today.

Pay Attention to Meaning

Meaningful work remains a key driver in employee engagement and is a primary goal in career management. The challenge also remains that meaningful, like challenging and interesting, is an intangible term defined by individual employees, reflecting their personal values, interests, and talents.

Despite the proliferation of self-improvement gurus and career resources (The Muse is a favorite of mine), too many people still take on roles for external markers of success (for example, money or prestige) without reflecting on what matters most to them. That can lead to a bad job fit, which can lead to misery. You need to provide tools and training for people to clarify what they’re looking for. Keep encouraging managers to talk to their teams, so they can better understand each person’s interests and aspirations, and help align those interests with your organization’s needs.

Build Connections to Purpose and People

Connection to a shared purpose builds on meaningful work by cementing an employee’s relationship with the organization, not just the work. You don’t need to be curing cancer; you do need to consistently remind people that what they do makes a difference.


Connections that employees have with their managers and colleagues matter too. They don’t have to be best friends. They do need to feel like they’re part of a community. When people get to know one another, they establish respectful, trusting relationships. They achieve understanding and commonality, which will become even more important as workforces become increasingly dispersed and diverse.


Engagement can’t happen if people don’t know which of the 20 to-dos on their task list matter most. Changing priorities and ambiguity are frustrating as well as barriers to the level of achievement required for full engagement. Although technology for supporting workflow and goal attainment has improved, many organizations remain paralyzed by the inability to focus on the few things that will deliver the biggest impact. Your question needs to consider what you are agreeing not to do if you decide to do this.


Develop for Today and Tomorrow

Development needs to be part of your future engagement strategy. Research consistently links career development opportunities and personal growth to high job satisfaction. Your organization also needs people to have the skills to do whatever you need them to do, including those jobs that don’t even exist today. For more tips on this topic, check out my GP Strategies colleague Keith Keating’s podcast episode, “ Preparing Today’s Workforce for Tomorrow.

Provide Tools and Resources

When our engagement surveys ask people about what could most improve their contribution to the organization, tools and resources often top the list. Before you invest the big budget to replace your systems, you should know exactly what people mean. Reasons can vary by department, role, or location and may be something that local managers can address. If you realize your systems are inadequate for the demands of the digital workplace, do your homework to find systems that not only work but work with one another. (We have some guidance for HCM systems here.)

How and where we work may change in the future, but employee engagement will always be a personal equation. Your challenge will be, as it is now, to move from clichéd “employees are our greatest asset” statements to investing the leadership commitment and funding needed to help people connect with work that works for them and delivers what you need.

About the Author

Mary Ann is responsible for leveraging 40-plus years of expertise and ongoing research to help clients cultivate motivated employees who focus their unique talents on what matters most to the business. She works with senior executives and managers to turn survey insights into tangible actions and develops tools for employees, leaders at all levels, and HR professionals to address employee engagement, career development, and performance management.

She is co-author of The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce (Wiley, 2012). Her research reports include Employee Engagement: A Practical Approach for Individuals, Managers and Executives, Coaching Conundrum, Innovate on the Run: The Competing Demands of Modern Leadership, and State of the Career. She has consulted with clients large and small across a wide range of industries and countries.

Mary Ann is an engaging speaker, blending humor, research findings, and pragmatic insights. She has presented on values-driven cultures, employee engagement, career development, coaching, and performance management at annual conferences held by SHRM and ISPI, regional HR association events, and webinars offered by HCI,, and HR Executive. Her articles have appeared in Leadership Excellence, WorkSpan, Journal of Organizational Excellence, and Voice of HR. Her expertise has been featured in media like TalentTalk Radio, HR Executive, HR News, The Cranky Middle Manager, and NEHRA’s Ask the Expert.

Mary Ann joined BlessingWhite in 2000 to establish senior executive consulting and leadership development processes, went on to lead a successful revision of the firm’s flagship solution Managing Professional Growth (MPG), and most recently created learning and support tools for employee engagement. She has worked in a variety of roles in the HR training and consulting industry, including stints at DBM and Learning International/AchieveGlobal. She received a B.A. from Wesleyan University.

Her commitment to meaningful lives and meaningful work extends beyond her day job. She is a founding member of the nOURish Bridgeport, volunteering for a hunger outreach program that serves nearly 10,000 meals a year. She was a long-term board member for WISE Services, a nonprofit that helps high schools establish experiential senior-year learning projects. She lives in Fairfield, CT.

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Focus on what a boss does is clearly important. But so is the managerial system in which the boss and employees operate, the "mechanism" as Jim Collins refers to it in Built to Last. One such mechanism is treating employees like trusted partners in the business. Companies like Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Capital One and hundreds of private companies do this. This Forbes article provide more detail:
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The modern workplace has undergone brutal changes in recent years. Leaders are managing teams across different locations and time zones. Consequently, there is a rising demand for innovative tools which help you track actionable tasks, goals and objectives for all the employees. Learn how peoplehum can help you! Link :
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