Jasmine is concerned with practical, tactical ways to bolster employee engagement, diversity and ultimately improve organisational cultures. She gives actionable advice to help HR professionals improve their organisations one step at a time and is known as a trainer, consultant and public speaker. Prior to moving to London in 2008, she was a professor teaching international business majors at the State University of New York. Her clients include PepsiCo, CBI, HarperCollins and Prudential. Jasmine’s book, ‘Employee Engagement: a little book of Big Ideas,’ is available to buy.

Well, it’s that time of year again and for many, myself included, it is a time for reflection and looking back at the year’s ups and downs before moving onto the excitement of another January.

So what was 2016 like for me, as someone who thinks about and works with employee engagement?

To be honest, in July, I was burnt out on the topic of engagement. And, in last month’s column, I found myself wondering if employee engagement was dead.

This month, I’ve been reflecting on how 2016 proved to be rather unpredictable and unsettling in many ways.

There were so many events nationally and internationally that not only felt beyond my control, but I worried about how they would impact me personally.

I found myself thinking about how life is often beyond our control, in many ways. It is, dare I say it, unfair.

And I can accept that unfairness and the bit of chaos that life brings with it. All of us, at some point or another in our lives will find ourselves in some difficult situation, and we will know it is unfair. We all know good people who have had bad things happen to them.

The one place where we can create a little microcosm of what a fair society might look like is the workplace.

However, I find myself constantly seeking the reasons behind the unfairness, even whilst knowing that the truth is, of course, that most of the time, there is no logic to unfairness. That’s what makes it unfair.

And then I had my lightbulb moment. I realised that the one place where we can create a little microcosm of what a fair society might look like is the workplace. This is why employee engagement is so important.

More specifically, work is the one place where we can ask to understand something that seems unfair – whether it is a restructure or a shift change – and receive a response that will help us to understand it.

It’s the one place where reasons for bad things happening to decent people can actually be explained.

A couple of weeks ago, I worked with a couple of employees who were being TUPE’d to a new business. They were absolutely delighted with the transfer – they knew the company, and knew people who worked there.

But, they were still very upset at the company transferring them. Why?

After over ten years with that company, they had received no recognition of their time there. It was the end of an era, and they just wanted an acknowledgement – the lack of recognition seemed unfair to them. A simple thank you would have done the trick.

Sometimes, that’s all that employee engagement is: consciously humanising the workplace and making it a place where we’d like to be.

The beauty of this approach to employee engagement is that each individual has a real opportunity to effect change in the workplace – whether it is through managers doing a good job of thinking through change and communicating it, or staff voicing their concerns or making suggestions to improve change.

Or even performing micro-affirmations – the small everyday behaviours that make us feel part of something bigger – like saying thank you to employees who gave ten years’ of their lives to a business.

For me, this is the big picture that makes it worthwhile to continue to chip away at engaging people in the workplace.

I’m looking forward to January and a new year of employee engagement. What about you?