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Have your employees lost their smiles? A lesson from summer interns.


By Michael Tyukodi | August 20, 2018

Like many of you, I travel for work. That means I spend most of my time in airports, hotels and rental cars. Technology such as virtual private networks combined with Bring Your Own Device policies and open concept/hoteling work spaces have made it possible for me to work virtually anywhere I have an internet connection. 

So when a rare, in-person meeting brought me into my local office one day last week, I noticed something I wasn’t used to seeing.

Smiles. Mostly on the fresh faces of our summer interns, who exude energy and passion – pure joy, really – as they learn new skills, grow their network and prove their worth in an industry they’re just starting to discover.

All of those smiles made me think: when do we as employees lose ours? When do we go from engaging with our careers to merely doing our jobs? How can we recapture the smiles – the joy and excitement – of someone just starting out?

Drivers of sustainable engagement

The answer is multi-faceted – what keeps us engaged as employees will shift over time. As we progress in our careers, the definition of what it means to keep employees sustainably engaged will change with us.

In our Willis Towers Watson 2016 Global Workforce Study, we found that sustainable engagement drivers vary by the stage in an employee’s life cycle, as shown below.

Drivers of sustainable engagement by employee age range

<30 30-39 40-49 50+
Senior leadership Senior leadership Senior leadership Senior leadership
Communication Clear goals and objectives Supervision Workload & Flexibility
Supervision Supervision Clear goals and objectives Clear goals and objectives
Clear goals and objectives Communication Workload & Flexibility Supervision
Benefits Image and Integrity Image and Integrity Image and Integrity

The common thread through each career phase is clear: two-way communication with management. And while all of these engagement drivers are important, this list speaks to the need to give leaders and managers a way to communicate with employees that can be easily updated, targeted and perhaps most importantly – personalized to drive various triggers across an employee’s life cycle.

For example:

  • New or younger employees might benefit from learning about your company’s tuition reimbursement programs or volunteer activities your company is sponsoring.
  • Employees who have reached a milestone (5- or 10-year anniversaries) might like to review their PTO information, if they’ve been rewarded with additional time off.
  • Employees approaching retirement would be best served with regular updates on their 401(k) portfolios with an option to speak with an advisor if they need to review their elections.
  • Employees who have just received a promotion can be congratulated and supplied with guides or access to materials specific to their new role.
  • New managers or senior leaders can access a personalized space to collaborate, receive information and improve line-of-sight with consistent messaging.

A personalized HR portal can be significant to this end if content is planned and maintained with an eye toward enhancing the employee experience and improving employee engagement.

A consumer-grade HR portal can serve as your company’s branded front door, bringing your employee experience to life in a way that is accessible 24/7 from any device. Targeted and segmented content can improve collaboration, line of sight and use of Total Rewards programs. Done right, it might just help your employees reclaim their smiles.

Another inspiration we can glean from our summer interns? Their faces when the internship is over. They’re excited about what’s next. With a little attention to how and what you communicate with them, your employees can be, too.


Director - New Business

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