Workplaces with highly engaged employees have a significant competitive advantage. Engaged employees are more productive, remain with the organization, experience more positive emotions and have less absenteeism. Overall, engaged employees contribute to better customer service, quality, profits, productivity and reduced employee turnover.
Although employee engagement is highly desired, unfortunately only about a third of employees are engaged in their workplace according to a 2015 Gallup study. About half of U.S. employees are not engaged, and even worse, 17 percent are actively disengaged. Engagement Institute researchers in 2017 estimated the cost of employee disengagement to be as much as $550 billion a year.
Engagement defined: Engaged employees tend to have a passion for their work, go the extra mile and feel connected to the organization. Not engaged employees tend to be neutral, do just enough work to get by, and have little concern for the organization, customers or profits. They are often merely going through the motions. Disengaged employees tend to be unhappy at work, demonstrate their unhappiness, and may undermine the efforts of others who are engaged.
Many practices contribute to employee engagement; among these are training and development. Therefore, learning and development plays a critical role in increasing employee engagement. L&D professionals must understand and determine ways to best develop and train a multigenerational workforce whose members have different values, learning styles, preferences for training and expectations.
The five generations in the workplace with different motivations, expectations and requirements present an L&D challenge. Generational cohorts have different life experiences that contribute to their world view, how they interact and their levels of engagement in the workplace. Although organizations recognize changing demographics represent a significant organizational impact, most do not know how to adjust.
Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce, are characterized as having low levels of employee engagement. According to 2017 Gallup research, inadequate or a lack of professional and career development may be among the reasons for low employee engagement amid millennials (29 percent). Furthermore, millennials are more likely than both Gen Xers and baby boomers to say a job that accelerates their professional or career development is very important to them.
Millennials are more engaged in an environment where they are evaluated continuously and provided continuous feedback. Baby boomers do not share this need for constant feedback. In a learning environment, learners’ input must be valued, and individual feedback should be solicited. Likewise, learners need feedback and a review of the main points to increase awareness of what was learned and to reinforce the application of learning in the workplace.
All employees must have the hard and soft skills and training required to perform their job. With an increasing number of employees working virtually, especially now, managers need training on how to keep virtual employees engaged. Appropriate training methods are necessary to engage employees with different learning styles and needs. The method of training delivery, the learning environment, technology, amount of reading, training materials and feedback should all be factored.
Onboarding processes should communicate how the job contributes to the overall organization. Onboarding can provide an opportunity to make a positive first impression that could initially connect new hires to the organization and build a foundation for engagement. Employees who do not feel connected to the organization are likely to leave. Unfortunately, employee loyalty is a relic of the past, especially among younger generations. In an environment with a skill shortage, skilled employees have many choices.
There will be an increased need for training and leadership development for the next generation of leaders as 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age a day. According to 2017 Training Magazine research, high-performing organizations are more likely to tailor learning methods to the new generation of leaders, help new leaders manage the transition to leadership positions, and make next-generation leaders a priority for the organization.