For a very, very long time, we lived in a society where the wishes and the needs of the worker were entirely inconsequential. Over the centuries, things became incrementally better (with a few massive leaps spattered here and there), and while things are definitely not perfect, it is safe to say that employees currently have it better in many ways than they ever did previously in the history of the human civilization.
The mere fact that we are discussing employee engagement as a concept is proof enough that employers do not have carte blanche when it comes to (mis)treating the people who work for them.
And do not be fooled - there has been plenty of talk about employee engagement.
Today, however, we will be going even further to talk about what employee engagement looks like in the first quarter of the 21st century as well as the trends that will shape its future.
A View to the Future
The days when employees were happy to simply have a job and draw a salary are behind us, and that is a good thing. People are not just cogs in some sort of a corporate machine, and it was high time we moved away from this concept.
Nowadays, employees want to feel like their career is going somewhere, and in order for their career to go somewhere, the company needs to be going somewhere too. In other words, to be engaged, 21st century employees need to know that their company is not just lingering, but moving forward and planning for the future.
This can be conveyed to employees in a number of ways. For example, the company can invest a significant amount of assets into research and development. It will encourage innovation on every level and include new milestones in official reports.
But it does not have to be something as momentous, or costly, as that. The same message can be conveyed by constantly improving practices and tools that are at your employees’ disposal, and being transparent on goals and milestones from the top down. It can also mean being progressive when it comes to social and gender issues in the workplace, although this is something we will cover in more depth later.
There will always be people who are ready to put their career above everything else. They will be perfectly happy working 15-hour days on end, their faces glued to the computer screen and their backs doing anatomically impossible stuff to keep them semi-upright in their desk chair.
The majority of people, however, do not feel that way. More and more, employees are realizing that their careers and the money they make can only make them happy to a certain extent, and they have started looking for a more balanced and humane way to enjoy their careers.
Because of this, companies will need to work long and hard on their employees' work-life balance in the 21st century. This will entail instilling and promoting certain health-conscious practices in the workplace, such as ergonomic furniture including standing desks, healthy beverages and snacks, on-premises gyms, regular breaks and more.
In addition to this, employers may want to try out remote work and other forms of flexible work options that are becoming more and more popular among the modern employee. Of course, prohibiting and punishing all kinds of discriminatory behavior is a must and it needn't even be mentioned.
A Social Consciousness
There are innumerable factors that have contributed to it, but we can be pleased that we live in an age where the vast majority of people truly feel the need to be socially active and to take time out of their day to make the world a better place.
A company looking for engaged employees needs to convey the message that they agree with this sentiment and that the company is not yet another corporate entity only out for the profits.
For a company to truly be socially conscious, it has to go beyond the walls of their building. If a company works with suppliers who are embroiled in certain scandals that do not conform to the socially progressive stance of the company, there are always other suppliers that do, for example. This starts with everyday business practices, which must be transparent and above board. If the company is working with partners, those partners need to be legitimate, licensed, law-abiding, and should upkeep quality business standards.
The company should never indulge in tax avoidance, cooking of books and so on. These kinds of things always come to light within a company, and tolerating such behavior will make it all but impossible for employees to feel engaged. Who is to say that they will not be on the receiving end of such shady business dealings?
Social consciousness goes beyond just operating within what is legal. A company should also get involved in actual charities and other social programs that will help the community. Nowadays, it has even become acceptable for companies to stand for certain beliefs that might be considered political. (If we were to be cynical, we would point out that this can also be a good way to promote the company brand and make it more attractive to some customers.)
A modern company will approach employee engagement as a holistic process. It will be a forward-moving and socially conscious corporate entity that cares about their employees' lives both in and outside the company property.
There’s so much opportunity to make the workplace happier, better, and more efficient in the 21st century - and companies need to get on the bandwagon as soon as possible.