4 reasons traditional employee engagement is dead

A quick summary:

  • Cash incentives aren’t as convincing anymore 💰
  • Generic recognition and rewards are harmful ❌
  • The war for talent leaves traditional employee engagement in the dust 👋
  • Gen Z and millennials have different beliefs and preferences 💚
  • The future of driving engagement in the workplace 📈

Let’s get one thing straight, traditional employee engagement is dead. In the competitive job market and a world plagued by instability, organisations must think outside the box. They must drive engagement in creative ways – that’s if they value their employees and want them to stick around.

We have all heard the saying “what worked yesterday doesn’t always work tomorrow”. In the workplace, this quote reflects the pace of change. Whether it’s to drive engagement or your employee benefits package, they must evolve with the demands of the workforce. 

Here, we’re looking at why traditional employee engagement is dead and gone. How to drive employee engagement successfully in 2022, and what we should expect in the future.

If you’re an HR professional, reach for the nearest notepad and pen, because we have a lot to cover in this post! 

Four employees engaged in conversation around a laptop in an office
Why traditional employee engagement is dead

4 Reasons why traditional employee engagement is dead

There are tons of reasons why traditional employee engagement is dead and buried. We’ve selected what we believe to be the most important points. 

Engagement is a funny thing. Unless leaders are prepared to test strategies, think outside the box and dedicate time and resources, they will never come out on top. 

Like anything in business, failure is an option. Fail fast and find the solutions to revolution your employee engagement strategy – and just so you don’t fall into the trap of traditional employee engagement, let’s look at four reasons to avoid it…

Cash incentives aren’t as convincing anymore

Where better to start than cash incentives? In the past several years, engagement appears to be dominated by cash incentives, bonuses and salary increases. It’s no secret nor surprise that we all love money. It’s the means to live a happier life (to some extent). 

That said, money doesn’t buy happiness, and leaders can’t buy engagement. Money holds the same novelty as material possessions. After so many months, salary increases just don’t have the same value to employees. 

This drive to increase our salary in the hope of happier days will lead to disappointment. And in the past couple of years, society has begun to realise this. In fact, In one survey, more than half of employees said they would leave a job for better burnout and stress support.

What’s more, as younger generations enter the workplace, their needs and expectations change – we’ll discuss this more later on.

Conclusively, however, cash incentives just aren’t as much of a game-changer for employees. They rely on traditional employee engagement methods. 

In the modern workplace, people value health and wellbeing above things like pay increases. We expect this trend to climb even higher with all the instability in the world, right now. 

On a side note, the UK economy has spiralled downward creating a cost of living crisis. If employers aren’t able to provide cash incentives, alternatives must be considered to drive engagement. 

Similar read: How employee benefits can improve your team's engagement

Five employees engaged in a meeting in an office
Generic recognition are a sign of traditional employee engagement

Generic recognition and rewards do more harm than good

Let’s now discuss why generic recognition and reward schemes are a poor traditional employee engagement strategy. Firstly, no matter how many employees are involved, leaders shouldn’t offer a generic recognition scheme. 

Recognition must be personalised. Whatever the reward, it is almost always likely to do unused or unappreciated. When we receive recognition and rewards fit for anyone and everyone, we know there’s a lack of meaning behind the act. 

Leaders should personalise all recognition and reward ideas to avoid traditional employee engagement. Unfortunately, a generic approach was once a company’s only way to drive engagement – yet, their competitors would thrive by adopting personalisation!

For instance, if you know the hobbies and interests of your employees, why not reward them with something relevant? It doesn’t always have to break the bank and will be much more appreciated. 

It’s worth highlighting that it isn’t the gift that will be more appreciated, but the consideration to personalise the reward. People love knowing that their peers, friends or family really listens and takes note of their interests. 

If you’re sitting wondering how to find out more about your employees, let it be a lesson that communication and workplace relationships are poor. You should have some inkling of your employees’ interests and hobbies. 

Personalisation continues to influence everything from employee benefits to recognition and the overall employee experience – how do you plan to ramp up your personalisation efforts to avoid traditional employee engagement?

The war for talent leaves traditional employee engagement in the dust

Next up is the ‘war for talent’ as it has been dubbed in the press. In the modern workplace, leaders cannot rely on traditional employee engagement methods to drive engagement. Not only because they stray from general employee trends and demands, but because it has caused chaos in the job market. 

In fact, in one article TheHRDirector pointed out that retention and attrition were to be the biggest challenges for HR professionals in 2022. And so far, it has proven accurate. 

According to the Office for National Statistics, job-to-job moves reached an all-time high of 994,000 during the first quarter of 2022. This figure was driven primarily by resignations as opposed to dismissals or redundancies. 

