The future of employee engagement.

The “listening organization” is the future of employee engagement, according to Josh Bersin. (Photo via highwaysagency, Flickr)

In 2016, what does the future of employee engagement look like? What is the significance of culture exactly? How do we create “simply irresistible” workplaces?
Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte covered these and other questions in a webinar on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
The webinar, “The New World of Employee Engagement,” was hosted by Jim Bell of Glint, the real-time engagement analytics company.
Bersin focused on how organizations can reinvent their employee experience, better measure and analyze engagement, and recognize employees. He also explained his organization’s Simply Irresistible Framework for “understanding engagement in today’s digital world of work.”
It was a fascinating and informative webinar! Read on for our top takeaways from Bersin’s presentation — including why a simple employee “Thank You” is more effective than the fanciest “country club” workplace perks.

7 Takeaways from Bersin’s ‘New World of Employee Engagement’

What did we learn? Here are insights from Wednesday’s webinar on the future of employee engagement:
1. Employees now are looking for an experience.
People are changing jobs more frequently — in Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends, 60 percent of respondents said just seven months on a job means they’re “loyal.” Commitment has shifted. Employees now are seeking opportunities for growth, excitement, learning, travel and, above all, work that is meaningful.
“Our candidates are not looking for a career, they’re looking for an experience,” Bersin said. A recognition-rich culture with frequent feedback and learning opportunities fits the new focus on experience. “Today most professionals know that if they aren’t learning every year, they’re falling behind. So people are hungry for learning.”
2. Engagement decisions are ultimately a leadership issue.
The workplace of 2016 is moving further away from the traditional top-down hierarchy and closer to a “network of teams.” In this new organizational model, employee engagement is a CEO-level issue facilitated by HR, according to Bersin. Engagement decisions are no longer the HR team’s responsibility alone. Engagement now “is a process that HR is facilitating for management. This is information that management is going to have to deal with.”
The engagement process of the future is “a complete architecture of feedback systems,” Bersin said. Companies need to seek engagement data throughout the employee lifecycle, not just once a year, using:

  • performance feedback
  • anonymous feedback tools
  • performance appraisals
  • check-ins
  • pulse surveys
  • exit interviews

3. Employee feedback is a gift.
Listening becomes ever more important as we move to a “network of teams” in the workplace. The closer relationship between leadership and HR is fostering “a cultural movement,” Bersin says. “It’s a shift to building a listening organization.”
A “listening organization” is open to employee feedback, too. Handling employee suggestions or criticism isn’t a burden or an opportunity to point fingers. Listening and giving back need to be top priorities for leaders, Bersin said: “You have to know what people are thinking.”
Webinar host Jim Bell agreed: “Treat feedback as a gift.”
4. Recognition is ‘enormous.’
Employees also need to hear feedback. When employees don’t get feedback, they get anxious, worried and stressed.
“People thrive on getting feedback,” Bersin said. That’s one reason employee recognition is “enormous,” he added. People need to be rewarded for their skills and abilities, not position.
“When people thank each other and recognize each other in a  human way” — not bonuses — “retention goes up by almost 30 percent,” Bersin said.
5. When it comes to culture, work with what you’ve got.
We talk a lot about workplace culture and how to improve it, but what is it exactly?
One way to think of culture is “the way things are around here.” (And engagement is “how you feel about the way things are around here.”)
But more specifically, Bersin describes culture as a “business reward system.” On a daily basis in the workplace, how each of us decides to spend our time (and every other decision we make) is based on culture.
“Culture is what brings teams together,” Bersin said. But he advises organizations against trying to invent their company culture: “You already have a culture. You don’t have to go wild.” Instead, simply focus on what your culture needs to be better.
6. Trust in leadership builds higher engagement.
Trust in leadership is one of the building blocks in Bersin by Deloitte’s model for an “irresistible” organization. Often, trust in leaders comes down to surprisingly basic issues of communication, transparency and visibility, according to Bersin:

  • Does leadership have a mission and purpose I can relate to?
  • Do I know who the members of the leadership team are?
  • Can I find them?

7. Any company can have great employee engagement.
A top recommendation from current or former employees is pretty rare on Glassdoor. The average company on Glassdoor has a rating of 3.1 out of 5.
So what do the top-rated companies have in common?
Not industry, according to Bersin’s analysis. There are top-rated companies in just about every sector, from retail to finance. You don’t need to be a trendy tech company with “a beautiful office in San Francisco” to engage employees, he said. You also don’t need “country club” perks like ping-pong tables, free laundry and gourmet chefs.
What top-rated companies do have in common is great leadership, Bersin found. He gives the example of Quicken Loans: despite being “a relatively boring transactional business,” it consistently wins Best Place to Work awards due to its meaningful culture and great benefits.
“This just says to you, you don’t have to be a Google or a startup,” Bersin said.
Employee engagement does not depend on superficial perks. What matters most is a committed leadership team that cares about employees and communicates appreciation clearly and frequently.

Looking to Learn from Other Workplace Leaders?

Keep your workplace thinking fresh and inspired! Join the thriving online community of workplace engagement and talent management leaders. Download our free guide to “The Top 20 Employee Engagement Blogs You Should Be Reading” and subscribe, follow and engage with other workplace leaders for current learning and inspiration!

Top 20 Employee Engagement Blogs You Should Be Reading

About gThankYou, LLC
Turkey Gift Certificates and Turkey Or Ham Gift Certificates by gThankYou! are two of America’s favorite employee gifts and can be redeemed for any brand (Turkey or Turkey Or Ham), at virtually any grocery store in the U.S.
gThankYou, LLC provides company leaders with a variety of easy, meaningful and affordable ways to recognize and reward employees, holiday time or anytime. gThankYou! Certificates of Gratitude and our free Enclosure Cards are personalizable including incorporating your company logo. And, nearly all orders ship same day.
gThankYou, LLC ( is based in Madison, Wisconsin. Contact: Rick Kiley, Chief ThankYou! Officer, gThankYou, LLC at or 888-609-2234.
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