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Three Employee Engagement Focus Areas for CHROs in 2021

What are some areas you could see unsatisfactory scores in an employee engagement survey? We round up three such potential focus areas that are relevant in 2021 and provide some tips to CHROs on how to work on them.

Where Do We Begin? 

The CHRO in 2021 is inundated with so many priorities as Human Resources is being pulled in so many different directions. One of the major areas of focus is improving employee engagement. Especially with more people working remotely than ever before, and AI creating a demand for job reskilling, employees need to feel safe. Or else, there is a risk of disengagement.

But where does one begin to look? In order to improve employee engagement, you have to pick your fights at a tactical level. We have identified three such areas.

There are three main employee engagement pain points brought on by this new era of work: appreciation, trust, and communication. We are seeing these focus areas becoming increasingly more impactful on overall engagement.

If you are looking for a more strategic document that advises you on the best practices of understanding and measuring employee engagement, there is another resource that will be more suitable for you.

The purpose of this article is to point you to what can be done to improve appreciation, trust, and communication, and hence obtain better employee engagement survey scores in their relevant engagement factors.


Hold a brainstorming session of all the things that you can do for employees that show appreciation. You can show appreciation by:

Creating a Positive Work Culture

Relaxed dress codes, monthly outings, snacks in the office are all nice benefits that make employees feel more valued. Anything that treats them more like a human being and less like a cog in the machine are good engagement builders.

They are not perks, but gestures. Gestures which show the commitment the organization has towards its employees for making work as enjoyable and productive as it can be.

Recognizing Individual Contributions

There is always time for recognizing excellent and exceptional performances. Thank you cards, work anniversary emails, hand-written notes, offering days off, offering verbal praise are all actions that show you care.

Recognition should be part of the company culture where it is done routinely. Managers should recognize individual members, directors should recognize managers, VPs should recognize directors, and peers should recognize one another. Recognition should cascade throughout the organization where people are commended and appreciated for their behaviors, efforts, and results.

Recognition should also be in real-time, so it is specific to a certain task or a certain result. Employees bask in the recognition more when the good work they have done is fresh in their minds. Similarly, it makes sense for everyone else to hear about their success immediately or shortly after it happens.

Sometimes, to really recognize individual or team success, monetary rewards offer that stamp of approval. While such rewards or benefits are normally reserved for the compensation category in HR, it’s far more costly to replace an employee than to just offer them fair remuneration. Part of this remuneration can include appropriate monetary rewards when they deserve it.

Lastly on recognitions, show employees the link between work and results by introducing them to people who are directly benefited. It makes a big difference when people get to interact with those they help. It cuts through the noise like no other reward or gesture.

Tip: To really tackle recognition, evaluate your current recognition software in your HR tool stack.

EE Focus areas - Thank you note


Not everyone is the same, but the Hersey Blanchard model talks about the different levels of supervision one requires throughout their time in an organization.

It’s true that some people want to do only one thing or have very niche skills that allow them to stay in the same role forever. For others, they will go through the phases of being directed, being coached, being supported, and being delegated. You can increase trust in all stages by:

Developing their Skills

Providing ongoing training and education to upskill or reskill employees gets the message across that you are invested in their future. It’s not about hiring and squeezing the best out of them that makes sense operationally. Rather, it is to empower them where they reach their highest potential, while still working for you!

It’s not an impossible dream. It can be achieved by continuing to trust them. Training programs can be formal or informal. Newcomers can be paired with senior employees. Other similar mentorship programs can be arranged which have high favorability amongst employees. There could be learning clubs where employees are rewarded for improving their skillset that will help them to do their jobs better.

It all depends on the receptivity of the employee. If they require more hand-holding, offer them a roadmap of learning milestones, where they get progressively better at doing something.

If they like to be left alone, offer them reserved office hours where they can pop in and inquire about skills development or choosing a career path.

Sometimes, there are tasks within job descriptions that employees do not like. They find they can do something else much better. It’s very important to assign the right task to the right person. It’s not possible to address every grievance, but when tasks can be traded amongst employees that do not sacrifice quality, it’s a win-win situation for both people where they can focus on what they enjoy.

