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Lean in or lose them: Why you should make employee engagement a priority in 2022

Did your management team put in a superhuman effort connecting with employees when the Covid crisis first struck? If you answered in the affirmative, you’re far from alone. 

In March 2020, tens of thousands of Australian organisations were racing to enact contingency and continuity plans in response to government lockdowns and supply chain disruption. With fear, uncertainty, and doubt peaking, keeping the troops relaxed, comfortable and in the loop was a priority for business leaders.

Typically, that surge in engagement continued through the early days and months of the pandemic. With employees out of the office – more than 4.3 million of us were working from home during April and May 2020, according to Roy Morgan research – frequent check-ins and constant communication became the norm for many. Remote working also had a decidedly ‘humanising’ effect, with online meetings providing an unprecedented window into managers and workers’ home lives.

The great disconnect

But, in many organisations, the love-in hasn’t lasted. Instead, Achievers research suggests that communication and engagement between leaders and their teams have dwindled during the past six to 12 months. Employees have clocked that change, and it’s causing them angst.

Some employees worry that the work they do and the contribution they make have been sliding by unseen. In response, they’ve been doubling down on their efforts, starting earlier, skipping lunch and binge working in the hope of countering negative perceptions and upping their ratings at their next performance review.

Others are biding their time and will vote with their feet, joining the much-anticipated Great Resignation as soon as an attractive opportunity arises if things don’t take a turn for the better soon.

Preventing cultural decline

That’s a problem for employers and one that’s broader and deeper than mere individual unhappiness or discontent, undesirable though they may be. If employees don’t feel a sense of connection and belonging, then company culture suffers. That, in turn, has a big impact on morale, productivity and employee attrition in the long term.

It can also have a material effect on an organisation’s ability to secure the talent it needs to grow and prosper. We live in the age of transparency, with individuals able to review employers anonymously on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed for the benefit of others looking to make career decisions. 

Chalk up too many black marks for paying badly, offering poor work-life balance, or having an uninspiring office and workplace culture and all too soon you may have trouble attracting tier-one candidates to your team.

The power of recognition

Strengthening the bonds between managers and their direct reports can stave off a decline in mood and morale and ensure your workforce remains enthusiastic and engaged as Australian society and the economy move into the post-pandemic phase. 

Acknowledging and celebrating your employees – regularly, not once in a blue moon – can help you to do so. According to Achievers research, a whopping 69 per cent of workers say more frequent recognition would improve their relationship with their manager.

The trouble is, if it’s left to individual leaders, recognition can be a hit and miss affair, not the ongoing, impactful exercise it needs to be. That’s where digital tools which formalise and streamline the process can play a valuable part. An employee engagement and success platform can allow an organisation to craft and administer tailored recognition programs which resonate with workers and reinforce that all-important connection between leader and team. 

Striving for success

A willing workforce is a powerful asset, one that can’t be bought but can be built. Fostering stronger relationships between managers and their direct reports will enable you to amass and sustain a team of enthusiastic, highly engaged contributors whose dedication and commitment will help your organisation succeed in 2022 and beyond.

Read more: Why 2021 needs employees that are excellent self-leaders

Read more: Why employee engagement is critical

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Matt Seadon

Matt Seadon

Matt is General Manager of Asia Pacific at Achievers, an industry-leading provider of employee recognition and engagement solutions. He is responsible for the organisation’s Asia Pacific business, including sales and client service teams in Melbourne, Sydney and Singapore. With nearly two decades of industry experience, Matt was previously General Manager of Recognition at Blackhawk Network, Asia Pacific and General Manager and Director at Grass Roots Group.

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