People and purpose / Virtual Teams

Has hybrid caused a global dip in employee engagement?

There was a very interesting finding in this Gallup report that employee engagement, after continuing to rise in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, then now started to fall in 2021 and 22.

Their earlier research showed that engagement was highest for fully remote people, and lowest in people with jobs which could be done remotely but who were forced to go into the office.

It would be reasonable to note in the last couple of years that the “return to the office” happened at the same time as this reduction in engagement.

It could also be a challenge that comes from finding a long-term sustainable way of working for organisations that are new to working remotely or in a hybrid pattern.

The engagement elements that declined the most from the pre-pandemic record-high engagement levels were:

  • clarity of expectations
  • connection to the mission or purpose of the company
  • opportunities to learn and grow
  •  opportunities to do what employees do best
  • feeling cared about at work

These are all things we traditionally did mainly face to face. Part of this must be that we haven’t yet embedded remote and hybrid working skills, ways of working and business processes in a way that enables us to deliver these factors in the new environment.

As we talk to leading organisations around the world many of them have stalled their efforts to embed remote and hybrid working.

This is the biggest change at scale in ways of working since the industrial revolution and it needs to be treated as a major transformation project. In many cases, however, it is getting relatively little attention; some people are drifting back to the office but many of them are finding that, as few others are there, it’s a dissatisfying experience. Others are commuting to spend their days on virtual meetings and answering emails

Flexibility is wildly attractive to individuals, but some senior leaders still have concerns about productivity, innovation, corporate culture etc. We don’t see much evidence of work being done to resolve these concerns just an airing of different opinions.

It was also interesting that “connection to the mission or purpose of the company” was high on the list of factors that had declined as employee engagement reduced. If you are working in remote or hybrid environment, you need to get much more sense of purpose and meaning from yourself as you have less external support and mechanisms from the organisation. Helping people find their purpose and engagement at work has become an important element for us of enabling everyone to create their own engagement. We expect this to continue to be an important theme.

What are you doing to reverse the employee engagement dip? Are you really embedding remote and hybrid working or just let it drift? Do you equip your people to find their own purpose and engagement at work? We think it’s time to do the work and lead people into the kind of future we want rather than just let it drift.

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