In our rapidly evolving marketplace, especially in the age of artificial intelligence (AI), building a company culture that fosters highly engaged employees is not just nice to have; it’s a necessity. Engaged employees are the backbone of a successful business, reporting better well-being, superior retention rates, lower absenteeism, and higher productivity. Engaged teams consistently outperform others and are instrumental in meeting business goals and driving growth. Yet, many companies seem to lose sight of this crucial aspect. It’s time to reevaluate our priorities and recognize the pivotal role of employee engagement in our business success.

Gallup said global employee engagement was a mere 23 percent in 2023. This statistic presents a significant opportunity for business leaders to access the untapped potential of the majority. Regardless of your current situation, improving engagement is always within reach. After all, in leading companies, over 70 percent of employees feel engaged.

In addition, businesses are failing to unlock their employees’ full potential and poor workforce planning is holding back growth for most organizations. Our recent fourth annual global workforce report titled Building a Resilient Workforce in the Age of AI reveals executives are turning to AI and automation to solve challenges but struggle to implement digital strategies effectively and neglect to offer adequate employee training.

Engaging your workforce should be a top priority, as poor workforce planning impedes business growth and diminishes business opportunities due to a lack of talent. This is not the time to ease off. In fact, when navigating a tough market that is rapidly being transformed by AI, it’s crucial to maintain a strong focus on employee engagement.

At KellyOCG, we’ve witnessed the transformative power of consistent investment in employee engagement. Regardless of market conditions, we’ve learned that attracting and retaining top talent is the key to our success, growth, and providing the best possible experience for our clients.

Our journey has been marked by several success stories, where our strategies have improved employee engagement and led to significant business outcomes. Our commitment to aligning these strategies with our company’s values and setting annual improvement goals has been the catalyst for our success.

Developing our people — The KellyOCG APAC Learning and Development team has made a massive effort to improve and increase our onboarding and ongoing training programs. Numerous skills enhancement workshops and knowledge-sharing sessions reinforce the capabilities of our various operational teams, positively impacting our service delivery to clients. Just a few of our wide-ranging training topics include:

  • Managing Change
  • Coaching Skills
  • A Mentoring Mindset
  • Situational Leadership
  • Numerous AI and Digital skills training

By analyzing data from various sources, including performance reviews, feedback surveys, and even social media interactions, it is possible to create detailed profiles of employees. These profiles can help understand individual preferences, strengths, and areas needing development. With such information, organizations can tailor learning and development opportunities, assign suitable projects, and even personalize recognition and rewards, thereby fostering a deeper connection between employees and the organization.

Building on this momentum, we’re launching a new slate of training this year, and our teams are enthusiastically engaging with and embracing it. Investing in employee development is always a win-win situation for our company and our people.

Celebrating success—We’ve been around for a while as an organization. Over the years, we’ve learned that a culture of celebration and gratitude, which means acknowledging and appreciating the efforts and achievements of our employees, drives high performance! We’ve instigated comprehensive award programs across countries and regions, even globally. Top performers can qualify for our global President’s Club level. We’ve found that spending quality time celebrating in the sunshine with your international colleagues is a great motivator to encourage engagement throughout the year.

Transparent goal setting—Each team utilizes the OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) goal-setting method, a popular management framework to set challenging and ambitious goals and track progress monthly. AI can facilitate continuous performance evaluation by analyzing real-time data such as project outcomes, client feedback, and peer reviews.

This allows for more frequent and objective assessments, enabling managers to provide timely feedback and coaching. Employees feel more engaged when they know how they fit into a larger corporate strategy and how their actions contribute to company results. Too often, employees feel removed from the company’s performance. We’re open about our company objectives, progress, and how an individual employee’s goals should play a part.

