digital badges education

Why Employee Engagement Strategies are failing in 2021

Giovanna Pergher
Inês Oliveira

Marketing Manager

Jul 9, 2021
6 min

The use of Digital Badges in conquering a powerful employer branding strategy and tips to defeat detachment

The time is 2021, the world is adapting to a new reality, and companies are experiencing changes at every corner. Whether this is a result of a pandemic, or a much-needed change in the workplace, remains to be verified.  

Nonetheless, no one can argue against the fact that the way we handle our jobs, and the subsequential rules of the workplace haven’t been optimal for a while. Over the last few years, employee turnover has increased immensely, and most numbers show that it’s due to workplace culture (or lack of).

This problem affects employees and mostly companies: turnover is higher and the cost to acquire a new employee and replace the last one is increasing at high speed. As of 2021, we account for more than 5 million separations in the workplace (voluntary and non-voluntary), an average turnover rate of 20%, and counting with less than a half of engaged employees across all industries.

But how can we adapt to a new reality, boost morale and deliver what employees expect of us?

Before we dive into this topic, let’s first define what employee engagement is.

What is employee engagement? - And why we are so far behind it?

As defined by Forbes, “employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals”.

So let us pay special attention to the word “emotional” here. Until now, there has been a heavy connotation associated with employee engagement, one that most managers rely on to make decisions on their employer branding strategies. Employee engagement is seen simply as a result of in-job happiness and satisfaction. Yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Companies have stepped up to show support for their employees since the pandemic started. And although many noble actions took place with the employees’ best interests in mind, it’s still not enough to meet people’s expectations.

Hence, we get to the first question:  

Do the perks, bonuses, higher salaries, and other initiatives impact the employee positively?

Remember the saying “the more you get, the more you want”? Essentially, the proverb shares the idea that we are never contented with anything, as it only increases our wishes to have more.  

Looking at this, and considering what we mentioned above, we can begin to wonder if there’s a connection between the lack of engagement and this fact.  

But before formulating an answer, let’s connect our previous statements with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to formulate 2 interesting comparisons.

There are four levels, beginning with our most basic and essential needs (psychological and safety needs), and finishing on the fourth with self-actualization (the desire to become the most we can be). Following this logic, Maslow defended that the four levels are what drives human motivation - as to be able to fulfill further levels’, each stage that stands behind must be fully satisfied first.

In the workplace, our behavior (when it comes to job motivation) follows the same pattern. To see it more clearly, let’s adapt the pyramid and see where Employee Engagement fits in.

When adjusting the pyramid, it becomes clear that employee engagement sits under the “Self-Actualization” part. It’s a consequence of professional growth, that follows the fulfillment of Esteem needs: such as appreciation, recognition, and feel valued by management.  

At the bottom of the pyramid, we see where all the perks, bonuses, and benefits lie: in our safety, and belonging needs.

This leads us to our second question and the two most important findings we have so far:  

What can we take from this?

Matching Maslow’s behavioral theory with our previous arguments, we can now highlight two findings:

1. Perks and bonuses DO play an important and necessary role in building a good employer branding strategy and engaging employees

While it’s appealing to build a good employer branding strategy for the outside, the real plan is designed from the inside out. It’s only when we make sure that the current employees’ basic needs are met, that we can expect them to find motivation and feel appreciated. And then, move on to the promotion of the companies’ culture outside.

To achieve the highest level of fulfillment, companies must pay attention to what they are offering to their employees on the most basic needs level, and then outline a plan for the future.

2. Recognition and appreciation from management and co-workers is the start point to accomplish a higher level of motivation and to reach employee engagement

The journey towards employee engagement starts at the bottom, with the benefits offered by the company. Yet, we previously saw that this hasn’t been enough to build a team of highly engaged employees.

Although there are several reasons why this is happening, the main one is because most companies are now offering this as a differentiation factor. And, as stated and observed within every industry, after a differentiation element gets adopted by every company, it then becomes normal. Here lies the reason why many companies are failing in engaging employees.

The answer then remains in creating a new unique offer and fulfilling the employees’ deepest needs: the need for appreciation and the need for personal growth.

To prevail, companies must build a thriving and nurturing culture. As personal growth can only be achieved by the one involved (being a need that requires to be developed within one’s self), employers can only provide a platform that promotes growth and allows employees to do so by themselves.

So, where’s the solution?

The answer goes through building a culture that incites growth and personal development while boosting employees’ recognition.

One way to do so is by implementing digital badges.

These badges are digital recognitions of one’s achievements, such as new skills developed, participation in relevant events/ workshops, and completed courses on a specific subject. You can take a look at this page from Virtualbadge.io for more information on our solution for enterprises.  

A great way of recognizing and enticing personal growth is to foment access to courses, training on different subjects, and the learning of new skills. Consequently, by adopting Digital Badges as part of the employer branding strategy, employees have the chance to showcase their accomplishments and proudly stand by the company’s brand and name.

Not only will employers be able to fulfill the need for belonging, as they will also be building a community of brand advocates that consists of their employees. Hence, contributing to the foundation of the already existing culture, while strengthening it.  

Conclusion and final takeaways

Companies are still leveraging perks and benefits as a way of attracting new talent and engaging current employees. However, as proven above, these are the solutions to the most basic needs of employees. The real path and answer go through:

  1. Recognizing what’s currently being offered
  1. Decide what should be added to that
  1. Design a strategy that has the employees’ most high valued needs as a priority

The key is to develop an employee-centric culture, following an even greater employer branding strategy as a result. We are currently failing in delivering this due to a lack of focus from management and HR. The culture and strategy are built from the inside out, from current employees, and not the other way around.  

To take action and succeed, companies need to improve motivation, build an empathetic culture and share these values with management, even providing training if needed.

It never made more sense than right now, to discuss the need for recognition as a way towards higher employee engagement. Digital badges are the right ally to every company and can indeed become their most powerful weapon to position and differentiate themselves.  

A good employer branding strategy begins with employee engagement, and they both lie next to each other and stand on positive workplace culture.

To attain a forward-looking environment, companies will have to attend to their employees’ most basic needs and build from there, until they can fulfil the ultimate goal of professional and personal development.

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