If you’re in the learning space, you’ve probably noticed a lot of talk about engagement over the past year or so. L&D’s focus seems to have shifted away from simple job skills training, and started to concentrate on improving upon the overall working experiences of employees.
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While businesses have always considered employee happiness, engagement seems to be falling squarely on the shoulders of the training department. Here are four important reasons why employee engagement has become such an urgent theme in L&D:
1. The economy’s improving.
A few years ago, when jobs were harder to come by, employee happiness wasn’t a priority at most businesses. Workers just wanted to earn an income, while companies were busy maximizing the productivity of a depleted workforce. Now that the economy has recovered from the recession, more jobs are available than there’s been in fifteen years.
2. Top employees are on the move.
With today’s brighter economic picture, workers are finally able to stick their heads up and look around. Organizations that have neglected engagement until now are getting caught on their heels: 60% of employees lack the essential elements needed to be engaged at work, with only 31% of employees report being engaged at all—the lowest this statistic has been in eight years. Which means the best of those dissatisfied workers are about to start leaving their current companies for greener pastures.
3. Tomorrow’s workers demand it.
Millennials make up a third of the workforce today, and in just five years will represent half of all workers. Catering to millennials now is essential to preventing recruitment and retention problems in the future.
However, millennials’ priorities are different than previous generations. They notoriously prefer doing work they’re proud of. It’s practically become a defining feature of their generation: more than half say they’d take a 15% pay cut to work at an organization that aligned with their values. To attract people that care deeply about their work, engagement is a must.
4. People matter now more than ever.
There was a time, decades ago, when businesses hired humans to do menial jobs. Secretarial pools clacked away, data entry technicians keyed in numbers, and telephone operators plugged in wires. Today, in an era when my phone knows where I should eat dinner better than I do, nearly every one of those jobs has been automated out of existence. Not only that, but the technology that’s replacing them is cheap enough for anyone to afford. The only competitive advantage left lies in people. The jobs of tomorrow are going to be performed by workers leveraging their creativity, wisdom, and innovation. In order to retain employees—and hone their ability to do higher-order cognition—businesses need an engaged workforce.
Finally, engagement is on businesses’ radar.
L&D is in a unique position to affect the kind of sea change businesses are looking for. We’re always hearing about how “the people make the company,” right? Well, that makes employee engagement a kind of shorthand for how an organization manages its most important asset: its people. Aware of how disengaged employees effect the bottom line, businesses rank engagement as their top talent challenge this year. So while the problem isn’t sneaking up on anyone any more, many companies are unsure just how to solve it. And this is L&D’s opportunity: engage workers with effective learning, development, and job support, and you’ll power a more engaged and happy workforce.