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Few things predict success in an organization like employee engagement. More than a simple “employee satisfaction” score, employee engagement is a measure of how passionate, committed, and motivated employees are.

Truly engaged employees fuel success—at an individual level, on their teams, and across the organization. They seek opportunities to grow both personally and professionally. They are passionate about the work they do, which benefits their organizations.

More and more organizations are investing in employee engagement, and in 2019 we’ll see another leap forward in the sophistication and impact of those investments.

Let’s take a look at seven key trends that will propel the evolution of employee engagement in 2019, and what you should know about them.

1. Development over assessment

In 2019, growth driven by engagement data steps into the spotlight and engagement scores—as a measure of success and evaluation—are relegated to the chorus. We’ll see action-taking, as a result of engagement scores, rewarded over the results themselves. This shift will influence increased investment in employee growth and development.

In addition to better employee performance, organizations that emphasize employee development and growth enjoy:

  • Easier recruiting: A whopping 93% of employees reported they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers.
  • Higher employee retention rates: 25% of employees with poor or no onboard training leave their jobs within the 90 days.
  • Improved profit margins: Profits are 24% higher for companies that invest in training vs. those that spend less.

The workplace can no longer be an environment where employees only come to use their skills: It needs to be a place where employees both use and advance their skills.

How will organizations do it?

  • Career development programs: Programs will focus on both the hard, technical skills that employees need to advance in their fields and the soft skills that are becoming more and more in demand in the modern workplace.
  • Regular conversations: It’s time to shift the cadence of conversations from annual to anything more frequent. Regular feedback between managers and team members drives learning and development opportunities that evolve with the employee and serve the business.

2. The rise of transparent, intentional conversations 

Superficial perks are no longer enough to attract and retain top talent—employees expect more, primarily in the form of transparency and agency. In 2019, we’ll see employers move from employee feedback surveys for the purpose of listening (gathering data without having it inform action), to surveys that are part of a holistic employee engagement strategy that informs more agile and growth-focused conversations.

Using employee engagement data and feedback helps managers have more confidence and focus on leading intentional conversations. More frequent, well-informed conversations between employees and managers drive success by engaging team members, inspiring organizational improvements, and creating transparency—all of which are a boon to organizations:

  • 31% of employees report that greater transparency would allow them to better understand their employer’s goals.
  • 23% of employees report that greater transparency would cause them to be more motivated.

Organizations that want to remain competitive in 2019 will inspire talent and passion with regular, two-way dialogue.

3. People analytics: Engagement as a critical business metric

Employee engagement isn’t all conversation. The other part of a truly holistic—and strategic—approach is data.

Because engagement is so crucial to successful organizations, it needs to be measurable. HR leaders, managers, and employees need to know about progress in the areas they identified to work on. That information empowers teams to build upon and improve their programs and solutions, as well as validate them to the C-suite by demonstrating their effect on revenue.

For example, Best Buy discovered that a 0.1% boost in employee engagement was worth $100,000 per year at one store. That’s very valuable information, especially as an organization looks to identify trends and replicate success across the business.

In this example, the strategic use of data to inform business decisions is “people analytics” at work. People analytics is a data-driven approach to collecting and analyzing information about an organization’s workforce. While it’s more than a simple HR strategy, at least 69% of organizations are already building integrated systems to analyze employee data, and at least 17% have real-time dashboards to help analyze it.

4. AI has a key role in HR and business strategy

As organizations pivot from a lengthy annual survey to weekly, monthly, and quarterly pulses, it’s critical that managers have a quick path to focused insights that inform effective action-taking.

AI can ingest millions of data points and turn them into personalized insights that help leaders identify themes and predict problems before they occur. This leads to faster, more accurate insights that help tell a complex story—something that used to take weeks or months to glean.

Natural language processing is a key way that AI will add value to businesses in 2019 and beyond. Open-ended comments, which used to take weeks or months for leaders to sift through, can be distilled into narratives based on data. Using natural language processing this way helps managers quickly spot potential trouble areas and analyze employee sentiment on a macro level.

Embracing AI is not about replacing the human touch—in fact, quite the opposite: AI handles data analysis so teams can spend more time on creative programs, high-level strategy, and coaching and developing other employees.

5. Flexible and remote work continue their rise

The days of having your entire workforce in the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. are long gone. Telecommuting, remote work, and flexible work arrangements are on the rise worldwide:

The rise of remote work is great for employees, who say working outside the office makes them more productive and gives them a more fulfilling work-life balance. But it raises a question for HR leaders: How do you ensure remote employees and telecommuters are engaged?

As the workforce becomes increasingly flexible and remote in 2019, organizations should consider ways to:

  • Make time for small talk and other moments of connection that are typical in a traditional office setting.
  • Solicit input and opinions from remote employees.
  • Keep remote workers’ schedules and time zones in mind when scheduling meetings or sending emails.
  • Maintain regular communication with remote workers.
  • Bring the team together in person once or twice per year to build and reinforce relationships.

6. Leaders use predictive analytics to anticipate issues

The importance of using data to evaluate where you are—and where you’ve been—is generally understood, but AI can now help you anticipate where you’ll be. In 2019, organizations continue to see the value and impact of using data to predict what happens next.

For example, with predictive analytics, you can anticipate times of stress and how it will impact employee turnover, retention, recruitment, and more. Implementing a solution with predictive capabilities can help identify trends and anticipate issues before they occur, ultimately enabling you to develop a more informed strategy.

7. An increasingly diverse workforce

Organizations around the world continue to strive for a multi-talented, diverse workforce. More than half of organizations are actively pursuing a more gender-diverse workforce, and a significant percentage of companies are looking for more diversity of ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation.

A more diverse workforce has a number of implications for employees and organizations in 2019, including:

  • AI: HR teams are increasingly turning to AI to reduce unconscious bias in employment screening and recruiting.
  • Employment qualifications: Unemployment is low, and tech companies, in particular, are feeling the strain. As a result, companies like IBM are focusing less on traditional qualifications, like a 4-year degree, and more on applicants’ skills.

Remain competitive with employee engagement trends for 2019

Keeping up with the trends rising in AI, predictive analytics, and more will put pressure on HR leaders to implement and use the right tools. An effective people success platform for the future gives you real-time data on employee engagement, an AI-powered early warning system, and management dashboards to stay on top of trends. Keeping these seven employee engagement trends in mind as you prepare for 2019 will keep your organization ahead of the game.

Check out the Glint People Success Platform to see how we prepare companies to engage employees now and in the future.