For many years, employee engagement was something that didn’t require much thought, considering the boomer generation planned on staying with the same company until they retired. The following generation was happy staying for several years with a company, working for perhaps six to seven companies in their lifetime. Currently, many workers might even have six to seven jobs at a time. Considering how work will change and how workers’ expectations will change, how important will “engagement” be in the future?

Regardless of what the future will brings, much has been written about engagement and how it impacts the bottom line. “Best-in-class organizations are 350% more profitable than organizations with average levels of employee engagement levels,” according to Kevin Sheridan, a best-selling author on the topic.

Engagement Matters

So going forward, employee engagement needs to be considered on a few different levels: traditional employment at the enterprise or brand level, at the department or program/project-based level, and the partner or service-provider level. At each level, the amount of effort may be somewhat similar. However, employers should focus on different aspects around engagement.

For example, at the enterprise level, the focus may be on how the brand is perceived in the general population or community in which they reside. Keeping the community at large happy about what the company is doing locally helps to promote employee engagement. This is more important when a company is a major employer in a region. However, in times of perceived economic or environmental turmoil, there may be specific measures that could be taken to ensure employee engagement through the turmoil with a focus to keep employees feeling good about their own contribution, which would reflect on brand recognition.

At the department or program/project-level, there are many reasons to care about the engagement of your team. Bringing in meals and other services has been a common practice to support employee productivity in areas like Silicon Valley, where the tech workers may have every service imagined available right there on the work campus. The closer the project is to the company’s competitive advantage, the easier the decision is to spend the money on such services.

There’s an App for That

Beyond basic needs, the next-gen worker responds to more instantaneous but public recognition of their contributions. Here technology plays a vital role in giving employees instant feedback and thus keeping them more engaged. There are a number of applications cropping up that offer more real-time feedback and “likes” (think along the lines of Facebook) to make the worker feel better about the work they are doing. These applications also can survey the worker’s moods at any given time and offer other means of rewarding them for doing a good job. Consider how much easier it would make to measure and manage productivity. Imagine departmental reporting based on the correlation of the “mood” of the workers in that department or project to productivity measurements and profitability. Getting to measuring employee engagement against ultimately financial results will be an interesting factor when competing for talent to join your company, department or project.

Contingent worker engagement is also important, though some worry using such applications to gauge CW engagement would bring up co-employment risk. But if you have the ability to use some of these technology platforms specifically for the non-employee workforce and do not co-mingle data with that of your employee population, you may be able to steer clear of that perceived risk. You’d still be using technology to support the feelings of the non-employee workforce rather than your management to keep the lines clear around co-employment.

Employee engagement is very important now and in the future, and quite possibly an area of differentiation that may impact who has the most success attracting talent and staying head of their competition at every level.