The Changing Landscape of Employee Engagement: A Post-Pandemic Perspective
employee engagement

The pandemic has changed the employee engagement landscape, with a rise in Gen Z workers, healthcare workers leaving due to burnout, hybrid work becoming more prevalent, employee participation declining, along with so many more. Organizations must adapt to these changes and employers must offer competitive compensation, work-life balance initiatives, and training opportunities to attract and retain talent in this new post-pandemic era. Here are the 5 areas of the workforce that we have found through research that have changed post-pandemic:

1. Compensation remains a constant issue. It became less a point of emphasis during the pandemic, but post-pandemic, it became a bigger area of focus for the workforce than ever. The evidence points to an evolving Millennial population that has begun to put retirement into view as they are turning 40.  The Gen Z population entered the workforce en masse during the Great Recession. Combined with a dearth of labor already in play, salaries shot up. Given the rapid and multiple communication available to this population, they held out for larger salaries, creating salary pressure across all of the workforce (e.g., they make as much as I do and I have been here x years). In 2023, compensation pressures have eased somewhat as the efforts to slow the economy are showing, but the labor market is still tight.  The demand for higher salaries has subsided somewhat, but some new workers have decided to sit it out and wait for the salaries to peak again, making openings difficult to fill.  

2. Not surprisingly, healthcare workers valued work life balance in and coming out of the pandemic. Many left healthcare as a result of burnout, but only about 60%-80% or so returned to healthcare (depending on region), specifically hospitals. The “traveling nurse” model also created issues within healthcare, which caused nursing salaries to increase substantially. This seems to have eased as salaries have caught up and work life balance becomes a higher priority.

3. Another pattern seems to be the desire for more training, but the drivers are complex. Many workers recognized more than ever that “corporate” employees were able to enjoy the fruits of a hybrid work role while “line” workers were required to come into work during COVID.  Safety was an issue, which has now subsided but the desire to gain training and work towards a role that allows workers to be at home continues to be a driver of a desire for training.  Training is perceived as a key element to a promotion as well.  The Great Resignation showed many workers that the grass is not always greener and that changing jobs is stressful. Thus, it may just be better to improve your current work situation. Employers who doubled down on engagement efforts during the pandemic and now are reaping the fruits of that work

4. There was a tug of war the last few years with regard to work at home vs come into the office policies. Both employers and workers have seemed to settle on a hybrid relationship.  The new normal will likely be a hybrid arrangement for those roles that allow a team to be productive while remote.  Employers that press employees to come into the office all of the time may struggle to find and retain talent.

5. With regard to participation rates, there has been a slight decline in participation overall. Employers are seeking more and more data from employees, but they are not always doing it in an efficient manner (e.g., I got a survey about the training class, I got a survey about the vending machine, I got a survey about x). Employers will need to be much more strategic and active about their listening programs. This means auditing all of the touchpoints employees receive and actively engaging in solutions such that the employees can see (timely) action from their feedback. Another option is to provide an employee the opportunity to identify themselves and speak to someone.  Most of our exit clients are now engaged in some type of strategic surveying based on knowing when, where and why employees are leaving (e.g., we know nurses leave after 90 days at x location because of perceptions of supervisor favoritism so let’s ask them at 45 days if they perceive favoritism so we can fix it before they leave).   

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