Gethin Nadin: Employee engagement is still relevant in its own right

employee engagementFor many, it probably seems like employee engagement gave way to employee wellbeing or the employee experience over the last five years, but the reality is all that three of these separate, but symbiotic elements of work, are still very relevant in their own right. Employee engagement is the psychological output of a great experience at work, and wellbeing can be measured by levels of engagement.

In 2022, just 21% of the world’s workforce was engaged, according to Gallup’s State of the global workplace: 2022 report published in June, and that figure still has not returned to its pre-pandemic peak. While global engagement scores were increasing over the last decade, the pandemic has put a stop to that trend. What was interesting during the pandemic was that in many cases, a collective trauma and the way employers acted temporarily improved employee engagement.

In the UK, by the time the first lockdown hit employers said their engagement scores went up. I suspect that is because many employers started acting the way they maybe always should have during the pandemic. We cared for our people more, we softened our tone, we invested more in wellbeing, we added new employee benefits, managers checked in more often and chief executive officers joined business updates.

But for some employers, employee engagement has become a brand new focus. According to WorkBuzz’s The biggest employee experience trends of 2021 report published in October 2021, front-line workers saw the sharpest fall in engagement during the pandemic and their employers are now the ones that are struggling most to attract and retain people. Employers across retail, hospitality, travel and healthcare are having to work harder than ever to engage their people and in many cases, they will be doing this for the first time.

Retail Trust found in its Health of retail report, from May 2022, that one-fifth of retail workers plan to leave the industry entirely, and the travel industry says a lack of employee engagement is responsible for them not meeting their sustainability goals. Many of those who lost their jobs during the pandemic were working in leisure and hospitality. For these industries to get back on their feet following the pandemic, employee engagement must be a huge priority.

Gethin Nadin is chair for the Engage for Success Wellbeing Thought Action Group