The (Six) Biggest Waves in Employee Engagement—And How to Ride Them


Linda Descano, CFA®, EVP, Corporate Communications and Executive Visibility, Red Havas 

Orsi Korman, Account Director, Content, Red Havas 

What does purpose, management, empathy, content, inclusion and burnout have in common? As it happens, they are what most conversations, coverage and case studies related to employee engagement and experience are focused on these days. We spent some time on these six topics to observe what’s changing and why, what it means for the future and how we can make the most of it in the present. Our findings were summarized in Red Havas’ newest white paper, The (Six) Biggest Waves in Employee Engagement — and How to Ride Them

Here are the highlights and our key takeaways:

1) Be purposeful about your purpose.

We’ve been talking about purpose for a long time — and so has everybody else. As a result, performance is no longer enough for the masses, purpose must be purposeful — anchored in one’s core business, values and actions. Companies that define a values-based purpose and pursue strategies aligned with that purpose can gain greater innovation, better collaboration, more engaged employees, more loyal customers and better financial performance. 

We also found that a bold but measured, overarching purpose framework can serve as the connective tissue across markets around the globe, while allowing a brand to be relevant in each of the communities where it operates, and bringing its value chain along on the journey. 

2) Mind the middle.

Middle managers are the definition of who can make it or break it when it comes to employee engagement. They have been in focus as a key driver of employee turnover in recent years. However, the conversation has recently shifted to the critical role they play as custodians of a company’s DNA, whose informal networks and proximity to employees are not only invaluable sources of insight but provide unparalleled influence when mobilized in the right way. 

By providing the tools, training and support, middle managers can be or become business advocates, innovation agents and culture caretakers who reinforce key messages, support the business vision, and foster psychological safety, inclusion and belonging. 

3) Enable empathy through curiosity.

It is times like these when dissatisfied, disengaged or departing employees continue to experience uncertainty and adversity worldwide that empathetic leadership matters the most, because of its power to give us a sense of normalcy, safety and comfort when our world is in turmoil. To make the practice of empathy more tangible and actionable, leaders should simply exercise their curiosity muscle regularly, along with authenticity, listening and compassion. 

In an ideal post-pandemic world, this practice will become peer-to-peer as much as top-down — and this is where we believe communicators can help, by removing barriers, providing tips and resources and, of course, modeling it ourselves.

4) Activate your employees as creators.

At a time when many organizations are hiring influencers and brand ambassadors, it’s important to remember that the most passionate and effective advocates of any brand are actually the people working for them. Using employees as content creators has the power to humanize the brand via personal stories, experiences and voice externally, while organically engaging, recognizing and retaining existing employees internally — at no extra cost

We felt the most benefit will derive from organizations showcasing employee-created inside the workplace to create a sense of belonging, strengthen corporate culture and foster psychological safety which in turn will encourage even more co-creators to get involved.

5) Design for inclusion and access.

Inclusive language and accessible design acknowledge the full range of human diversity. While gender-neutral terms are top of mind these days, non-biased content, diverse visuals, and accessible channels and formats also need to be considered to ensure that groups aren’t feeling left out because of content that is unfamiliar, unavailable or inapplicable to them. 

A recurring theme we found was the importance of creating a (physical and virtual) safe space, so employees feel comfortable to voice their concerns and provide timely feedback to their leaders and peers about the need for inclusive language and actions.

6) Address the most burning question.

Burnout continues to be a ‘hot’ topic, its positioning slowly shifting from an individual to an organizational issue after all, workplace-related matters are its top drivers. While burnout and associated stress, anxiety and depression all remain high, more and more organizations prioritize employee mental health, integrate well-being into their operations, address the structural causes of workplace stress and strive to de-stigmatize related conversations. 

What we loved seeing in discussions of late is the idea of being a mental health ally and the importance of leaders at all levels to be able to share their own struggles, help tackle any underlying issues and effectively support their teams.

Check out the full white paper, The (Six) Biggest Waves in Employee Engagement — and How to Ride Them, along with a select few articles highlighted under each topic to read more.

About the Authors:

Linda DescanoLinda is an executive vice president of Red Havas in New York, specialized in providing strategic counsel on corporate communications, executive visibility, issues and crisis management, and merged media communications strategies to global corporations and organizations. Prior to joining Red Havas in 2015, Linda was managing director and global head of content marketing and social media at Citi; other roles during her tenure at Citi included president and CEO of Women & Co., the award-winning financial lifestyle community for women, and director and portfolio manager of the Citi Social Awareness Investment program. A PR News PR Professional of the Year and one of Campaign U.S. Digital’s 40 over 40 honorees, Linda brings a unique blend of storytelling experience and investment acumen, complemented by work in B2B, B2C and B2B2C, giving her an uncanny ability to help clients create authentic conversations and campaigns.


Orsi JormanOrsi supports content creation and content strategy for high-profile corporate, consumer and cause clients of Red Havas — and she could not be happier. Her specialties include writing, editing, ghostwriting, blogging, marketing, digital/social and experiential, all in AP style.