5 Ways to Keep the Modern Workforce Engaged

11/16/2016 03:27 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2017

We're in the midst of a major workplace transformation. For centuries, the focus was on task-oriented laborers, whose primary output came from their hands. As the transition toward the new information era began, employees' minds and ingenuity became a central component of the economy - driving new ideas and innovations for the world.

As such, talent has replaced goods as the most significant factor in the global economy. This has also heralded the dawn of a new era -- the human era, where the real measure of a valuable worker isn't just their hands or brains but also their heart - their commitment to an organization and its values. This is an era where organizations firmly believe that company well-being starts with worker well-being.

So, what can organizations do to provide a more human employee experience that strengthens connections between people and teams and, ultimately, drives stronger employee and company performance? Which factors create a more human employee experience in the workplace? How can organizational cultures and practices become more human themselves?

These questions are even more critical as the boundaries between people and technology become blurred. While machines are able to learn, reason, and interact with humans naturally, people -- humans -- are at the forefront of realizing the benefits of new technologies. It is a time when work can be a more rewarding experience for employees.

This idea is explored in greater detail in a new research study of more than 23,000 employees in 45 countries, conducted by the IBM® Smarter Workforce Institute and the Globoforce WorkHuman® Research Institute. The study, The Employee Experience Index: A new global measure of a human workplace and its impact, reveals the impact of employee experience on the workplace and recommends specific practices for organizations to create more positive employee experiences.

The study found that employees experiencing a higher level of humanity at work tend to perform better, are more likely to exert extra effort at their jobs, and are less likely to quit companies.

The resulting index captures five core facets of the modern employee experience, which are:

  • Belonging - feeling part of a team, group or organization
  • Purpose - understanding why one's work matters
  • Achievement - a sense of accomplishment in the work that is done
  • Happiness - the pleasant feeling arising in and around work
  • Vigor - the presence of energy, enthusiasm and excitement at work

So, what can organizations do to keep the modern workforce engaged and provide a positive employee experience?

  • Foster a more human work environment -- Discretionary effort is nearly twice as high in strongly human work environments (95 percent compared to 55 percent), suggesting a stronger employee experience can contribute to higher motivation levels to go "above and beyond" typical job duties. A more human environment also helps organizations retain their talent. Analysis shows low levels of the employee experience are more than twice as likely to say they want to leave compared to those with much stronger experiences (44 percent vs. 21 percent).

  • Recognize and appreciate employees -- 83 percent of employees report a positive employee experience when they feel recognized for the good work they do, compared to 38 percent that don't receive recognition. Employees whose organizations offer recognition programs that provide rewards based on demonstrating core values have a considerably higher employee experience index score than those in organizations without recognition programs (81 percent vs. 62 percent).
  • Empower employees and listen to their voices -- A positive employee experience emphasizes the benefits of greater freedom to employees, empowers them and listens to their voices. More importantly, in a human workplace, employees are given the freedom to decide and determine how work is best accomplished. Employees who feel their ideas and suggestions matter are more than twice as likely to report a positive employee experience than those who don't (83 percent vs. 34 percent).
  • Create opportunities for meaningful work -- The drivers of employee experience also extend to the work itself. Meaningful work ensures that employees' skills and talents are being fully utilized and there is greater alignment to shared, core values. According to the study, the presence of these features is related to a 50 percentage point increase in employee experience. Indeed, employee experience is just 29 percent when employees do not report their work is consistent with organizational values, compared to an employee experience index score of 80 percent when employee work is consistent with those core values.
  • Encourage team work-- Employees working in a team have stronger employee experiences at work than those who work on their own (73 percent vs. 61 percent). When people are part of a winning, performance-driven team, stronger results and connections within a company occur. Today's companies are a series of teams -- where the work happens on a daily basis and where the strongest employee connections are built. By uncovering and recognizing individual strengths, the team is more empowered and efficient as people are able to thrive with their personal skills and abilities.
  • Cultivating a culture of humanity that provides positive employee experiences should be a top priority for all organizations. With a fuller understanding of the aspects that provide a more human experience at work, HR and business leaders can lead organizations more effectively. They can play a vital role in creating workplaces that place greater emphasis on richer, more human employee-employer relationships.