Providing Benefits

Apart from building trust by investing in people’s future role in your companies, there is trust to be gained by investing in their well-being outside of the company as well. If you take a look at employee experience history, the landscape has evolved a lot. There are things that are popular in different eras.

At one time, industrial engineering by way of observational studies used to be big, then the focus turned towards survey, and it remains that way today with the addition of actionable analytics. Going forward, a work design methodology is getting traction where an end-to-end employee experience is crafted where wellbeing and productivity are maximized.

This is especially true now after the pandemic where the need to be safe and well has come to the forefront. In the more laborious industries, this has always received a lot of attention, but such commitment to safety had not spread to all industries like it has now.

To really understand what type of help employees need, you could come up with several employee personas that describe what is the ideal benefit portfolio they are looking for. Each of these personas could have an employee experience designed for them that suits their needs.

In particular, they should know:

  • Who to go to for answers on a particular topic
  • Who to go to solve a particular challenge
  • What everyone else does and how it pertains to them
  • Where to look for organizational updates
  • Voice opinions on what they want most to excel at their work directly or indirectly – if they want a certain type of health & wellness program, a product like company merch, certain ambiance, a certain chair, relocation or rescheduling of certain meetings throughout the day, flexible spending accounts, etc.

The whole idea is to craft the experience in which they feel most benefited from. So the idea is shifting from a transactional product or service exchange to creating an experience with the employer.

EE Focus Areas - Massage


Communication gaps among existing ranks in the org or between any two people who work together are a big red flag. It means problems will be swept under the carpet and engagement will suffer over time. To focus on and prevent communication failures, do the following:

Create a Culture of Communication

The importance of open channels of communication cannot be stressed enough. Managers and team members should be in constant communication, as it regards outlining expectations, exchanging feedback, and offering personal coaching for those that need it.

This in many ways touches on the focus of employee engagement. If people are not comfortable speaking out, where it is to express their ideas or voice their concerns, it will be palpable to all working for the company. It should not come to that, and so employees must be encouraged to talk!

Opportunities to talk can be the:

  • Company intranet
  • Slack channels / Teams
  • Town hall-style meetings
  • Ask Me Anything style Q/A Sessions
  • Team lunches/ walks

Tip: If you are really serious about this, consider adding a real-time engagement tool to track employee discourse. Just don’t get disheartened if it doesn’t receive the same response from all, at all times of the year. Employees have a job to focus on after all.

Amplify Voices

This can seem like a repetition of the culture that we just talked about, and it is, but it is also much more. Amplifying voices is all about turning over the microphone to the employee and giving them the freedom to talk as they please!

This can be an intimidating concept to swallow, but the fact is, it happens already on public employer review sites like Sometimes topics are not about work but are nevertheless important things to be discussed.

The company intranet should be a place where people can vent, discuss their distractions, offer their takes on the industry as a whole, etc. It’s not just important to research the customer, but your employees as well. Of course, not everything will be said openly, but the idea is to give employees a space within the existing company structure that lets them drop their guard just a little bit.

Employees feel more valued when they are given free rein. It takes the edge off and plays into work-life balance where they grow their camaraderie with fellow employees. They should be encouraged to post more content to take a more active role in building such relationships. Just like work results, efforts to be more interactive should be recognized and rewarded as well. See if your current incentive software recognizes them.

To really amplify your employee’s voices, create a closed-loop system in place to capture their feedback and act on them such as a Voice of the Employee program. Follow an established cadence of communications for the program. This can be part of the employee experience that you create for them.


In every employee engagement improvement content, the survey will always be mentioned without fail. It’s important to anticipate what will come out of the survey. It could be that there are many areas of concern that are causing dissatisfaction, and hence low engagement.

How ready you are to counter that will depend on the actions you take. We hope this article briefs you on what to do if the survey reveals that there is a lack of appreciation, trust, and communication. All three of these themes are aspects and the focus of major engagement factors in 2021.



Additional Resources

Check out our guides on workplace culture, employee engagement, and employee surveys. Learn about every aspect of a successful employee voice initiative!


We write on the current challenges HR and organizations are facing in order to support our community. Check out more of our articles here.


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