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Inspiration 2020: 5 trends for engaging employees

Jan 17, 2020

Written by: John O’Brien, VP of Employee Performance Group
(View Author Bio)

In this new year (and new decade), it’s time to start embracing the behavioral economics theory of reciprocity. To do this, here are five trends in employee engagement for the year ahead.

Employers have long searched for answers to “How do we inspire employees?” At the same time, many companies – through the early 2000s – asked employees to “do more with less.” While that was necessary for some organizations, the irony should not be overlooked.

In this new year (and new decade), it’s time to stop searching for the secret to inspiration. It’s time to start embracing the behavioral economics theory of reciprocity – the more you put in to inspiring and engaging employees, the more they’ll return to you in commitment and performance. To do this, here are five trends in employee engagement for the year ahead:

  1. Purpose: Are your employees performing tasks or are they helping build a business, endeavoring toward shared goals? The work might be the same but the attitude is radically different. When employees acknowledge and accept the company’s mission and values, and when they see how they can propel that, you’ll turn workers into transformers.
to start.png To start: Set distinct goals and connect them to broader company objectives.
the result.png The result: Your employees will understand how their daily work impacts the bigger picture and they’ll work with a mission focus. 
  1. Power: Giving employees power enables them to act, decide and grow; it’s about working from responsibility and for opportunity. People don’t have to be in management positions to have power or responsibility. They do, however, need to have understanding of goals and relationships.
to start.png To start: Allow employees to lead entire projects and be transparent about the projects you’re leading, then share the outcomes.
the result.png The result: You’ll boost creativity and trust and you’ll inspire employee engagement.
  1. Relationships: In the purest sense of the word, relationships are vital in every organization, especially larger ones. Employees must build relationships with managers, leadership and peers. A relationship includes understanding of roles, open communication about goals and the ability to work together to reach them. Cultivation of relationships requires accountability from everyone and it grows from respect, diversity and community-focused collaboration.
to start.png To start: Strive to understand what motivates your employees – their family, career goals, social purpose, cultural factors, etc.
the result.png The result: Less “what’s in it for me?” and more teamwork, accountability and respect.
  1. Recognition: This is the payoff and proof of quality professional relationships. Leaders must recognize high-quality efforts of their employees and by doing so they’ll encourage more of the same. Peers should also recognize each other. A collaborative work culture will reinforce that, and vice versa.
to start.png

To start: Set measurable goals, communicate outcomes and reward high-level achievement when it happens.

the result.png The result: People will understand the specifics of expectations. They’ll know their hard work will be recognized and they’ll change behavior to follow.
  1. Affiliation: Some more so than others but every employee should appreciate a connection to customers. When your employees feel an affiliation with the company’s outward brand expression, they’ll be better equipped to deliver on the important brand promise you make to customers and business partners.
to start.png

To start: Communicate the outcomes of employees’ customer relationships. Share sales results, manufacturing numbers, product delivery improvements and customer feedback.

the result.png The result: When employees understand the full story of their work and they see their impact on the brand delivery, it gives them ownership, pride and a deeper purpose.


As you develop strategies for engaging employees in 2020, make sure you add one more - open communication about your intentions for their growth. If there is one constant desire across our multi-generational workforce today, it’s the need for sincerity.


John O'Brien

Vice President
Employee Performance Group

As Vice President of BI WORLDWIDE’s Employee Performance Group, John O’Brien’s primary focus is to develop employee engagement strategies and solutions that change the behaviors of employees to align with customers’ business objectives. An expert in Employee Recognition Strategy, he educates HR professionals around the world on how to best engage their employees through employee engagement strategies, solutions and best practices.

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