Culture | Belonging and CSR: The new top drivers of employee engagement in 2021

Belonging and CSR: The new top drivers of employee engagement in 2021

After a year of turmoil, your people are looking for something deeper from their organisation.

We spoke to 800 full-time employees in the UK to see how the employee experience has evolved and uncover the new drivers of employee engagement.

Get the report: Explore the trends shaping the UK’s employee experience in 2021 

Since March 2020, almost everything we’ve experienced has been uncharted territory. The COVID-19 pandemic brought new realities and demands, many of which we are still getting used to. We’ve seen the world go virtual overnight, the economy shutter, and employees battle through unprecedented challenges of mental health, resiliency, and a new definition of the workplace.

What will drive employee engagement 2021?

Decades of research showed that drivers like confidence in senior leadership and opportunities for learning development were key drivers of
employee engagement. And these are still incredibly important, alongside listening and feeling supported. These have remained stable during the upheavals of 2020.

But in the midst of a global crisis, concerns around environmental and ethical practices, plus reignited discussion around racial injustice, new drivers have emerged – and soared straight to the top of what influences employee engagement.

These are drivers that we’ve not seen before in our top rankings: Belonging and Corporate Social Responsibility.

And it gets more interesting from there...

Not only do we have new drivers of employee engagement, there’s also a good news story to tell from the challenges of 2020: employee engagement globally has actually increased. 

In the UK engagement has leaped 11 points to 61% compared with 2019. And intent to stay is now at 56% – up 12 points from the previous year. 

The significant jump in engagement and intent-to-stay mirrors what we've seen with customers since the start of the pandemic. It's the result of a number of factors: a greater focus on employee well-being, more opportunities to give feedback and greater interaction between leaders and frontline employees.

In the UK, it's also a by-product of COVID-19 and Brexit uncertainty, with individuals feeling less confident about changing roles. We saw similar trends after the 2008 financial crisis.

The importance of listening and acting on feedback 

The UK traditionally lags behind global scores on employee engagement. But scores for ‘listening to feedback regularly’ suggest we’re on a par with other countries. And the fact that the score has only increased slightly by 1 point from 2019 suggests that practices in the UK were already well advanced.

However, in our global study, we've seen how ‘acting on feedback’ is another, critical way organisations drive up engagement. And that's where the UK may have dropped the ball in the tumult of the past 12 months.

It's not been easy. Organisations have scrambled to keep their operations running smoothly, and oftentimes employee feedback has fallen through the gaps, evidenced by a drop from 2019 in the number of employees who believe their feedback is acted upon. 

Remote working has also eroded the perceived connection between feedback and action. Plus, more frequent pulses – collecting group-level data – may have been conducted at the expense of engagement surveys and engagement pulses, where more local reporting and action is the norm.

So here's where people leaders in the UK build upon a strong 2020. Make it faster and easier to give feedback in a variety of ways, and enable managers to take action more effectively.

Download the report to learn:

  • The new drivers of employee engagement

  • The state of employee experience in the UK

  • The link between taking action on feedback and engagement

  • Key actions people leaders can take going into 2021

  • How the UK compares against the rest of Europe

Get the report now to explore the trends shaping the UK’s employee experience in 2021

Download the Report

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Acting on employee feedback is the number one way to attract, retain and engage top talent, with leaders reporting 3x more revenue per employee and 40% lower turnover. But here’s the catch: only 19% of UK employees say their organisation listens to their opinions. Qualtrics helps brands like Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Barclays to close that experience gap, enabling them to design and improve experiences across the employee lifecycle - from recruitment through to exit.