The most-sought-after employees today behave increasingly like free agents in professional sports — loyal to their teams up to a point, but generally ready to entertain a better offer from a competitor. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that 38.2 million people voluntarily quit their jobs in 2017, and this is likely a sign of a recovering economy with plenty of open roles for job seekers to choose from. As a result, the balance of power has shifted from employer to employee, and business leaders must now adjust how they think about employee engagement.

Employee engagement has two distinct meanings: In the first, employee engagement refers to a holistic measure of the level of emotional investment employees feel toward day-to-day work and their employers. In the second, it refers to the set of policies and practices organizations implement to create a workplace culture where employees are invested and passionate about their work.

how to take a proactive approach to employee engagement

To keep top-performers engaged, leading companies today are retooling how they measure and define engagement. For starters, many are implementing a mix of high-tech and high-touch tools — pulse-feedback tools, self-service technologies, surveys and ongoing check-ins with team leaders and managers — to try to detect or even predict the onset of disengagement.

But to really move the needle on employee engagement, introducing workplace policies and practices that contribute to a positive workforce culture often matter far more than any arsenal of measurement tools. For instance, have you established clear performance goals, and are you rewarding your employees accordingly? Do you offer them opportunities for learning, training and professional development? Organizations that answer "Yes" to questions like these tend to have much more engaged employees.

engagement issues aren't easy to identify — or correct

If you're struggling with issues of employee engagement, you certainly aren't alone. But you need to take action quickly, because sooner or later it's going to start directly harming your bottom line. Fortunately, Randstad can help you not only uncover the source of the problem, but identify and implement corrective measures that will make the difference — before it's too late.

To learn more about the importance of an effective employee engagement strategy, and why your business needs one, click here.

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