Autonomy, control, and flexibility —We firmly believe that our people should have a say in decisions that impact their lives. Therefore, we’ve decentralized decision-making for many non-strategic functions, empowering individual teams. This approach fosters a sense of ownership and makes our employees feel valued and integral to the company’s operations. Some ways this works best include:

  • Flexible schedules—While Kelly embraced remote work even earlier, the pandemic proved that organizations thrive with flexible work arrangements. International teams working across time zones require flexibility to accommodate schedules, and we’ve found that people are happier and more engaged when choosing their own work style and schedule.
  • Local control of social activities—The Malaysian team may prefer indoor rock climbing, our Singapore office a special lunch, and our Australian group a sunset cruise. Local culture clubs decide how and where they spend time together, build camaraderie, and gel as a team. Our people know best what matters to them.

We appreciate how AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants are revolutionizing the way employees interact with their workplace. These intelligent systems can quickly and accurately handle routine inquiries about policies, benefits, and procedures, freeing up HR personnel for more strategic tasks. This not only improves efficiency but also ensures that employees receive timely responses to their queries, thereby enhancing satisfaction and reducing frustration.

Giving back—Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives reflect our corporate values and foster a team spirit and sense of collective achievement. When our Malaysia team members recently united to roll up their sleeves and spend the day cleaning Teluk Kemang Beach, they demonstrated that when we come together for a good cause, the effects are tangible: we responsibly disposed of 30 kilograms of trash; we created a cleaner, more beautiful coast; and we had the opportunity to engage and accomplish something as a team that we could not have done as individuals.

Focus on wellbeing—Employees must have the time and resources to address their physical and mental health and well-being to feel engaged at work. This starts with respecting personal lives and priorities outside the office:

  • Recognise the need for a healthy work-life balance.
  • Provide wellness programmes such as health screenings, fitness classes, counselling services, etc.
  • Encourage breaks and vacations.

I am looking ahead

We’re not resting on our engagement success. We understand that businesses must frequently measure their engagement to determine if their efforts continue to succeed. Regular employee engagement surveys show we’re on the right track and provide guidance to help set us right when we’ve strayed. This practice not only reassures us about the effectiveness of our strategies but also instills confidence in our approach.

Benchmarking your engagement against other top performers in your industry is also essential. That’s why, as the managing director of APAC, I’m so proud that Great Place to Work has recognized KellyOCG as one of the Best Workplaces in Australia, India, and Malaysia for the last five years.  It’s no coincidence that we have grown our business five times across the region over the same period.

While AI has the potential to revolutionize employee engagement, we should realize this potential requires thoughtful implementation, ethical considerations, and a human-centric approach. By leveraging AI responsibly and strategically, organizations can create workplaces where employees are not only productive but also fulfilled and motivated, driving sustained organizational success in the digital age.

As we move forward—against relatively strong economic headwinds—let’s all remember that now is not the time to let up in our campaigns to build a healthier company culture that promotes employee engagement. If anything, it’s time to put the pedal down and redouble our efforts.

Pete Hamilton is vice president and managing director, APAC region, of KellyOCG, a leading global advisor of talent supply chain strategies and the outsourcing and consulting practice of Kelly Services. Kelly is a global provider of workforce solutions, always thinking about what’s next in the story of work, connecting talented people to companies in need of their skills, and designing talent strategies that help businesses embrace the value of all workers and workstyles.

With over 22 years of experience as a practitioner in the field, Pete is equipped with practical, applicable, and real-world knowledge that enables him to advise clients on how to align their talent strategy with their business strategy. He sets the strategy and leads a talented team to execute KellyOCG’s growth plans in APAC and has delivered exceptional financial results. In addition, he serves on the board of directors for the World Employment Confederation, representing the employment industry at the global level.

Pete is a respected thought leader for the human capital industry. He is passionate about the future of work and understands that the way talent wants to work, and the way organizations are engaging talent has fundamentally changed. As an industry expert, he has led many thought leadership sessions and presented at key industry events.

He has a bachelor’s degree, a postgraduate certificate in Human Resources Management, Certified Contingent Workforce Professional (CCWP), Certified Strategic Workforce Planner (HCI) and an Executive MBA. Specialties include Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), Contingent Workforce Solutions (MSP), and Talent Advisory.

TNGlobal INSIDER publishes contributions relevant to entrepreneurship and innovation. You may submit your own original or published contributions subject to editorial discretion.

Burnout leads to employee AI use at work