For years it’s been clear that as modes of communication and collaboration in the workplace have gone through digital disruption the impact on employee engagement would be great. An annual survey alone on just about anything in business has lost its effectiveness. Business cycles have been compressed to quarters and months. Yet, until fairly recently, employers have been measuring and analyzing employee engagement annually. Implementing programs based on the results, and then scratching our heads in confusion when those programs showed great improvement, but employee engagement scores rarely improved in tandem.

As new tech has emerged employers have implemented myriad solutions on top of the annual survey: pulse surveys, mobile-first feedback tools, psychometric assessments, HR analytics, and more. These things all have their place in employee engagement, but we lost sight of something as business leaders as we stared at those shiny objects: employee engagement happens between managers and their staff every day in the field, on the shop floor, in the conference room, and on video conferences.

Measurement and analysis gives us a GPS of sorts to navigate toward the right issues, but we’ve got to equip managers to have the right conversations, delivering the right message, at the right time. HR can’t be everywhere all of the time to support this.

Three trends have emerged in our research that show employers moving in this direction:

  1. Employers are moving away from annual-only measurement for engagement.
  2. Strong alignment of performance management and engagement baselines are emerging.
  3. Employers are investing heavily in technology that supports the connection between managers and teams.

As business leaders we need to implement capabilities that help us not just measure and analyze, but that enable and support managers, executives, and leaders to engage their teams. We surveyed more than 1600 U.S. employers in 2016 and interviewed dozens to identify what capabilities employers should look for in the ideal employee engagement toolkit. We’ve shared what we learned about employee engagement and HR technology in a free eBook: The Ideal Employee Engagement Toolkit.