Ultimately, employee demands have evolved. There is no doubt about that. In a post-pandemic world, organisations must rethink many areas of business. Traditional employee engagement is one. 

The figures above leave out all guesswork and prove that change is happening, and will continue to happen as we move closer to 2023 and beyond. It’s leaders that take away this knowledge from this article and kickstart change in the workplace. 

Attracting employees has become harder and harder for companies in recent years. Those that offer little flexibility in the way of remote and hybrid work will fight an uphill battle to drive engagement. 

Those that disregard flexible working entirely show a preference for traditional employee engagement methods. Something we hope you have begun to realise just doesn’t work.

If employers want to drive engagement in the workplace, they must recognise the forces behind the ‘war for talent’ and the ‘Great Resignation’. Only then can they avoid behind left in the dust of workplace change. 

Let’s move onto the next reason why traditional employee engagement is dead and gone in the modern workplace – the wave of Gen Z and millennials that have entered the workplace.

Three employees sat around a table in a meeting room
Different preferences and demands drive engagement for different generations

Gen Z and millennials have different demands and preferences

Before we jump into this reason, let’s get one thing clear – ideas, preferences and beliefs change from generation to generation. When it comes to the workplace, traditional employee engagement strategies are set to fail. 

Since 2020, millennials make up around 35% of the global workforce, and 24% for Gen Z workers. This shift is a contributing factor to why traditional employee engagement just doesn’t work. 

As we mentioned above, beliefs and preferences change from one generation to another, and these younger generations are hugely influenced by health and wellbeing – and that applies both in and outside the workplace. 

If organisations want to appeal to the young talent they must deliver the right employee experience, the best benefits and rewards and recognise that traditional employee engagement isn’t the right path.  

In fact, Gen Z and millennials spend the most on fitness, with around $7B spent annually on fitness memberships by millennials. Millennials also struggle with mental health at higher rates than that reported for older generations.

This suggests that things like life coaching and counselling may be much more effective and appreciated than generally pay increases or bonuses. 

It’s precisely why we offer so many wellbeing experiences, products and services on Heka. We understand the changing demands of employee needs in the workplace. Traditional employee engagement doesn’t work and nor do old incentives. 

If you’d like to find out how Heka supports thousands of employees, visit our Meet Heka page. Alternatively, why not book a demo with one of our wellbeing experts?

Ultimately, the workplace is changing, not just the demands of older generations, but the entire workforce itself. Younger people are driven by health, fitness and wellbeing and companies need to adopt this notion to drive engagement.

Similar read: Employee benefits vs pay increase

Five female employees watching a manager writing on a board in a meeting room
The future of driving engagement in the workplace

The future of driving engagement in the workplace

So, let’s wrap things up with our take on how leaders can drive engagement in the future. As we’ve established traditional employee engagement is simply obsolete. It doesn’t work, and the few companies still using methods of traditional employee engagement are likely to see their workforce crumble. 

Instead, we identify health and wellbeing, personalisation and work-life balance as the best opportunities to drive engagement.

As we’ve discussed above, health and wellbeing are climbing up both the corporate agenda, but also a priority for employees. Much more needs to be done, both from a culture angle and as part of incentives and initiatives in the workplace. 

Just take a look at the likes of Google and Microsoft. These companies have been built on robust company culture and an array of benefits and incentives. They have introduced sleeping pods, quiet areas, healthcare professionals, onsite gym facilities and many more. They understand the needs of their workforce and deliver solutions. 

Looking at personalisation, leaders must get to know their workforce much more. It’s no longer acceptable to offer just anything as an employee benefit in the hope it sticks. Impressive benefits and perks drive engagement. 

To offer generic incentives is to follow the narrative of traditional employee engagement. Our best advice to leaders is to personalise, personalise and personalise some more!

Finally, let’s talk about work-life balance. In the past couple of years, the flexibility of hybrid and remote work has improved the work-life balance for millions. Yes, remote work comes with its own set of challenges, but people are spending less time commuting, more time with family and really able to focus on what matters most in life.

Saving nearly two hours on average a day, plus the expenses of commuting, employees are much better off with flexible working. There are other ways to improve work-life balance and leaders who strive to achieve this avoid the trap of traditional employee engagement. 

Consider offering shorter working days, and more social events with colleagues. There should be a ‘work mode’ and a time to have fun and socialise. We may be coming out of the global pandemic, but uncertainty continues to loom large. 

Work-life balance is more important than ever. Not only to help us thrive in our jobs but for our own health and wellbeing. How will you help employees create a better work-life balance in 2022?

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