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Posted on 16 December 2021
What’s 2022 got in store for employee engagement?
6 minute read

1. The Essential Engagement

UK job vacancies reached an all-time high of 1.21 million at the end of November 2021. US job openings surged to 11 million in October. During this time, hiring figures declined, suggesting a considerable worker shortage.

Many companies are experiencing the knock-on effect – they’re losing employees seeking more flexibility but are struggling to replace them in a competitive recruitment market. We keep hearing how “The Great Resignation” is building, but this is already upon us. 74% of employees say that working from home has made them rethink their careers, according to LinkedIn. As these doubts continue to bubble away over Christmas, we can expect more staff turnover challenges to come in 2022, particularly for those searching for skilled labour workers.

Companies will need to make bold and genuine changes to put employees at the centre of their focus. It’s in the employer’s best interest to keep employees engaged.

What changes could you look to introduce?

  • Improved benefits packages
  • Regular or more structured development reviews
  • More training opportunities
  • Salary reviews
  • Better two-way communication
  • Wellbeing and financial support
  • Improved peer-to-peer or manager recognition
  • Ad-hoc employee reward
  • Additional incentive programmes

2. The return of the welfare officer

More than one-third of small to medium-sized businesses have increased mental health and physical wellbeing support. The new world of hybrid working is taking its toll as employees look for more help in this area.

According to Glassdoor, there’s been a 128% jump in the use of the word “burnout” in employer reviews over the summer of 2021.

And it’s not just mental and physical wellbeing; financial wellbeing is coming into focus too. UK inflation has soared to a ten-year high of 5.1%, and the US inflation rate has soared to 6.2% as of October 2021.

Despite the growing number of job vacancies, many companies are also unable to provide pay rises this year, meaning lots of us have fewer pennies in our pockets to carry out the weekly food shop.

Inevitably, this leads to more demand from employees for better wellbeing support, particularly in the financial area. Companies including Greene King and Deliveroo have already introduced financial hardship funds in a bid to support their people, and it’s likely we’ll see more of this next year.

Rippl customer, Asda, has put lots of support in place to enhance the wellbeing of their colleagues, such as BUPA health assessments, counselling and therapy, and financial advice and support.

3. Accelerating digitisation

Highlighted by the Reward and Employee Benefits Association’s technology change report, companies are beginning to hire new talent to drive digital change.

Specifically, within the rewards and benefits space, companies are focusing on improving management information and data reporting within the next 12 months.

More reporting has been a common request from our customers, who are keen to draw out the results of their incentives, recognition and reward spend. One way we’re doing this is by providing in-depth staff turnover reporting. This simple matrix highlights where recognition and reward activity is having the most impact and staff turnover problem areas that require attention.

Screenshot of staff turnover reporting in Rippl

Whether it’s automating manual processes or involving technology at more stages of the employee experience, digitisation will continue to ramp up.

4. Unusual perks

We think 2022 will see the increase in popularity of unusual but beneficial employee perks. Whilst private medical insurance and subsidised gym memberships may be the norm, research has shown that these benefits often rank relatively low in appreciation by employees.

One perk that is likely to become more popular is corporate childcare. As parents feel the pressure in getting the work-life balance right, many companies are opting to offer their employees reimbursements for childminders or childcare. Childcare support can make people feel more engaged, as they feel valued by the business, which makes them want to stay.

At the pandemic’s peak, we also saw a lot of companies offering “burnout breaks”. These were a consequence of the rise in burnout from employees who said they were finding it harder to stay positive compared to pre-pandemic life. Big companies including LEGO, Bumble, HubSpot and Mozilla all jumped on the bandwagon with offering obligatory time off – sometimes even a whole week.

Unsurprisingly, these enforced breaks proved successful. Many companies are looking to introduce them bi-annually, and we expect to see more of this next year.

Finally, you can’t scroll through LinkedIn without seeing a post about a company introducing ‘unlimited’ annual leave. This initiative has been linked to staff turnover and absenteeism reductions, and it’s easy to understand why.

It’s a great idea and can help to improve trust between the employee and employer, but it’s only a viable benefit that can continue effectively if the business continues to meet key performance indicators. It’s pretty important to set the boundaries with unlimited holiday to ensure it doesn’t become unmanageable.

5. The rise of recognition

Sitting behind a computer from a remote office has made it ever-more obvious when you’re not feeling recognised or appreciated by your boss or peers.

37% of employees say they currently aren’t being recognised or rewarded, which increases to 47% for admin or managerial roles.

This highlights a massive missed opportunity that we think businesses will start to realise next year. Why aren’t we leveraging recognition when it’s proven to boost employee engagement, improving staff turnover and our bottom line?

There will be a shift from in-workplace benefits (free lunches, breakfast goodies and fruit baskets etc) to initiatives that can support employees in their everyday lives, such as digital gift cards.

6. Upskilling or reskilling to survive

When employers cannot find the right people to hire in the market, they will turn more to internal candidates. This is likely to become vital next year when recruitment challenges continue.

Companies should introduce internal programmes that encourage people to take side-steps in their careers. These programmes would ensure the business can promote personal development and retain top talent. Upskilling and reskilling existing employees is even more critical to small to medium-sized companies, where the cost of high staff turnover is crippling.