3 key Engagement & Culture trends

Blog post by Robert Käck, Head of Culture, together with Gary Munro, HR Insights Director. 

This summer, a couple of us attended the Culture First conference in San Francisco. It was two full days of keynotes, breakouts, and activations around the topic of building a better workplace. We could clearly see three main trends of People & Culture standing out.

Trends in 2019

The machines (are not taking over)

Everywhere we go these days, we hear about HR Tech. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality solutions are the talk of the HR town, but we see no reason to panic. All this new technology that’s entering and supporting HR will mean a demand for new skills and jobs in our functions. But HR will not be replaced, only enhanced. Engagement, productivity, and learning will be the growth drivers for the future, and they will all be maintained by people. 

Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace 

The jobs in the marketplace are becoming more complex, many people are expected to deliver in environments of constant change (reorg, anyone?), and our work lives are increasingly intertwined with our personal lives. Stress and mental health issues are more common than ever. Not all stress is necessarily bad, some of our most significant achievements could be described as stressful at some point, but there are pitfalls and as a consequence, we see more and more companies both measuring wellbeing and setting up mental health strategies. We like this development, it’s a long-overlooked aspect of diversity and belonging, and we have invested heavily in our own long-term strategy and plan for mental health and emotional wellbeing

Reinventing engagement measuring

The market is moving from engagement tools 2.0 to 3.0. Most HR departments use several different methods to measure engagement, we have everything from big annual census surveys to regular pulse surveys that provide near real-time feedback on the mood in an organization. Everyone wants responsive tools that will meet the employees wherever they are, on a computer, tablet or mobile phones. We want immediate feedback, comment analytics, and AI-based action planning tools. 

But we also need a shift to technology that not only collects data but makes work better. So right now there is a lot of hope for action platforms, systems that will not only combine input from both surveys and many other sources over the employee lifecycle but analyze the data and use it to create “intelligent nudging”. Employees, managers, and HR will get customized suggestions based on their actions and feedback and what is going on around them (like reorgs or manager changes etc or a changed role). These tools will focus a lot on the “flow of work”, optimizing productivity and behavioral change. 

Our takeaway

All these trends come together. In the future, we will see better use of data and technology to make the workplace culture one of sustainable productivity, wellbeing, and purpose at work. 

In the end, what matters most in terms of engagement is having a sense of purpose. Work is a fundamental part of how we define ourselves, so we need the work itself to be meaningful. That is the number one inspiration for feeling good and staying engaged.