If 2016 was about attracting the right talent, then, ladies and gentlemen, survey says…2017 is about hanging on to high-performing employees for dear life. Companies will double down on their efforts to create a great place to work, and innovative CEOs will continue to invest in culture and holistic employee engagement solutions that boost retention while improving the bottom line.

So, what’s going to motivate your top employees to stay with you in 2017?

In the last weeks of 2016, YouEarnedIt was in a unique position to learn about the factors that fuel the most effective employee engagement solutions. With access to survey responses from the 100 MOST engaged employees out of 100,000 YouEarnedIt end-users, we captured advice from smarties across a variety of industries and organizational sizes. The following five employee-driven needs surfaced:

1. Interesting People Want to Learn, Build New Skills, and Grow

Not unlike Albert Einstein or that guy in the Dos Equis commercials, passionate and interesting people have an ever-burning desire to discover the unknown. By a large margin, the top performers we surveyed crave opportunities to grow and build new skills. Creating options for professional development should be one of your top-ranking employee engagement action items for 2017. Here are a few approaches to ponder:

  • Try rewarding the learning mindset. Rather than handing out ad-hoc gift cards, provide employees the option to apply the same bonus value to skill development. Offer self-directed courses like how to give constructive feedback, power point presentation skills, or Java software programming.
  • In addition to self-directed online learning options, employees want more coaching, both from inside and outside of your organization. It might be time to consider a simple mentoring program. For zero financial investment, why not allow employees to shadow and learn from an executive for a day? Or, invite guest speakers for lunch and learns?
  • To ensure active participation, consider employee engagement solutions that reward learning accomplishments. For example, through their GEDWorks™ program, Walmart associates and benefits-eligible family members are incentivized for completing coursework leading to a GED™. The program doesn’t require out-of-pocket expenses and gives employees opportunities to learn, grow, and boost their earning potential.
  • 2. Workplace Friendships Improve Overall Company Performance

    Collaborating with smart, fun, and creative people builds long-term friendships and enhances the overall work experience. It is also one of the top drivers of employee engagement according to survey respondents. So, how can you create opportunities for easy collaboration?

  • Look for a peer-to-peer recognition system that allows for in-the-moment sending of praise. When employees are empowered to own who, when, and how they reinforce positive behaviors, they build stronger relationships with their peers. It’s not just about friendships either. Check out the study we conducted in partnership with San Francisco State University to see the impact employee-to-employee recognition has on overall company performance.
  • Empower employees to hand-pick cross-functional peers to collaborate on projects. To help form well-rounded teams, look for employee engagement solutions that encourage employees to submit digital “tags” with a skill or core value their peers have exemplified. Not only does this empower employees to be the eyes and ears of your culture, but it also makes forming project dream-teams that much easier by tapping into a crowdsourced database of employee traits.
  • To institute a continuous culture of team-building, look for flexible employee rewards programs that encourage connections through shared experiences. Custom reward examples include team activities like group yoga, volunteer days, or in the case of YouEarnedIt, a daily 18-floor group stair-climbing exercise. When YouEarnedIt peeps climb together, they earn 50 “Behavior Bonus” points ($.50) to apply towards other rewards. Teams that climb together, stay together!
  • Employee Engagement Solutions that work

    Flexible Benefits: Show Me More Than Money

    It may come as no surprise that your top performing employees want to feel empowered. Respecting this desire with flexible and out-of-the-box benefit options gives them choices to balance work and life, stay healthy, learn, and thrive. There are some simple enhancements you can make to your benefits package that won’t give your CFO an upset stomach:

  • Your top performing employees are putting in the hours to get the job done, although not necessarily from 9-5. Acknowledge that personal and work life often collides by offering remote work days and freedom to take care of personal business during work hours. It’s a simple gesture that shows you trust and respect them. They’ll reciprocate.
  • For many top performers, staying physically and mentally healthy is an essential part of their overall formula for success. Companies can apply a few employee-centric enhancements to their corporate wellness programs to encourage incremental participation. For example, Austin-based technology company Bazaarvoice offers “Behavior Bonuses” to employees for getting health risk assessment. Not only are employees staying healthier, but the company is realizing potential cost savings in healthcare premiums.
  • Other affordable but impactful benefits suggested from the survey include flexible community volunteer options, a relaxed dress code, and freedom to choose self-directed learning that matches individual interests.


