This past week we had the opportunity to sit down with our Founder and CEO, Susan Hunt Stevens to hear her predications on the future of employee engagement. Susan also shares some exciting news about the future of WeSpire!
Q1: What trends in employee engagement should companies expect in 2017?
SHS: I see three trends that will continue to accelerate. First, I think companies will continue to demand more integrated, unified mobile and web platforms to run a broader range of engagement programs, versus having a stand-alone app for every single program type.
Organizations will expect those platforms to support outcomes analytics, including pulse surveys and programmatic impact data. I believe recognition and rewards will be an integral component to these programs. They will also want seamless integration with existing communications and HRIS systems. I think the research report from the Starr Conspiracy was one of the most forward-thinking that I’ve seen on the topic and describes this convergence very well. The data connecting positive impact programs like sustainability, wellbeing, social impact and diversity/inclusion to better business outcomes just continues to accelerate and more companies will see these efforts as strategic business drivers versus “the right thing to do”, especially for attracting and retaining talent and customer loyalty.
Finally, the emphasis on holistic employee wellbeing, especially mental, social and physical wellbeing and happiness, will continue to accelerate and I expect more companies to be integrating mindfulness, stress management, sleep, time and technology management programs at work. I think Aetna’s story is emblematic of what many companies will pursue.
Q2: What does being a “Positive Business” look like in practice?
SHS: There are lots of different ways to define it, but I really prefer the University of Michigan Ross School of Business definition that says a positive business is one that:
- Creates economic value — for customers, shareholders, and society
- Creates a great place to work
- Is a great neighbor in the local community, the nation, and the world
Q3: What department, or departments, do you think will own employee engagement moving forward?
SHS: I think ultimately it’s a C-Suite responsibility to say “Having a step change improvement in engagement rates is one of the most valuable initiatives we can have in our company and we need to ensure we have high-quality programs that are driving real, measurable impact”. But then delivering those programs needs to be a shared responsibility between the 1) program owner (which could be the Chief Diversity Officer, the head of corporate social responsibility, the global wellbeing leader, head of EHS, or the head of learning and development just to name a few) 2) the internal team that is excellent at building employee awareness and enrollment in programs [usually corporate communications], and 3) the human resources team which generally owns measuring the impact of these efforts and often, some of the programs themselves.
We see it as a triad — with finance, legal and IT playing some supporting roles in there as well. In an organization that really sees people as a competitive advantage and a more modern approach to culture and engagement, the Chief People Officer will often be the key champion in that triad for ensuring these high-quality programs are part of the culture, delivering them through a simple, effective and integrated platform, and demanding measurable business impact from every program owner.
Q4: How do you think the SDGs will impact business leaders’ strategic thinking and decision-making?
SHS: In just a short year, the SDGs have given many global organizations a very clear, simple framework for aligning their CSR efforts and strategies around a subset of the goals, generally based on topics that are very material to their business and that they have a particular passion or interest in.
The challenge is that the vast majority of employees have no idea what the SDGs are or why they matter, let alone what their company is doing to support those goals. Companies will need to do a lot of ground level education on this front.
Q5: What can we expect from WeSpire in 2017?
SHS: I couldn’t be more excited about the year ahead. We made two very significant enhancements to our platform last year to support a new program type — events — which companies use to run global days of service, volunteer events, workshops, and seminars. Last year alone our customers logged 45,000 volunteer hours on our events program.
We also developed tools so our customers could design, create and share their own behavioral programs, and we’ve only begun to see the enormous potential for sharing knowledge and impact across our network.
This year, we are enhancing the flexibility of how employees can join teams, polishing our mobile and desktop user experience, and building upon our behavioral science backed programs. We also will continue to support global companies in their desire for more localized programs. Lastly, we will continue to provide companies with outstanding research and analysis around positive business programs and employee engagement to help them build their business case for positive programs.
Stay tuned, 2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year!