For 71% of HR professionals, 2020 has been the most challenging year*. I’m guessing this may be comparable to other professions, but when you have an increasingly stressed workforce (59%), who are less connected to the organisation they work for (32%) and less engaged (34%) than before the pandemic, this creates complex and far reaching challenges.

Add to this the need to do more with less and those in HR are certainly are certainly on the front line in terms of both immediate logistical challenges as well as the long tail impact.

One thing that has struck me is the focus on employee engagement, which obviously is crucial at this time. But surely engagement isn’t enough. For me it needs to be meaningful. Just like we talk about meaningful employment, engagement if not meaningful can be just as damaging, if not more so than no engagement at all. Just as you can feel completely alone even when in a crowded room, so can you feel completely isolated, even when having a day of Zoom calls.

Rachel Botsman recently shared her thoughts about how being caring is more powerful than being empathetic. This really struck a chord. Empathy is a word used a lot in HR and people management, but is caring? Caring is about getting in to action, not just understanding how someone feels. Caring is something that technology can’t be left alone to do, it requires real human connection.

Image by Rachel Botsman

This drove me to consider meaningful engagement as an action. For engagement to be meaningful, there needs to be both a purpose to the engagement and it needs to be of value. One to one sessions where people are asked if they’re ok may not therefore be as meaningful say, as an activity where something is worked on together. Something that adds value both to the individual and organisation, with a defined purpose. These activities can help employees to feel more connected to colleagues and their organisation.

A consistent conversation I’ve had over the past month with several organisations is about using employee referrals (for both internal mobility and external hires) as a way to do more with less and provide an opportunity for meaningful engagement. It’s certainly one significant opportunity for this, I’m sure amongst others.

If you’d like insights from these conversations as to how referrals could help with meaningful engagement in your organisation, do get in touch…


*Research by Reward Gateway published in HR Magazine