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How to Ready Yourself for the Future of Employee Engagement

The face of employee engagement is changing fast. Technology kick-started a shift in how we interact and work with each other. For 250 years, we leaned on a set of rigid rules that emerged from the First Industrial Revolution. Today, we’re undergoing a new transformation — what some call a “true information revolution” — at an unprecedented speed.

Several macro trends drive this shift, with the most influential being:

  • increased connectivity
  • greater automation
  • lower transaction costs
  • demographic shifts

While we could easily spend hours theorizing what the future might bring, it’s ultimately unknown.

Seth Mattison, futurist and founder of FutureSight Labs, admits that’s scary. He often speaks at length about how uncomfortable it is to wade in ambiguity. And how we’re pressured to evolve into the next iteration of ourselves without having any idea of what that looks like. This works on an organizational level, too.

Concern isn’t unfounded. According to Gallup, engagement is stalling: A mere 21% of employees are engaged at work, and only 1 in 3 say they’re thriving. Mass dissatisfaction is important, but low engagement also carries a huge economic impact. Gallup finds low engagement accounts for 11% of the global gross domestic product, or $7.8 trillion.

How do businesses offset the decline in engagement and create workplaces where every employee excels? Mattison suggests it’s natural for companies to desperately try to predict the future of work. But there isn’t any certain tomorrow. Instead, we need to prepare for many different possibilities.

In a recent podcast, The Future Is Now: Examining Generational Change and Engagement With Seth Mattison, he discussed the digital acceleration and ideas to ready ourselves for a new era of work.

How does the future affect employee engagement?

Every step forward — out of convenience or necessity — influences how we interact with our environment. Decades of research points to common factors around high engagement, including:

  • a shared vision
  • trust and confidence in leadership
  • development opportunities
  • a friend at work

More employees are evaluating what happiness and purpose means for them at work. Many have already redefined what success is in their life. Others are actively prioritizing their mental health, wondering if their work is even “worth it.”

This change in perspective is compounded by the new ways we use workplace tech. Recent research from McKinsey & Company found the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated remote/hybrid work, e-commerce and automation. This digital leap will compel 25% more employees to switch their jobs than previously estimated.

Mattison details a twofold response to attract and retain talent. First, employers should sharpen their vision and values, making their “why” abundantly clear. At the same time, businesses should work toward flexible and inclusive cultures. In other words, they should embrace experimenting with their “how,” especially through tech.

How do we engage a multigenerational workforce?

The nature of today’s workforce is vastly different from a decade ago. And age isn’t the only dynamic at play. It’s far more about how an individual was raised over when they were born. After all, we’re most influenced by the conditions of our formative years.

According to Gallup, millennials and Generation Z account for 46% of the full-time U.S. workforce. Even now, millennials are still associated with youth, but more of them are moving into leadership roles every day. Gen Z, the actual youngest working generation, has slowly replaced them on the front line. The generational shift also marks a change in values. Whereas baby boomers and Generation X desire ethical leadership, younger generations prioritize diversity and inclusion.

Mattison hears a lot about how younger generations are only concerned with instant gratification and self-care, not sacrifice. But he suggests sacrifice is a practice of optimism; we delay gratification with the hope of something better.


He believes inspiring and engaging this generation isn’t about fixating on what they do, but instead looking at why they do it. Are they really less disciplined, or just accustomed to the convenience of today’s technology?

It’s no surprise younger generations have a more intimate relationship with tech. For much of Gen Z, tablets, streaming video and the internet were staples of their upbringing. This proximity to tech cascades into work. By 2030, McKinsey estimates the number of hours worked that require tech skills will increase by 55%.

Mattison stresses this trend doesn’t mean only younger employees will thrive in the modern workplace. Tech adoption is on the rise for all working generations. He says the challenge is for organizations to identify tech and create initiatives that consider every employee. The most competitive companies will likely be those that successfully provide:

  • diverse, equitable and inclusive programming
  • abundantly clear values and vision
  • causes employees care about
  • easy-to-use tech and tools

How do we improve employee engagement in every environment?

Regardless of whether employees work in a remote, hybrid or fully in-office environment, organizations still need to ensure their people are spending time with one another. This lends itself to what Mattison calls the “four C’s”:

  • connection
  • collaboration
  • creation
  • celebration

Employees should never be left wanting for engagement. Opportunities to address their psychological, emotional and social needs should be available from anywhere. Gallup found several benefits of employee engagement, including greater retention, productivity, safety and profitability.

Tools that empower employees to easily ask questions or provide anonymous feedback about their work help build a needed culture of connection. Taking these steps ensures employees have a digital crossroads accessible anywhere. And anything that’s celebrated on an online platform should be shared with every employee, even if they only use email. For example, if you post an image of employees participating in a charitable cause to your brand’s social media pages, it should also be shared through an internal newsletter.

Most importantly, employers shouldn’t look at their people as a metric. Engagement isn’t just another box to check. Leadership isn’t about technical brilliance. It’s about treating employees as who they are: humans.

Mattison reminds us we live in a fragile state. Be kind to and thankful for your people and appreciate them, others around you and, of course, yourself. He doesn’t believe this practice will become irrelevant to engagement.

For a deeper dive, check out our recent podcast, The Future Is Now: Examining Generational Change and Engagement With Seth Mattison, to hear more of Mattison’s perspective on the future of work and engagement. And explore Paycom’s single, easy-to-use app to learn how it helps champion employee engagement.


DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.