How employee motivation and retention has changed in 7 years

October 08, 2015

In 2008, we published an article about how to motivate and retain top talent through employee engagement. In it, we mentioned a Gallup study that showed only 30% of the U.S. workforce was engaged with their jobs.

Seven years have passed, and the needle hasn't moved much when it comes to engagement: although Gallup reported in February of 2015 that the average engagement rate for U.S. employees had reached a 3-year high, that record high of 32.9% represents minimal progress from the engagement rate reported in 2008.

Is HR Adapting to New Trends in employee motivation?

Despite the relatively stagnant employee engagement rates in the U.S., there are some positive signs that the HR world is adapting to the needs of the modern employee. One of the key strategies for engagement that we mentioned in our original article was helping employees gain both professional and personal skills by providing them with ongoing training and mentorship opportunities.

Today, this strategy is arguably the most important method for motivating and retaining employees. As Josh Bersin wrote in a recent blog post, organizations must view their current employees as consumers who are free to go elsewhere with a moment's notice.

In response, companies are beginning to work on engagement and retention by creating what Bersin calls "the Irresistible Organization." One key attribute of this type of organization is the effective development of employees, for which mentoring programs are highly impactful: Deloitte reported this year that learning and development jumped from the eighth to the third most important talent challenge for business and HR leaders.

Critical Strategies for Employee Engagement in 2015 (and beyond)

One big employee engagement factor that wasn't as prominent in 2008 is alumni relations. As a recent Harvard Business Review article points out, nearly one-third of employers now expect members of their organization to job hop. In fact, many companies are actually embracing the "free agency" model through the establishment of strong alumni programs to stay connected with former employees. HBR reports that alumni make up between 10% and 15% of annual hires at major companies like DaVita and KPMG.

So what can your organization do to improve engagement, bolster productivity and attract top talent in your field? Many of the strategies that we outlined in 2008 still apply: it's still a good idea to get to know your employees and their individual aspirations, monitor their work-life balance, and listen to their feedback.

But there are some tips for engagement that are especially applicable now:

  • Adapt to the millennial generation. In 2015, millennials became the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. As we have discussed, embracing this generation requires a different approach than handling baby boomers or those from generation X. To engage millennials, you must show that you are invested in them, provide them with clear goals, and give consistent feedback.
  • Offer mentoring for everyone, not just new hires. Even the highest-ranking members of your organization need mentoring. Your employees can benefit from being a mentor as well as a mentee: don't squander the knowledge that even short-term employees can bring to the table, as these skills can accelerate the development of the entire company.
  • Celebrate high-potential employees, even after they leave. Companies on the cutting edge of engagement and talent retention understand that a relationship with an employee shouldn't end when the employee leaves. Instead, they are using alumni programs to attract their best former employees, build their corporate brand, and drastically reduce hiring costs.

Looking for more information about employee engagement and development? Download Insala's newly-released 2015 Mentoring Benchmarking Survey Report or catch up on some of our on-demand webinars using the link below.

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