10 Major 2021 Employee Engagement Trends

What’s Keeping Employees Engaged in 2021?

One might think that employee engagement would have taken an irrecoverable blow thanks the additional hardships brought on by 2020, yet the opposite seems to be the case – according to the latest polling data from Gallup engagement is stronger than ever, and in many ways stronger than it was before. So, what exactly is keeping employees engaged in 2021?

Not-So-New Normals

If you’ve been following the development of employee motivators over the last decade or so, it’s easy to see that many of the work/life adjustments made over the last year that have become “new normals”  were already considered highly desirable benefits before 2020 happened. The pandemic accelerated many of these changes, but it seems at least some aspects of the new hybrid office, like more autonomy and flexibility, are more what employees wanted from their employers all along.

It may be a silver lining in a very large, confusing, and imposing storm cloud, but it’s a silver lining nonetheless as it was high time to set workplace priorities for a new and challenging era. Here are 10 major employee engagement trends for 2021 that will have major influence on everything from recruitment to productivity to work/life balance.

  • Flexible Schedules – With so many employees having to balance several new responsibilities like at-home care and school closures, the traditional 9-to-5 schedule is rapidly dissolving. Scheduling flexibility is a top desirable trait among job seekers.
  • Remote Work Options – By now it goes without saying that any company not at least considering going permanently hybrid or fully remote will soon be left in the dust. Remote work has changed from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have”.
  • Concern for Employee Health – Whether it’s wellness initiatives, vaccine incentives, or mental health support, the collective stress of dealing with an ongoing public health crisis has put health awareness top-of-mind for many employees.
  • Quality Relationships – Opportunities to develop professional relationships via quality time are in short supply these days. The manager-employee relationship is still one of the biggest drivers of engagement, and employees are looking for more substance in their dynamics with coworkers.
  • Sense of Appreciation – In a time when uncertainty and isolation are drags on our daily lives, people are seeking a place to belong and feel appreciated for their contributions, an environment work typically provides. Cultures that provide extra warmth can help employees reach their full potential.
  • Charitable Giving Opportunities – The economic impact of the pandemic has yet to be fully measured, but the marked increase in charitable giving is a reality. Opportunities for employees to give back and help their local communities are strong touchstones in 2021.
  • Travel Incentives – With quarantines and lockdowns easing in some areas, vaccinations are available to all Americans and many people are understandably wanting to get out of the house. Travel incentives are positioned to be a powerful motivator.
  • Social Responsibility – 2020 also brought seismic social changes that put more scrutiny on how companies interact with their customers and communities. Socially responsible companies have an engagement advantage, especially with young professionals.
  • Equitable Pay – The gender pay gap is still an annoyingly persistent thing, and there is currently hot political debate over a federal $15 minimum wage. Equitable and fair pay has always weighed heavily on engagement, but now is more desirable than higher pay in some cases.
  • Empathetic Culture – It goes without saying that racism, sexism, ageism, and any other form of harassment has no place in the world in 2021. An empathy-first mindset is needed to effectively deal with the mental and physical challenges still ahead of us.

The Complete Experience

And who could blame anyone for wanting these things from their employer after the year that was 2020? These 10 trends are poised to be the top motivators of employee engagement and satisfaction in 2021, and work together to create a more fulfilling overall employee experience. To every season there is a turn, and the future is brimming with possibilities for how we can work smarter, be more supportive, and help each other come out the other side of the pandemic stronger than before.

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