How to Fix Engagement: Expert Advice for 2023 That we MUST Act On Now

Guest Author, Mallory Dunbar, Learning Specialist, Greatness Magnified

A new year is a perfect time for a fresh start – it’s a chance for us to reflect on the past year and set our sights on what we want to achieve in the coming one. When it comes to employee engagement, this is the perfect time to refocus our efforts and develop new and innovative ways to keep our team members happy, motivated and engaged.

Last week we looked at employee engagement trends throughout the pandemic. This week, we explore how those trends can inform our employee engagement strategy as we move into the new year.

In my conversation with Zak Rochon, Managing Partner at Metrics at Work based out of St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, we explored three strategies organizations can use to improve their engagement metrics in 2023.

1. Wellbeing and Mental Health as an Urgent Business Focus

Image of a hand behind a web with Wellbeing in the middle surrounded by work/learning, housing, family, social participation, leisure, health, security and environmentWith the decline in workload manageability, work-life balance, and the increase in stress and burnout, a greater focus on wellness and mental health is needed to combat “The Burnout Sandwich.”

The pandemic gave employers increased visibility into the lives of their employees, and now they have the opportunity to do something about it. The pandemic taught us that the well-being of employees isn’t just a personal issue – it’s a business issue too. When employees are suffering, so is their work. We see it in increased sick time, turnover, decreased productivity and quiet quitting.

Organizations need to make employee well-being an even greater priority in 2023. Wellness initiatives to help employees’ physical, mental, emotional and financial well-being must be implemented and offered across organizations. Companies can improve employee well-being by offering flexible benefits packages, introducing health and wellness perks like gym memberships, hosting meditation sessions, incentivizing preventative care, offering financial planning services, and allowing remote or flexible work arrangements.

For this to impact engagement, it needs to address the root issues and reflect the reality of the employees and work context; gone are the days one lunch and learn a month, and a yoga class at head office counts as a “Wellness Program” (if it ever did.)

2. Managing “The Burnout Sandwich for Leaders Too

image of a person with their head on their desk and an open book covering their head with ripped and crumpled paper on the desk and a pair of eyeglasses to represent burnoutWhen discussing burnout, we typically only consider how it affects employees. Many don’t realize that levels of burnout are higher in leaders, or if we do, we plan to do it when we’ve addressed it in the critical mass; by then, it’s too late. How can we ask leaders to address burnout in their staff when they are struggling with it themselves?

Burnout isn’t and shouldn’t be a taboo subject – it must be acknowledged and addressed. The “it’s okay not to be okay” popularized over the last year must also apply to leaders. As such, to figure out how to best support leaders in 2023, we need to encourage them to be open and honest about their stress. When employees see their leaders being vulnerable and asking for what they need, it is easier for them to follow suit.

Our work environment is co-created. Every decision and action made by one member of the team can trickle down and impact everyone else. By discussing the issues you’re facing, you can increase collaboration, trust and respect and implement solutions that work for everyone. We need to begin to test burnout-busting strategies on leaders too.

3. Bring Back and Amplify “The Gratitude Effect”

image of a woman with her hands over her heart showing gratitudeAs we learned last week, employee engagement improved at the start of the pandemic in terms of satisfaction with recognition, happiness and a sense of belonging in the organization. We don’t need a worldwide pandemic to make people feel recognized. Implementing small-scale initiatives can bring back “The Gratitude Effect.”

People want – no, they need – to know that their efforts are recognized and appreciated. By showing gratitude for the small things, thanking people (yes, including for people “doing their job”), and encouraging peer-to-peer recognition, organizations will see increased employee engagement in sustainability and, therefore, a sign that appreciation is sincere and trustworthy.

This new year marks a new opportunity to get employee engagement right. The pandemic significantly impacted engagement, and we have seen surprising and unprecedented swings in HR metrics (that, according to Zak’s 20+ years of experience, is rare), so it’s no wonder we’re seeing the turnover and sick time rates inside organizations. Now is the time to learn from them. By understanding what worked and what didn’t, we can adapt our strategies to be more effective in the future.

The good news is that there are practical steps that you can take to improve engagement in 2023. By taking action now, we can set ourselves up for long-term success and create a positive, engaging work environment that benefits your organization and your employees. Want to chat about the next steps? Reach out to us anytime at or give us a call!

Check out this series we did on employee engagement surveys. They’re full of delicious nuggets crafted to help you improve your employee experience:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

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Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

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Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

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Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

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