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Nick Barnes from Coral Communications considers whether 2015 will be the year when what it means to be engaged is redefined.


Employee engagement is on the increase (source: Aon Hewitt 2014 Trends in Global Engagement Report).  This is largely attributed to the [relative] global stabilisation of the economy following the end of the GFC (highlighting that economic conditions have a clear impact, directly or indirectly, on people’s apparent ability to engage or to be engaged).  Nonetheless, employees are apparently ‘engaging’ more across the world.

However, dissect the figures and you can see that, while the overall tilt is up, people’s need to commit long term to a company is declining, particularly in mature, developed economies. 

According to the data, only a little over half see a long-term path with their current company.  Related to this is that even fewer say there is a compelling value proposition to keep their talents with their current company.

Having a sense of long term commitment; that desire to be part of an organisation’s journey, has commonly appeared in engagement definitions since its concept.

However, this new data hints that, while being a strong advocate of a company and willing to go above and beyond are rising indicators of engaged behaviour, the relevance of long term commitment to a company in this context is beginning to decline.

Dig deeper into the data and there are two key and stand-out drivers for why this might be:


The technological revolution

The growing (albeit gradual) economic recovery coupled with an exponential acceleration of technological advances is having a significant impact on both businesses and people. Entire industries are being eliminated and new ones emerging, almost overnight.  As a result, the need for businesses to stay relevant and agile has never been greater.

To meet these rapidly changing business demands, leading companies are beginning to devalue the need for loyalty, focussing more on creating a workforce which is agile, flexible and able to learn quickly. 

Fundamentally, companies need their employees to go above and beyond; indeed, discretionary effort is the signature of an engaged worker.  But to meet the challenges of these continuously evolving economic dynamics, companies need their workforces to engage differently to before, going above and beyond in ways that demonstrate adaptability, learning and speed.

In short, with ‘tomorrow’ yet to be defined, companies are beginning to recognise the need to build a workforce for the ‘now’.


The Millennials invasion

Enter the Millennials. Millennials (aged 20-32) represent the largest pool to recruit from.  Children of the technological revolution, they are the leaders of the future and native to the aforementioned dynamic economic landscape.

The sheer size of this cohort means they are setting the tone for the workforce pool, and what drives Millennials to engage differs substantively to the preceding generations. 

Unlike the Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers, the data shows that recognition and communication are relatively unimportant to Millennials.  Uniquely, Millennials are engaged more than their generational peers by opportunities to be creative and by the level of their remuneration.

Predicted to hold between 15-20 jobs over a lifetime, career building is not on a Millennials agenda.  Instead, they seek fast-paced, adrenaline rushed employment opportunities.  Likely to be 75% of labour market by 2025, Millennials have shorter-term (comparatively) horizons than any other preceding generation in any given role.

It is therefore, imperative that companies recast their engagement strategy and value proposition so that it is relevant to the needs of this generation and aligned to attract and retain the best talent from this pool.


Redefining engagement

Economic, technological and demographic forces have put pressure on businesses in unprecedented ways and engaging talent in the right behaviours for future business challenges is critical.  As Millennials begin to take a stronger hold of the professional world, companies will need to re-think their engagement strategy, and in particular, how they validate employee engagement.

Engagement is about people.  Companies need to move beyond a generic concept and clarify what engagement actually looks like; where people need to go above and beyond and what behaviours they need to demonstrate.  Understanding what it means to be engaged in today’s world is a prerequisite to engaging employees and those companies who embrace this, will be the ones leading the way into the unknown.




Nick Barnes is a specialist in measuring people engagement, with more than 10 years agency experience supporting some of the world’s best known and most complex organisations, including HSBC, BP, Travelocity and BAA.  Nick has extensive experience working in and in close partnership with HR and Corporate Communications, in the areas of measurement , strategy creation and brand,.  Nick spent 11 years in London before moving to Australia in 2012 to establish Coral Communications.  Nick believes strongly in partnering with people to develop and deliver complimentary and sustainable communications and measurement strategies.


Helping people in business thrive! 

At Coral, we partner with people; likeminded professionals who are passionate about creating an environment where people can thrive.  We help connect a business with its people.  How do we do this?  By restoring the balance to your communications processes; activating brands in the hearts and minds of people; holding the mirror on what matters most; and releasing creativity by navigating the path to innovation.