"The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination." ― John H. Schaar
I'm not claiming 20/20 vision into the future, and much can change, but here are my eight employee engagement predictions, based on trends and outliers that are already occurring.
I believe that looking into the future is a good way to gain perspective on the present. By taking a close view of distant things we can determine what we must do now to make them happen in a way that is beneficial to all. So take a look. I anticipate that by 2020 many of these predictions will hold true.
1. Gamification will transcend trivial pursuits.
Gamification was one of the major workplace developments and trends in 2013. This trend is picking up steam and will continue to influence work and engagement.
Games are engaging and offer a robust pathway to foster, enhance, and develop employee engagement.
By 2020, most of us, on our first day with a new organization, will get an ID badge and a virtual avatar as our virtual working self will be as important as our corporeal self.
So in 2014, I'm conducting a yearlong personal project entitled: A Year of Points, "gamifying" my own work and wellbeing. Using the principles and practices of gamification I will plan, monitor, and improve my work and wellbeing, while also scoring points that triggers financial contributions to charitable organizations.
2. Mobile work will keep growing and spreading.
If work can be mobile it will be mobile. With 40 percent of employees around the globe working mobile, this trend will continue to grow. We'll need to develop more comfort, competence, and confidence in managing and leading mobile workers.
3. Touch and tech will supplement each other rather than supplant one another.
Even as we gamify and go mobile there will be more "touch." Social media will not eliminate face-to-face relationships and encounters but rather strengthen them.
As I meet people around the globe that I have previously only connected with online, our in-person interaction is instantly deeper and richer.
Of course we'll need to learn better etiquette with our screens when we're with others. A good start is: don't be a ‘thumbody' when you are with somebody.
4. Employee engagement will expand and disappear by moving in two directions at once.
Employee engagement will be abandoned by some organizations while being fully integrated by other organizations.
We need to examine and drop the tight pairing of engagement with the word "employee". I think we'll witness more nuanced manifestation of engagement: personal engagement, work engagement, project engagement, team engagement, mobile engagement, and organizational engagement to name just a few.
5. Engaging conversation as the way of managing people will trump programs and policies in our workplace.
This is already taking place with courses ranging from Crucial Conversations and Fierce Conversation to Courageous Conversation.
I foresee a day when workplace performance variance won't be handled with a management system. Variances will trigger conversations. This is very much attuned to the statement from positive deviancy, "never do anything about me without me."
Many of our performance conversations will be micro and lean, taking place in 45 seconds or less.
We'll also learn to be better at creating meaningful and safe asynchronous conversations through texting and email.
6. Organizations and individuals will own their engagement data.
Engagement data is the lifeblood of an organization. Everyone in the organization needs to have access and learn from this data.
So we'll cease farming out our data to external consultancies to be whitewashed with a slick PowerPoint deck. We'll have raw and real-time measure of engagement and employees will own their own engagement with personal and organizational dashboards.
Powerful analytics will rely on a more open and transparent access to the vital information of the organization including employee engagement data.
Our infatuation with big data will need to be balanced with the monitoring and mastering of little data that will change behaviors at an individual and team level.
7. We'll witness the application of biological data for measures of engagement.
I believe the work of Sandy Pentland and others on socio meters will grow and swell.
When everyone is equipped with a smartphone this becomes a device to monitor, measure, and offer feedback on engagement.
People are already using personal smartphones for weight and fitness programs and monitoring sleep patterns. Example: you can use your iPhone to measure your breathing and heart rate.
We'll become more comfortable with smartphones and wearable computers offering us new insights into our ways of working. Perhaps the dilation of our pupils will become a more reliable measure of real time engagement than a seven-point Likert scale.
Biannual or annual surveys of engagement that rely on anemic rating scales of attitudes will be perceived as anachronisms lacking in both meaning and real time relevancy.
8. Transitions and boundaries will trump our current focus on work-life balance.
Alas, we will finally drop all the focus on work-life balance.
Work will not come before life but be a vital part of living. Balance, at best, is never permanent and we need new ways to understand the dynamic swirl of life into work and work into life.
Developing personal skills in working with boundaries, rituals, and transitions will become increasingly important over the next 6 years.
Just as most athletes rely on sports psychologists many of us will benefit by receiving consulting and coaching on our work performance from workplace psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists.
Now it's your turn: What employee engagement predictions do you agree with or disagree with? What did I miss? What future trends or outcomes for work and engagement do you think lie ahead of us?