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Redefining Employee Engagement for the Modern Workforce

By Brian Michaud, SVP, ADP TotalSource

Brian Michaud, SVP, ADP TotalSource

What are the current market trends you see shaping the employee engagement space?

In the years I have been with ADP TotalSource, I have seen the macro and micro factors that drive change in this industry, as well as what organizations demand to stay competitive.  

Today’s ever-changing world of work has employers striving to remain competitive and compliant all while growing their business, and much of that growth starts with hiring and retaining employees.

First, companies are increasingly focusing on bolstering their internal brand to better engage and retain their workforce—not just for the moment, but for the long term. Some proven strategies for keeping people engaged over time include committing to pay equality, fostering greater diversity and inclusion, and preventing the development of a hostile workplace environment.

Second, what it means to be human at work is becoming a huge focus among employees seeking the support from their employers. Companies are challenged to create an elevated work experience and long-term employee engagement. We’re seeing an increase in employers using the latest technologies to attract and retain talent and help leaders engage their workers more appropriately. A huge part of that means engaging in real time.

Third, in the past, employee engagement was a KPI or target.  For example, employers had to present the best stats to be seen as one of the best places to work. However, a lot of work needs to be done in flipping the model. We’re finding as the engagement model evolves, people aren’t seeking to work for the best company based on stats, but rather the right company for them—where they can feel committed and be productive. Engagement needs to be a tool that allows employees to feel productive and have a sense of purpose. Engagement happens much more at the local level, amongst teams and their leaders, rather than at the executive level.

Finally, the market is now focusing more on managing people’s strengths, and there’s a good reason for this. When employers focus on strengths and designate work accordingly, employees are more likely to enjoy their work.  For managers, this requires engaging with their team members through a “strength-based lens.”For employees, it’s simple—they can be at their best more often.

The attention of the team leader plays a vital role.  Through regular check-ins and figuring out what their team members are working on and how they can help, the team leader will boost the team’s overall confidence. However, you have to come to the check-in with a set of reliable questions and the goal of eliminating barriers to doing great work. “What is your most important work today, and how can I help?” That’s a good example.

"What it means to be human at work is becoming a huge focus among employees seeking the support from their employers"

Please elaborate on the challenges that organizations will need to address that are related to Employee Engagement.

The primary challenge in the market is still the talent shortage. The war for talent has not subsided by any means. In fact, 50% of companies today say it's hard to hire, which makes retention even more essential. Ultimately, this problem is making companies of all shapes and sizes feel stuck; because in order for them to grow and thrive, they need the right talent. This is true at the startup, SMB and enterprise level in today’s global landscape. That’s why PEOs are the best kept secret for SMBs right now. PEOs are helping SMBs provide safety and security for their employees that is on par with their far bigger competitors, while letting the SMB maintain its unique identity and control over its workplace. PEOs make it so SMBs don’t have to worry about being HR experts—they can focus instead on what they do best and why they come into work every day.

Could you elaborate on some interesting and impactful initiatives you’re currently overseeing?

At ADP TotalSource, we found employees are more receptive to a new performance-based review model that includes frequent check-ins between manager and employee. One of the ways we address this growing market need at ADP is through our StandOut platform, which helps companies and employees manage their strengths, as well as provides team leader stracking and performance assessment on a much more frequent basis.

Another is by supporting the four core needs of employees at work: feeling productive, a sense of belonging, inspired, and uniquely valued.  Feeling productive starts with being needed, feeling a sense of belonging starts with being included, feeling inspired starts with being present.  In addition, we design ADP TotalSource products around the four core needs at work for sustained, long-term employee happiness and to help employers address and craft experiences down the road so employees can feel more productive, inspired and uniquely valued. These are the initiatives we are taking on in the engagement space today that are resonating in the marketplace and changing the way people do business.

Is there any unmet requirement in terms of engagements piece that you believe is yet to be leveraged by the vendors? And what are the major tasks for organizational CIOs at this point in time?

When thinking about unmet needs to drive engagement, the first thing that comes to my mind is the company survey – it’s how the majority of employee engagement is done today. However, there’s an opportunity for this to change by flipping the model and not going after a KPI or a target but focusing on real engagement. This enables employees to feel more connected to the company and, in turn, consistently produce their greatest work.

There is a lot for CIOs to consider right now. In the HR space, there's plenty of useful data that can help solve real business problems such as turnover, pay equity, attracting talent with the right compensation packages, benchmarking both by industry and given geography, and understanding what you need to offer to your employees in order to win talent. It’s more than just pay rate—it's about the benefits package you need to bring to the table.

What is your advice for budding technologists in the Employee Engagement space? How do you see the evolution a few years from now with regards to disruptions and transformations within the Employee Engagement space?

If you're doing an engagement survey once a year, by the time you get that data, it's already out of print. You're not addressing things in real time. Instead, I would suggest focusing on frequency.

Understandably, it is hard for leaders to find the time for frequent, real-time engagement and the bandwidth to be consistent with it, given all of the other things on their plate at any given time. That’s why a lot of companies are achieving their goals, whether they are technical data or engagement, through a co-employment relationship (i.e., through ADP TotalSource) - which gives leaders much-needed time and bandwidth back so they can really focus on their people.

TotalSource is constantly evolving alongside the changing workforce.  As the needs of the workforce progress, our offerings must also advance to address the shifting world of work, from changing business regulations to advancements in tech, increasing regulatory and compliance challenges, and a tight talent market. We work hand-in-hand in delivering services to attract, develop, engage in and retain great talent, as well as provide Fortune 500-style benefits to remain attractive. Through this, small and medium-sized businesses can compete with larger companies for talent and position themselves as a choice employer. 

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