    Career Mobility Matters

    Employees want to grow professionally and within the company ranks. One of the top retention tactics for 2017 is to make sure qualified employees have a shot at both lateral and vertical moves within the organization. If they feel like the only way to advance their career is to leave your company, they’ll likely start searching for a new gig. Moreover, existing employees bring product, service and institutional knowledge to new roles that expedite the learning curve while cutting training costs applied to external candidates.

    According to Future Workplace and Saba, 66% of employees would consider open positions within their current organization before window shopping elsewhere. Within her research on the future of workplace experience, Jeanne Meister found that “companies that embrace internal career mobility increase employee engagement (49%), improve employee productivity (39%), and improve employee teamwork (39%).”

  • At YouEarnedIt, we’re testing a career mobility pilot program. After two years in a functional role, high-performing employees interested in other functional areas of the organization can apply for an intensive 90-day job trial. During the “test drive,” they apply a percent of their time to take on supervised projects with clearly defined expectations and deliverables. The employees receive a list of learning objectives and receive candid feedback throughout the 90 days. If at the end of the trial (s)he has met the objectives, s(he) will be considered for future roles.
  • To help further their career paths and improve their knowledge, Cisco’s Talent Cloud and MasterCard’s Smart Steps offer up innovative ways for teams to post available projects and encourage employees from other departments to contribute. This type of crowdsourcing allows employees to engage in new ways and provide insights into jobs or initiatives they find appealing.
  • I Want A Boss That Listens and Recognizes My Strengths

    Employees cited strong manager connections as a reason they loved their workplace. And, as anyone who’s ever worked for a bad manager can attest, your people managers can suck the passion out of employees and derail efforts to boost employee engagement. Make sure managers are providing frequent feedback, using engagement data to understand employee sentiment, and by all means, listen to your people!

  • Employees want more frequent feedback and coaching from their managers. The best employee engagement solutions simplify the exchange of free-flowing feedback and recognition. In 2017, look out for programs that allow for in-the-moment feedback by way of mobile apps in addition to easy-to-use desktop programs. Here are some manager coaching tips that work.
  • 2017 brings employee engagement solutions that provide data-tracking on your most and least engaged managers and insights into how behaviors align with corporate values. Easy access to this type of data also reveals who’s doing great work as well as who’s a flight risk. See how YouEarnedIt customer Whole Foods connects their corporate office with employees opening their 365 by Whole Foods concept stores across the nation.
  • At MedSpring Urgent Care, medical staff scheduler Natasha Bhimji appreciates that her managers and company leaders are always willing to listen. She knows they hear her and appreciate her opinions. For Joy, Karl Strauss Brewing Company’s open door policy makes her feel connected with managers and leadership.
  • A healthy economy and rising wages mean opportunities for career advancement and better pay are tempting your highest performing employees. It’s on us to embrace employee engagement solutions that match the needs of our people, so they are less likely to jump ship. Or, if they choose to job hop, let’s make sure it’s for new internal opportunities within our organizations.

    When searching for employee engagement solutions in 2017, we hope you’ll check out some of the changes taking place under our own employee engagement solution at YouEarnedIt.

    You Might Also Like:

    Infographic: The Secrets to Building an Exceptional Workplace
    eBook: Employee Engagement Advice for CEO’s and Executives
    Case Study: Why Managers Matter to Employee Recognition Programs
    eBook: 10 Most Recognized Employees Reveal What Keeps Them Engaged (see sample quotes below)

    I love the freedom to learn and forge my own career path! I’m happiest when I’m constantly learning, and being able to ask any Fool about their work and be able to learn some of their skills and contribute to their projects is exciting!

    Survey Participant Shawn Viduranga, The Motley Fool

    (see advice from Shawn and nine other top performing employees here)

    In my role, we often collaborate and involve various internal teams to drive resolution. Each team I’ve interacted with has been willing to help and teach.

    Survey Participant Jason Alcantara, Client Services Manager, Equinix, Inc.

    (see advice from Jason and nine other top performing employees here)

    Feeling like I am a part of this work family motivates me to be my best self, not just for me, but for my work family.

    Survey Participant Sonal Mehta, Legal Counsel, Return Path

    (see advice from Sonal and nine other top performing employees here)

    If your employees feel great about their jobs, they will make your company great.

    Survey Participant Katie Nelson, Delivery Office Supervisor, Big Sandy Superstores

    (see advice from Katie and nine other top performing employees here)

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    Tim Ryan