Employee Engagement

Where we’ve been and where we are: the evolution of employee engagement

evolution of employee engagement

We live and breathe employee engagement and business performance over here at bountiXP, so we sometimes forget that not everyone is as versed in the fascinating evolution of employee engagement as we are.

Sorry guys! To bring you up to speed we thought we’d share a concise rundown of the timeline highlights that brought us to where we are in terms of the concept of employee engagement today. 


Let's go way back

Once upon a time, back in the 1970's and 80's, the notion of employee satisfaction started to creep onto the radar of HR professionals around the globe.

You have to remember that this was a time when perms and Magnum PI moustaches were the height of fashion, and people were still living their best lives smoking in every nook and cranny of the office, so suffice it to say things progressed rather slowly.

In fact, the term 'human resources' did not even exist yet - it was called the 'personnel department'. Have you ever. 

Psst - if you’re feeling highly invested, you can also check out this academic take on the topic, and read up on a uniquely South African perspective on the matter if you’re feeling keen. 

But we digress.

At this point, employee satisfaction was a very loose term that mainly centred around the employee and how they ‘felt around the office’ rather than the business itself, how they related to it and how this relationship impacted on their performance.

Later along the line, bright sparks in the personnel department figured out that they needed to be looking at commitment to the company as well, but the link between employee engagement and long-term loyalty had not quite been made just yet. 

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These important dots would only be connected when the economy started to shift due to increased competition and employers realised that having a competitive edge meant being flexible and trimming the fat where possible.

Naturally, employees also started to learn that the notion of 'a job for life' was going the way of the dinosaur and they had to take charge of their career progression for themselves. 

READ MORE: Why you need to rethink employee engagement when rebuilding a disrupted workplace

To the dismay of Baby Boomer parents around the world, their offspring suddenly started to shy away from the idea of working for one company for their entire lives so they could retire with a gold watch and a cushy pension.

During the dawn of the 1990s, the new generation began to focus on comparing employers, finding a market for their skills and seeking out companies that would provide them with room for growth and the opportunity to build out their existing skill sets. This was great for the workforce, but businesses were taking quite a knock due to the tide of shifting human capital, unexpected brain drain and the expense of continuous employee churn.

Reduce turnover, boost staff performance and increase employee productivity. Do you want in? Download our eBook to show you how. Click 👉 here to grab your copy.

Something needed to change. 


Y2K and customer satisfaction

When the new millenium rolled around and everyone was safely reassured that the Y2K bug would not, in fact, destroy all the computers on the planet, the modern-day concept of employee engagement started to emerge from the murky waters of HR management.

A pivotal paper entitled From People to Profits, the HR link to the service-profit chain was published by the UK-based Institute of Employment Studies (IES). The paper pointed out the link between customer satisfaction, sales performance and employee attitude quite clearly, and forward-thinking CEOs started to sit up and take notice, service-based companies, in particular, were clocking to the fact that their staff were their prime asset and that investment in their workforce would have a direct impact on their profits. 

READ MORE: Why the link between recognition and customer satisfaction is so important


Employee engagement on the rise?

HR professionals started to employ basic employee engagement strategies on a grassroots level and reported that it had a positive impact on everything from absentee rates, to employee retention, customer feedback and turnover in general. From here, things started to snowball (in a good way).

Businesses began to find that engagement is not something you can 'slap on' as a quick fix for a floundering workforce - the initiatives that underpin it has to be ingrained in the very fibre of your organisation. As such, the realisation dawned that it was not only the HR department's responsibility to promote engagement, but that everyone on the management team (including the CEO!) had to get involved. 

Another two decades down the line, the importance of employee engagement is no longer up for debate - it has become a vital component of every company’s HR arsenal. This is rather evident when you look at the topics up for discussion at events like the annual HR Indaba Africa and HR Innovation & Tech Fest where industry thought leaders like bountiXP MD Dane Amyot take the stage to discuss themes like the art of leveraging future-proof HR tech to drive the alignment model. 

If you’d like to take a look at an employee engagement platform that has been developed with the needs of the modern-day workplace in mind, give bountiXP a try, it’s FREE for 14 days. Click 👉here to get started.

It's all so fascinating...

Who knew the evolution of employee engagement was such a riveting ride?

If you're interested to experience the results of an engaged workforce download our eBook. It's a step-by-step guide to building an employee recognition program from scratch, you won't be sorry, we promise. Click the button below to grab your copy. 

employee recognition